Many television experts name the year 2000 as the official start of the “golden age of television” that we’re still experiencing today. It’s true: the decade of the ‘00s was chock-full of excellent television programming.
Even with all of the fantastic shows on air today, many viewers still point to the series that came out of the ‘00s as the best-of-the-best, swearing that they can’t be topped.
However, in order to understand just how good some of the programming that came out of the 2000s was, it’s also important to review how flat-out awful some of the ‘00s series were at the same time.
This list will cover both shows that are considered to be the cream of the crop and the worst of the worst from the ‘00s. It includes shows of all genres, from comedies to highbrow dramas, and also includes shows from cable networks like NBC to premiums like HBO.
As a result of television’s highly subjective nature, this list uses Rotten Tomatoes as a reference, a site that collects critics’ reviews and averages all of their ratings together to give a single score to each TV show.
Some of the television series on the list received perfect scores of 100%, while others rank all the way down in the single digits.
With that said, here are the 10 Best (And 5 Worst) ‘00s Shows According To Rotten Tomatoes.
15 Best: Chuck (90%)
NBC’s comedy/spy thriller Chuck answers the question of what would happen if The Office met 24. Zachary Levi played main character Chuck Bartowski, an average guy who works a computer help desk.
However, Chuck’s average lifestyle comes to a screeching halt and he’s soon pushed into the spy lifestyle after he reads an encrypted email with government secrets and they become implanted in his mind.
NSA Major John Casey (played by Adam Baldwin) and CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) are tasked with protecting Chuck and the information he now possesses. Through the course of the series, the three work together on different spy cases.
The unique concept and genre-blending style of Chuck won critics over immediately.
The first season received a high rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Chuck continued to gain equally high ratings as the series went on. Its fifth and final season even secured a perfect 100% rating.
While the series wasn’t perfect in television critics’ eyes, they still stuck by it through all five seasons because it was one of the few genuinely entertaining and consistent series on air at the time.
Critics praised the NBC series for its fresh humor, plot twists, and entertaining writing. They also loved Zach Levi’s performance, which was described as charming and endearing.
Chuck won an overall rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes for all of these successful qualities.
14 Best: Lost (91%)
Lost was one of the most unique television viewing experiences to come out of the 2000s, and was one of the first shows of the decade to grab the attention of television audiences nationwide.
Lost was also one of the first television shows ever that interacted with its audience through websites and related novels, helping the show gain a loyal – and even obsessive – fan base in the process.
The series had one of the most original concepts to play on television. It followed a group of passengers that survived a plane crash and were stranded on a mysterious and scary island and must now work together to figure out what to do next.
Viewers at home were fascinated by the series, and so were professional television critics. The series ran for six series, and its ratings on Rotten Tomatoes never dipped below 80%, which is an impressive record.
Critics celebrated Lost’s character-driven plots, original sci-fi elements, and consistently strong plot lines and performances from the show’s actors.
Thanks to all of the attention and praise it received from critics, Lost is still named as one of the best series to come out of the ‘00s and even one of the best television shows ever made.
It’s not surprising, then, that Lost has a high overall rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
13 Worst: The Beautiful Life (21%)
A show has to be pretty bad in order to gain less than 25% of critics’ approval. However, a series like The Beautiful Life no doubt earns that low rating.
The Beautiful Life was a teen drama on the CW that ran for only one season, with the network deciding to cancel after only two episodes aired.
Also, according to television critics, there was a good reason for that.
The series told the story of a group of young models living together in New York City and trying to make it on the fashion scene.
It starred Mischa Barton, Sara Paxton, Ben Hollingsworth, and Corbin Bleu as some of the young models. Surprisingly, Gal Gadot was also cast to play a supermodel in later episodes, but these never reached to air.
The Beautiful Life’s early cancellation was due to several reasons. Critics were irritated at the poorly produced melodrama, and many wrote that the show had flashy visuals with absolutely no substance to back it up.
The Beautiful Life was also overly dramatic, while at the same time extremely boring.
Essentially every television critic said that the series would never last due to these factors.
