10) The Daily Show – Jon Stewart’s satirical newscast has helped launch careers (think Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert), while suddenly getting young people to care about news and politics again. This is where you go to seem hip while shilling your book.
9) Hell’s Kitchen – Although the Food Network has been around for quite a while, it’s picked up plenty of popularity in recent years, thanks largely to the success of Hell’s Kitchen on FOX. Gordon Ramsay’s reality show (and potty mouth) has renewed America’s interest in fine cooking.
8) Friends – Like Frasier, it was only around for the first few years of the decade, but it was one of the funniest and most popular sitcoms during those four years.
7) Arrested Development – Would be higher on the list if it had gone on longer. The comedy series only lasted three seasons, but the adventures of the dysfunctional Bluth family live on in syndication. It proved once and for all that sitcom characters don’t have to be realistic as long as they’re funny.
6) The Sopranos – Excellent drama with gripping characters and immersive plots. Every season brought increased hype, and David Chase always found a way to meet the lofty expectations. The Sopranos showed us that a show can be successful even if it’s stuck on cable.
5) House – “Everybody lies” and “it’s never lupus” are just two of the lessons we’ve been taught by the smarmy Dr. House. You already know how the show’s going to end, but you are sucked in by the endless curiosity to see how House can become even more of an evil bastard who always ends up on top.
4) CSI – Cop dramas go back even farther than Law & Order, but it was the 2000 debut of Gil Grissom and his band of investigators who brought them into the limelight this decade. It has since spawned two direct spin-offs and a host of imitators.
3) The Office – Best comedy of the decade. Even if you don’t watch it, you know what Dunder Mifflin is, can name a few characters, and have trouble seeing any of the actors in a different role. Many mockumentaries have followed, but none have been as good.
2) American Idol – Paved the way for So You Think You Can Dance and so many other hits by proving that prime time television doesn’t have to have scripts, celebrities, or immunity challenges to be successful. Largely unknown singers meant a return to television’s roots.
1) Survivor – For its first three seasons, this was the hottest show on television. It is still around and still popular. The combination of unscripted entertainment and interesting characters got viewers hooked. Some say it (and all the reality TV it led to) has brought out the worst in us – and they may be right. Nonetheless, Survivor represents the epitome of television innovation in the 00’s.