This year I’m taking a look at some of my favorite series of all time. That will begin with a Top 10 in four different groups—Network Sitcoms, Network Dramas, Cable Series and Streaming Series. Ultimately, it will end in an overall Top 10. Periodically throughout 2022, I’ll be sharing these lists. Today, it’s a look at my Top 10 Cable Series. If you want to catch weekly installments, visit here on Saturdays.
10. Big Love (2006-2011)
About: As we come to Cable Series, the biggest purveyor of these types of series is HBO. They have a long and storied history, and many of HBO’s series are on this list. That begins with Big Love, a series that I didn’t expect to love—but I did. I enjoyed the cast and the drama, and I enjoyed the exploration of this world.
9. Fargo (2014-)
About: The last decade saw the rise in the anthology series. We saw a number of different cracks at the format, but this one from Noah Hawley was the best. It takes the canon of the Coen Brothers and applies it to different seasons. The first was great, but arguably the second is my favorite. They all have merit and some great performances. I look forward to the next installment.
8. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
About: A high school science teacher has terminal cancer. How will he provide for his family? The answer is he turns to making drugs and finds his true passion. The set up for this was simple but what Vince Gilligan created, and Bryan Cranston brought to life, was a rich world that spanned several seasons and a spin-off series. I never loved Walter White as much as others, but I do have a deep appreciation for the series.
7. Justified (2010-2015)
About: The story of Raylan Givens isn’t always an easy one. But in the hands of Timothy Olyphant, with Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, it’s a compelling one. I enjoyed the style and the storytelling here. Justified was always a series I looked forward to seeing return and I was never disappointed by the action.
6. The Americans (2013-2018)
About: I mentioned HBO up top, but a close second is FX, which has created a number of rich dramas. I’ve had a few on this list already, but this is my favorite. That comes as a surprise. A series that asks us to invest in Russian spies in America. And yet, in the hands of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, that’s an easy ask. This was a beautifully crafted series that has a finale that I still think about.
5. Band of Brothers (2001)
About: HBO, in addition to long-form series, has crated some beautiful and powerful mini-series as well. This story of Easy Company in the 101st Airborne in World War II is a masterpiece. Coming from producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it’s a beautiful, powerful and emotional examination of the war. I saw it first in college and have seen it a number of times since.
4. Watchmen (2019)
About: How do you create a sequel to Watchmen, which sits on Time Magazine’s list of the greatest novels in American history? You do what Damon Lindelof did with this series, creating something riveting, engaging and faithful to the original tone and ideas of the graphic novel. It’s an incredible production with great performances.
3. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
About: I know why some are down on the series, especially with the unsatisfying final season. I, however, look at the totality of the work. This was a brilliant and ground-breaking series. It was ambitious and was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I loved much of the series, with the sixth season being my favorite. While I didn’t love the final season, it can’t keep me from appreciating what a work this series was.
2. The Wire (2002-2008)
About: I love David Simon. I love what he does as a writer. This series is a metaphor for the decay of urban America. It’s five seasons that explore the drug trade, the role of the ports, the role of government, the role of the school system and the role of the media. Watching this series changed me. For a time, I thought it would always be my favorite series and it still remains right up near the very top. It’s a powerful work of art.
1. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
About: Sometimes a show grabs you and won’t let go. Damon Lindelof’s adaptation of this book, telling the story of those left behind after two million people suddenly disappear, is such a story. The first season, arguably the weakest, follows the book. The second season builds on the world and narrative. But the third season—it’s a masterpiece unlike anything I’d seen before and anything I’ve seen since. It’s a cathartic emotional journey that touched by very soul.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.