With such a poorly rated first and only season, The Beautiful Life rests at a low 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.
12 Best: Veronica Mars (94%)
Kristen Bell is winning over television audiences around the world with her role in the current hit sitcom The Good Place, but back in the ‘00s, she starred in one of the most decade’s popular TV series, Veronica Mars.
The CW series took the film noir concept into a storyline following modern day teens. Kristen Bell starred as high school student Veronica Mars who lives in Neptune, California and works as a private investigator. Each episode follows Bell’s titular character as she solves different mysteries.
Though Veronica Mars didn't manage to pull in hugely impressive ratings, critics showed the series some love. They loved Bell’s confident lead performance, as well as the series’ original and modern take on the film noir genre, sharp writing, and its surprising inclusion of social commentary.
The mystery and the high school TV series might be two genres that are played out, but critics insisted that Veronica Mars elevated both to new and impressive heights.
Unfortunately, despite such high praise from critics, Veronica Mars was cancelled after three seasons. Fans remained loyal and were able to help creator Rob Thomas raise funds through Kickstarter for a Veronica Mars movie.
They were successful, and the movie premiered in 2014, but the series never made its way back on television.
Nevertheless, Veronica Mars is still remembered as one of the best series from the ‘00s, and its rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes reflects that.
11 Best: The Sopranos (95%)
Ask fans of the crime genre what piece of media best captures the mob, and some might say movies like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy.
However, many others would name HBO’s record-breaking drama The Sopranos as the best work ever produced in the mobster crime genre.
As one of the best series to come out of the premium network HBO, The Sopranos follows crime boss Tony Soprano (played in a career-defining performance by James Gandolfini) as he leads the New Jersey mob while balancing his home life with wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and children Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and AJ (Robert Iler) with the help of therapist Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).
At times chillingly violent, at times surprisingly funny, there’s no television series quite like The Sopranos.
It quickly became one of the most popular series in American programming, and critics were quick to praise the HBO drama.
Half of its seasons have received a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics lauding The Sopranos’ emotional depth, philosophical themes, first-rate performances from its entire case, and its original take on the mobster genre.
The series will forever be remembered as one of the best dramas ever made and is easily one of the best television productions to come out of the ‘00s.
The Sopranos sits at an impressive 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
10 Worst: Dark Angel (20%)
With smash-hit sci-fi movies like The Terminator and Aliens behind him, everybody thought that James Cameron would be an amazing filmmaker to bring to television in the ‘00s. Unfortunately, his television series Dark Angel didn't fare so well.
In her breakout role, Jessica Alba starred as the genetically modified super-soldier teen Max Guevara. Dark Angel follows Guevara as she breaks out from the military compound that holds her and explores James Cameron’s vision of a post-apocalyptic Seattle, trying to survive out on her own.
Dark Angel was promoted hard by Fox, which had devoted a huge budget to creating the series, and it did gain some fairly good ratings with its first season.
Having secured decent ratings, the network thought its show was good to go.
The critics, however, were not such big fans of James Cameron’s first foray into television. Many scoffed at the series’ poor scripts and awful one-liners, stiff performance by lead Jessica Alba, and its storyline’s aimless and just plain boring direction. The series was labeled as all style and no substance by critics.
Dark Angel was unable to recuperate from such harsh criticism and was cancelled soon after. It now ranks with a mere 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
9 Best: Damages (96%)
Damages showed audiences and critics what can happen when you have a knock-out A-list actor like Glenn Close leading a television series.
The FX legal thriller Damages starred Close as main character Patty Hewes, a top-rate lawyer in Manhattan who specializes in corporate cases. Rose Byrne starred as Hewes’ protégée Ellen Parson. Other stars that appeared over the course of the series included William Hurt, Ted Danson, Martin Short, and Timothy Olyphant.
However, it was Close who stood at the heart of Damages and lead the series into being the razor-sharp drama it is remembered for being today.
Her steely, determined lead character impressed viewers nationwide and paved the way for equally strong female characters on network television in the future.
With other popular shows like Law and Order, the legal drama might seem like a worn out genre. But critics relished in Damages’ refreshing and captivating take on melodramatic legal thrillers.
