The 2000s was arguably the greatest for numerous films, particularly television series. Today’s sitcoms and television programs lack certain nostalgic and comforting elements that were prevalent in the past.
Moreover, the simplicity of the characters in early 2000s television shows made them easy to observe. They transport you to a time before the digital era, when fewer people relied on technology as a source of entertainment and life was much simpler.
1. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad remains at the summit of numerous “top 10” lists of the greatest television series ever produced, and for good reason. The award-winning drama depicts Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston’s iconic character) transformation from a humble chemistry teacher into a fearsome figure in the methamphetamine industry. Fans observe Walter’s descent into the shadows as a result of desperation, a cancer diagnosis, and the need to provide for his family. His partnership with the street-smart and troubled Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) creates a dynamic tandem that navigates the perilous waters of the criminal underworld.
With these morally complicated characters, the meticulously crafted show takes the audience on a roller coaster voyage that will leave them gasping for air on multiple occasions. Full of violence, betrayal, and startling twists, the series forces viewers to confront what they believe about right and wrong through Walt’s unforgettable journey.
2. The Big Bang Theory
The longest-running multi-camera sitcom in television history was more than a ratings juggernaut; it was a wise, clever series about finding community when you feel like no one else understands you. With the addition of Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik as Bernadette and Amy, the show became an even greater success, focusing on the humorous ups and downs of friendships, relationships, and finding one’s position in the workplace. There is a reason why Big Bang airs nonstop on cable, but if you haven’t seen the sitcom yet, start from the beginning on HBO Max to see the 279-episode acting master class by Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg, Rauch, and Mayim Bialik.
3. One Tree Hill
The majority of viewers were either on team O.C. or team One Tree Hill, but One Tree Hill is not set in a glitzy metropolis or affluent suburb. It is set in the North Carolina community of Tree Hill, where half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott are rivals on and off the basketball court. Peyton Sawyer, Haley James, and Brooke Davis, who befriend, date, and fall in love with the brothers, are also essential to the program. Throughout the course of a decade, the characters learn about life, love, and loss.
4. The Office
The Office, one of the greatest mockumentary television comedies of all time, popularized to-camera interviews and other fourth-wall-breaking elements that now dominate sitcoms. The Office, which was based on the BBC series of the same name, lasted for an impressive nine seasons from 2005 to 2013. Alongside shows such as 30 Rock, it ushered in a new golden era of television comedy and continues to influence popular shows of the 2020s, such as Abbott Elementary.
Even viewers who have only seen Office memes are likely aware that the program focused on the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employees. Frequently negligent Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was in charge of their Scranton, Pennsylvania branch. With its single-camera setup and refusal to use a laugh track, The Office also revolutionized contemporary comedy series creators’ methods. It was one of the most influential programs of the 2000s because it demonstrated that live studio audiences and multi-camera setups did not have to define the future of sitcoms.
Lost was in many ways to network television what The Sopranos was to premium networks such as HBO. The six-season series, created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof, aired from 2004 to 2010, and despite some glaringly uneven seasons, it irrefutably altered the television landscape. Lost followed the survivors of a plane accident as they explored the mysterious island on which they had crash-landed. Its fusion of genres and deft narrative structure are what made Lost groundbreaking.
While the drama initially appeared straightforward, the odd island had supernatural overtones. In the first season, particularly, there was a clash between the characters’ fundamental beliefs and their rationality. This dynamic permeated the show, even if supernatural elements emerged as the series progressed. Lost popularized the use of flashbacks (and flashforwards) to develop its story and characters.
6. Grey’s Anatomy
Although medical dramas have been popular for a long time, they previously relied primarily on soap opera tropes. Even though Shonda Rhimes’ ultra-popular Grey’s Anatomy is a soapy drama at times, it delves deeper, creating characters that some viewers have watched for nearly two decades. The series debuted midseason in 2005, replacing one of ABC’s unsuccessful offerings. Now, with 420 episodes under its credit, Grey’s Anatomy is about to premiere its 20th season, and it appears to be staying the course (even after Meredith’s disappointing exit).
