The best Showtime TV shows of the last decade — and the worst

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‘Billions’ Showtime

Some fan-favourite Showtime TV series that have grown to be the network’s flagship titles are ending or preparing to end this year, from “Ray Donovan” to “Homeland” and “Shameless.”

Showtime launched in 1976 and is now owned by CBS. Its original programming took off in the 1990s, but it really grew into a powerhouse in the late 2000s with shows like “Weeds” and “Dexter.” Most recently, “Homeland,” “Shameless,” “The Affair,” and a “Twin Peaks” revival have been prominent on the network.

But which did critics love the most?

We used review aggregator site Metacritic to determine the ranking of notable Showtime shows of the last decade, excluding variety and sports programs.

If any season of a show aired in 2010 and beyond, we counted it. In the case of “Twin Peaks,” we used the score for the third season as opposed to the average score of all seasons, since the first two seasons aired on ABC in the 1990s.

Below are the 40 most notable Showtime original shows of the last decade, ranked from worst to best by critics:


40. “Our Cartoon President” — 2018-present, three seasons

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Critics score: 42

“In ordinary times a person could argue that there’s always room for another comedian to skewer our nation’s top windbag, but these are not ordinary times.” – Salon


39. “Roadies” — 2016, one season

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Critics score: 47

“There are things to enjoy about Roadies, like Wilson and Gugino’s bantering and a burgeoning running gag about Staton-House’s inability to hold on to an opening act. But the show can’t bring these elements into harmony.” – AV Club


38. “Happyish” — 2015, one season

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Critics score: 49

“Happyish’s failures are not Coogan’s fault; he’s fine, appealing, even, though the performance is a little superficial…. None of the show’s emotions feel real at all.” – Vulture


37. “White Famous” — 2017, one season

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Critics score: 54 (based on 20 reviews)

“One suspects star power had plenty to do with Showtime giving the go-ahead to this once-over-lightly version of making it in Hollywood – the kind of material that, in comedy terms, feels more like open-mic night than a headliner.” – CNN


36. “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” — 2007-2011, four seasons

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Critics score: 54 (based on 26 reviews)

“The series shows the darker side of Belle’s work without getting into that porno-punishing crap so often disguised as morality lessons. The series, like Belle, is far too smart to succumb to such an average attitude.” – Entertainment Weekly


35. “Dice” — 2016-2017, two seasons

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Critics score: 56

“Strengthen or ditch most of the supporting cast (and go ‘Louie’-style with a rotating ensemble) and Dice could become something really special. As is, it’s still an interesting chapter in a return of a once-superstar that most of us never saw coming.” – RogerEbert.com


34. “Black Monday” — 2019-present, two seasons

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Critics score: 57

“Black Monday isn’t very successful at capturing the zeitgeist of the time beyond sappy music by Bryan Adams, cringe-worthy fashion choices and bright red Lamborghinis. The performers work well together, but they don’t have a lot to work with.” – Los Angeles Times


33. “Who Is America?” — 2018, one-season limited series

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Critics score: 59

“There are instances when Cohen exposes moments of genuine American racism or Republican gun love that feel like they’re coalescing toward a point. But a lot of the humour is cruel and cynical, for the sake of being cruel and cynical.” – Vox


32. “The L Word: Generation Q” — 2019-present (one season)

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Critic score: 60

What critics said: “The L Word: Generation Q is a spritely and engaging sequel series, having matured its predecessor’s foundational players since the original story ended.” – Hollywood Reporter


31. “The Loudest Voice” — 2019, one-season limited series

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Critic score: 61

“Crowe, a world-class bellower, only occasionally flips the switch from whispery, methodical creepiness to full-on scenery chomping. The result is an elegant mix of character study, workplace drama and political thriller.” – Time Magazine


30. “I’m Dying Up Here” — 2017-2018, two seasons

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Critics score: 62

“The comics’ jokes aren’t funny. Because of that, we don’t buy into their talent and can’t get invested in their journey. And as soon as they step offstage, any semblance of humour dries up completely.” – TV Line


29. “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” — 2020-present (one season)

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Critic score: 63 (based on 14 reviews)

“City of Angels is fascinating to watch, set in a world that’s richly imagined and beautifully brought to life, populated by sharply drawn characters who consistently wrestle with ideas of right, wrong and everything in between.” – Paste Magazine


28. “House of Lies” — 2012-2016, five seasons

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Critics score: 63 (based on 28 reviews)

“The series is so pervasively cynical–and, by the way, brilliantly funny–it has the potential of making any viewer feel his or her life isn’t so bad after all.” – San Francisco Chronicle


27. “Californication” — 2007-2014, seven seasons

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Critics score: 64

“Any sustained development seems to be more of an outlier than a trend.” – Slant


26. “SMILF” — 2017-2019, two seasons

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Critics score: 65

“It’s an admirable portrait of a character in a social class that’s underrepresented on TV, but it’s more depressing than entertaining. The struggle is real–but it’s not funny.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


25. “The Tudors” — 2007-2010, four seasons

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Critics score: 66

“Good fun, and not as bastardized as its advertising campaign suggests.” – Wall Street Journal


24. “Web Therapy” — 2011-2015, four seasons

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Critics score: 67

“Web Therapy is far more entertaining [than Episodes], but, alas, wildly uneven, probably in part due to the need to weave new material around the Internet series of the same name that spawned it.” – Boston Herald


23. “Kidding” — 2018-present, two seasons

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Critics score: 68 (based on 35 reviews)

“If Season 1 was a pressure cooker, Season 2 is more of a spiral. Everyone in Jeff’s immediate circle has to face up to their sins, and even if some fare better than others, the collective reckoning makes a hell of a mess to clean up.” – TV Guide


