Every year has a TV show that defines it.
When you watch a certain show – or a certain season of a TV show – you can’t help but think about where you were when it aired, and what people were saying about it.
There are some shows that dominated pop culture so much that you associate them with a certain time in your life, even if you’ve never seen an episode. “Lost” premiered in 2004 and instantly took over the small screen (and the water cooler), so even people who never saw it knew it.
We took a look back at the past 17 years in TV and selected the most iconic show from that year, from “The O.C.” to “Big Little Lies.”
Here’s the most iconic TV shows every year since 2000:
2000 — “Dawson’s Creek”
The season three finale of “Dawson’s Creek,” one of the most iconic teen shows ever, is one that changed television for the better. The episode features the first gay kiss in television history, which was a major milestone that paved the way for more storylines like it in TV and in pop culture.
2001 — “Alias”
The acting, clever writing, and ambitious action sequences made “Alias” an instant favourite. Its star Jennifer Garner, who was brilliant as double agent Sydney Bristowe, helped the series from a way less famous J.J. Abrams get the attention it so deserved.
2002 — “American Idol”
Everyone watched “American Idol,” and if you didn’t, you couldn’t really be involved in most conversations, but you still knew Simon Cowell was mean. The show’s first season introduced the world to the incredibly talented Kelly Clarkson, who quickly became more than a reality TV show winner: she became a pop icon.
2003 — “The O.C.”
“The O.C.” gained a great reputation fairly quickly into its run. It was not just another teen drama. It was a good teen drama, with fully realised characters, actually good adult storylines, and music as great as its writing. It wasn’t afraid to explore comedy along with its intense rich people drama, which is what made the first season that premiered in August of 2003, so great.
2004 — “Lost”
Just a few years later, another show from J.J. Abrams dominated pop culture. Like “Alias,” “Lost” threw twists but focused more on the sci-fi elements than action. “Lost” was unpredictable and unlike any other show on television at the time. It’s a gripping sci-fi thriller but also takes the time to focus on psychological drama with a vast set of compelling characters.
2005 — “The Office”
Before it became the most popular and revered comedy on TV, “The Office” had a short and slightly rocky first season, which premiered in March of 2005. The first season tried a bit too hard to imitate the tone of its UK version. But by its season two premiere, “The Dundies,” that fall, it separated itself by making its characters a little more emotional and likeable, especially Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, who became more famous later in the year due to the release of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” in between seasons.
2006 — “24”
“24” was an addictive show that threw surprises left and right (including the president being a terrorist). Even though it was already well into its run by season five, which aired from January to May of 2006, people couldn’t get enough. Season five received critical acclaim in addition to great ratings, and is considered the best season of the show.
2007 — “30 Rock”
In 2007, “The Sopranos” ended its run with a black screen. But “3o Rock” was in its prime. In 2007, “30 Rock” won the Emmy for best comedy series, and season two proved even better than season one, despite the writers’ strike that shortened the episode order. The second season contains some of the show’s best episodes, including the premiere, “SeinfeldVision” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” which guest-starred Carrie Fisher.
2008 — “Gossip Girl”
By the time its second season premiered in the fall of 2008, “Gossip Girl” was one of the most popular shows with teens and young adults, and it dominated pop culture and influenced trends in the fashion industry.
2009 — “Modern Family”
When “Modern Family” premiered, it delivered exactly what its title suggests. The first season, which premiered in September 2009, was praised by critics and audiences alike for its retelling of the family sitcom, clearly showing that the family comedy will never be the same thanks to technology like iPads and smartphones. Unfortunately, the show that was once so sharp took a plummet in its second season a year later and never really bounced back.
2010 — “The Big Bang Theory”
In 2010, you couldn’t tell a joke without saying “bazinga!” “The Big Bang Theory” was the most popular sitcom on television. At the 2010 Emmys, the show’s star Jim Parsons won his first of four Emmys for his leading role as Sheldon Cooper, the intelligent nerd who had already become one of the most memorable characters in sitcom history.
2011 — “Breaking Bad”
“Breaking Bad,” which debuted in 2008, dominated the TV landscape in 2011. The action-packed fourth season focused on the feud between Walter White and Gustavo Fring, the drug lord White is trying to get rid of so he can take over. The season had moments viewers couldn’t predict, from the bloody box cutter scene in the season premiere to the horrific explosion in a nursing home in the season finale.
2012 — “Mad Men”
“Mad Men” returned after an almost two-year hiatus in 2012. Expectations were high. In the season four finale, Don Draper proposed to his secretary, Megan, and it was a twist most people didn’t see coming, but should have. Most fans weren’t optimistic about Megan becoming one of the main characters on the show, but she turned out to be a great character, and its fifth season took a lot of memorable risks, including a dark storyline with Lane Pryce, and Roger Sterling’s obsession with LSD that he won’t stop bragging about.
2013 — “Parks and Recreation”
When season six of “Parks and Recreation” arrived in 2013, Chris Pratt somewhat suddenly had a superhero body and the show had a larger audience than previous seasons, thanks to a cult following and praise from critics. Unlike most comedies, “Parks and Recreation” didn’t lose its momentum, because it always challenged itself and its characters.
2014 — “Game of Thrones”
In season four, which aired in the spring of 2014 on HBO, “Game of Thrones” was at its peak. Most people were obsessed with the show by this time. The storylines were building up to more exciting new journeys for all of its characters, and the short-lived but memorable Oberyn Martell swept into King’s Landing and made things a little more violent and enticing.
2015 — “Broad City”
Comedy Central’s “Broad City” became extremely popular among New Yorkers in its first season, because unlike some other shows on the air, it absurdly but accurately represented life in the city. But its popularity stretched beyond city and by season two everyone wanted an Abbi to their Ilana – or an Ilana to their Abbi. Season two also included some of the show’s most major guest stars including Seth Rogen, Kelly Ripa, Patricia Clarkson, and Aidy Bryant.
2016 — “Atlanta”
2017 — “Big Little Lies”
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