Meredith Grey, portrayed by Ellen Pompeo, began her surgical career at the then-Seattle Grace Hospital during the first season. Meredith, the daughter of the brilliant Dr. Ellis Grey, found herself struggling to live up to her mother’s legacy. Grey’s Anatomy followed other surgical interns, residents, and attendants, including Meredith’s closest friend, Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), and Meredith’s boyfriend, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). Grey’s utilizes its enduring platform to address real-world issues, in addition to being passionate and sentimental.
In the 2000s, procedural criminal dramas reached their zenith, and for many viewers, NCIS was the best of the bunch. It follows the exploits of the eponymous Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), an elite team of special agents dedicated to unraveling the complex web of crimes involving U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Its impressive and now-iconic main characters make up the unbreakable unit, which consists of the unique Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), the tech-savvy Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), the brilliant forensic scientist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), and the skilled and steadfast agents Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) and Timothy McGee (Sean Murray).
Audiences hold their breath as the team investigates the heart-pounding details of each case, which frequently leads to adrenaline-fueled investigations and thrilling action. Now at 20 seasons, it’s not surprising that the series is still going strong today, as its longevity is a testament to how adored it is by fans around the globe.
8. Gossip Girl
The greatest, hottest, most idiotic, finest show ever. Similarly, this series is an icon. The fashions, comebacks, and sex that prompted a wave of parental backlash were transformed into marketing by the show. The finale may have made the grave error of attempting to explain the identity of Gossip Girl , but for at least the first few seasons, this was the greatest adolescent soap opera of all time. Not an overstatement.
9. The Sopranos
It is inconceivable to imagine what the current television landscape would be like if The Sopranos had not ushered in the second golden age of television. Although the series debuted in 1999, it lasted for six seasons, concluding in 2007 with one of the most divisive, yet memorable, series finales ever. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a New Jersey mob boss and family man who struggled with his dual responsibilities, was the protagonist of the crime drama.
Tony’s frequent therapy sessions with psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) helped to reframe the familiar genre. The Peabody, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award-winning series not only became one of the few television programs to avoid the sophomore slump, but it also established HBO as the network of choice for prestige dramas. Notably, The Sopranos also popularized the concept of a protagonist who is an anti-hero. Audiences cannot help but root for Tony, despite the fact that he led a criminal organization and committed genuinely heinous acts as The Sopranos progressed.
10. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA), created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko for Nickelodeon, was popular during its initial run, but its popularity has only increased over time. In fact, it is one of the few television series with 100% Rotten Tomatoes scores for every season, even now. The series followed Aang, a 12-year-old Airbender in a fictional universe where some individuals could manipulate (or “bend”) one of the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire). But even in the ATLA universe, Aang was exceptional.
When Sokka and Katar of the Water Tribe discovered Aang frozen in an iceberg, they realized he was the long-lost Avatar — a once-in-a-generation individual who can manipulate all four elements and connect the spirit and human worlds. Tasked with bringing balance to the universe, Aang vanished 100 years earlier during the start of a war that saw the Fire Nation nearly exterminating his people. Avatar: The Last Airbender raised the benchmark for American animated series by including memorable characters whose journeys are complex and nuanced.
The best television programs of the 2000s signified the apex of what many refer to as television’s Golden Age. In place of benign multi-camera sitcoms, comedies tended to feature more self-aware and dry humor, delivered by characters who appeared to exist beyond their weekly antics.
On the drama front, audiences witnessed the rise of the anti-hero, not only in the form of Tony Soprano-style mobsters, but also in the form of more “everyman” characters who made undesirable decisions. In addition, other programs that pushed the boundaries experimented with genre and narrative structure in ways that have since shaped the medium.
Take a peek back at these shows from the 2000s, whether you’re looking to revisit nostalgic old favorite or find out what the fuss was all about.