22. “The Big C” — 2010-2013, four seasons

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Critics score: 68 (based on 47 reviews)

“Though she isn’t quite a credible character, she’s a thoroughly fun one, for which much credit is due to the actress’s steady subtlety and elastic wit.” – Slate


21. “The Borgias” — 2011-2013, three seasons

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Critics score: 69

“Showtime has tantalized me for ages with glimpses of Jeremy Irons growling and groping his way through a role as history’s most debauched pope.” – Chicago Sun-Times


20. “Shameless” — 2011-2020, 11 seasons

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Critics score: 70

“The sentimental streak in the show is compensated by Frank’s coldness and the scrappy urban realism, translated so effectively from the British original.” – Boston Globe


19. “Weeds” — 2005-2012, eight seasons

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Critics score: 71

“‘Weeds’ is odder, darker and more suspenseful than ever.” –Los Angeles Times


18. “United States of Tara” — 2009-2011, three seasons

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Critics score: 72 (based on 39 reviews)

“For a show forever detonating bombs, it’s surprising how sweet and frothy Tara feels. Just a half-hour long, it doesn’t waste a second, pulling a gun within the first few and no punches ever.” – Newsday


17. “Billions” — 2016-present, five seasons

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Critics score: 72 (based on 57 reviews)

“It’s more than rich white guys having wild affairs and throwing money around in gratuitous fashion. In fact, that it’s not that is surprising in and of itself. But to compete with other great dramas, Billions needs to reinvest in its ladies.” – Indiewire


16. “The Chi” — 2018-present, two seasons

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Critics score: 73

“Once The Chi puts its characters in place and starts moving in its second and third episodes, viewers might forgive the too-coincidental circumstances that brought them together.” –USA Today


15. “Twin Peaks: The Return” — 2017, one-season limited series

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Critics score: 74 (based on 26 reviews)

“How pleasurable it is to really care about a TV series, to the point of (national) obsession.” – Entertainment Weekly


14. “Episodes” — 2011-2015, five seasons

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Critics score: 74 (based on 50 reviews)

“Episodes remains funny …. Mangan and Greig, whose characters remain perfectly, hilariously, beset by that terrible Hollywood contagion: Self-loathing co-mingled with self-preservation.” –Newsday


13. “Ray Donovan” — 2013-2020, seven seasons

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Critics score: 74 (based on 57 reviews)

“Viewers may find it takes some concentration to sort out the lineup and the dramas here. The payoff is worth the investment.” – New York Daily News


12. “Penny Dreadful” — 2014-2016, three seasons

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Critics score: 74 (based on 60 reviews)

“Penny Dreadful’s gory moments are deployed strategically, and the adjective that best describes this show is not ‘bloody’ but soulful.'” – HuffPost


11. “Guerrilla” — 2017, one-season limited series

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Critics score: 75 (based on 15 reviews)

“At its best the series can be focused where every scene feels like it matters and is pushing the story at a great speed just through dialogue; in a few too many low-points, Guerrilla displays a narrative gluttony using characters who are ultimately secondary to the revolution.” – RogerEbert.com


10. “Nurse Jackie” — 2009-2015, seven seasons

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Critics score: 75 (based on 70 reviews)

“The half-hour format is perfect for this deftly directed program, which is character-based storytelling concentrated to espresso strength.” – Chicago Tribune


9. “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” — 2019-present, two seasons

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Critic score: 76 (based on 22 reviews)

“As conceived by Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida, this vision of 1992 America is a morass of hucksters and hollow promises, and the series explores that world with both a sharp eye and a peculiar sense of humour.” – Slant


8. “Dexter” — 2006-2013, eight seasons

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Critics score: 76 (based on 103 reviews)

“The nature-nurture question has always been central to the show: had his upbringing been different, would his genetic makeup still have led him onto the same path? Now the stakes have been raised compellingly in that debate.” – New York Times


7. “Work in Progress” — 2019-present, one season

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Critic score: 78 (based on 10 reviews)

“In the four half-hour episodes provided to critics, “Work in Progress” sensitively mines comedy from body shame, mental illness, trans literacy, consent, and gender policing – all through Abby’s hilariously neurotic point of view.” – Indiewire


6. “Escape at Dannemora” — 2018, one-season limited series

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Critics score: 78 (based on 27 reviews)

“Though there are moments throughout Dannemora where Stiller shows off his talent for creating thrilling, tense sequences regarding the machinations leading up to the escape, the series is perhaps even more dynamic in its quiet character moments. It’s an acting showcase for the leads.” – Collider


5. “Patrick Melrose” — 2018, one-season limited series

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Critics score: 80

“Anchored by Cumberbatch’s performance, the miniseries is remarkably neither too long nor too short.” – Vanity Fair


4. “The Affair” — 2014-2019, five seasons

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Critics score: 81 (based on 58 reviews)

“The Affair looks to be a bit more cerebral than some of Showtime’s other star shows. That makes it no less compelling.” –New York Daily News


3. “Homeland” — 2011-2020, eight seasons

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Critics score: 81 (based on 143 reviews)

“Admittedly, it’s too early to declare definitively that Homeland is back, but I will say it’s back to being a show I’m looking forward to watching, rather than one that made me angry as it lost its credibility mostly and lost its way completely.” –The Wrap


2. “Masters of Sex” — 2013-2016, four seasons

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Critics score: 83

“The dialogue isn’t always subtle, but it’s often sharp.” –New Yorker


1. “Back to Life” — 2019-present, one season

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Critic score: 87

“The beauty of the script and the performances – which build relationships so delicately and naturally, which modulate so deftly in and out of grief and laughter, and which turn ordinary moments into hilarity and heartbreak without you noticing how they got you there – will take your breath away.” – Guardian