Many praised Damages for its memorable, polished performances, masterful production and direction, and its downright addicting storylines.
Not one of Damages’ five seasons ranked lower than 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the final three seasons each ranking at a perfect 100%.
This gives Damages a near-perfect cumulative score of 96% on the famous critics’ website.
8 Best: Breaking Bad (96%)
If you asked someone what they believed the best show to come out of the ‘00s was, there’s a good chance they’d answer with Breaking Bad.
The AMC drama took the entire world by storm after its thrilling first season, and through the years it proved itself as one of the best television series ever produced.
Breaking Bad followed Bryan Cranston’s Walter White as he makes a jarring switch from his old job as a high school chemistry teacher to being a meth dealer after learning that he has cancer.
Before the AMC series, American audiences knew Bryan Cranston best from his role on Malcolm in the Middle. However, by playing Walter White, he stunned audiences with his career-defining performance and made a serious impression on casual viewers at home and critics alike.
However, it wasn't only Cranston’s amazing performance that drew in praise from television critics.
They also found Breaking Bad’s storylines to be uniquely compelling, with the show going in completely unexpected directions with new twists every season. The series was also praised for its high production value and excellent writing and direction.
Four out of five seasons of Breaking Bad received perfect 100% scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and the series finished out with an overall 96% on the website.
7 Worst: South Beach (15%)
Critics and television audiences at home often disagree on whether shows are actually good or not. However, with the 2006 series South Beach, the two groups reached an absolute agreement that the show was downright awful.
South Beach, executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, followed the story of Vincent (Chris J. Johnson) and Matt (Marcus Coloma) as they move from Brooklyn to the South Beach neighborhood of Miami, Florida.
There the two get caught up in various melodramas with women, family, and their work as burgeoning businessmen.
Critics lambasted the series for its all-around awful performances, poor production value, boring and predictable storylines, and flat, unbelievable characters.
With poor scripts, direction, and acting, it seemed like there was no aspect of South Beach that viewers were able to enjoy.
South Beach ended up being one of the lowest rated series on air and stands today as one of the worst series of the entire ‘00s decade. It was no surprise that South Beach did not receive a renewal from the CW. The producers were so ashamed of the series’ low ratings that South Beach was never released on DVD or Blu-ray.
With all of this considered, South Beach’s laughably low rating of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes makes complete sense.
6 Best: The Wire (97%)
The Wire is one of those dramas that continues to represent the standard for successful television programming to this day.
Set in Baltimore, HBO’s crime drama The Wire explored different aspects of law enforcement in the city through its individual seasons, including drug trade, city government, and education.
In addition to its impressive cast with actors like Dominic West, Michael K. Williams, Idris Elba, and Michael B. Jordan, The Wire also pulled from real life in order to emphasize its realistic approach to the subject matter and used non-professional actors throughout the show as well.
This quest for realism paid off. The Wire is still remembered and celebrated for its accuracy, complexity, and commentary on the social and political realities of cities like Baltimore.
Television critics liked The Wire’s nuanced storytelling and that the showrunners depicted its subject matter in an unflinching, no-holds-barred manner. The series’ characters routinely drew praise from critics as well, and many of them insisted that The Wire was one of the top television dramas ever made as a result.
Four out of five of The Wire’s series scored a flawless 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, giving the series an overall high rating of 97%.
5 Best: Friday Night Lights (97%)
One of the quintessential American television dramas of the ‘00s is the NBC drama Friday Night Lights. The series followed a Texas high school football team and was based on the best-selling book written by H.G. Bissinger and adapted from the 2004 film with the same title.
Kyle Chandler starred as the show’s lead, football coach Eric Taylor, and was joined by an impressive ensemble cast including Connie Britton, Michael B. Jordan, Taylor Kitsch, and Jesse Plemons.
However, Friday Night Lights was more than just a sports drama. The series used its working class Texas setting to offer commentary on social issues and American culture as a whole, taking on topics such as the American family, race, substance use, and the American economy.
Critics loved its take on such social issues and how Friday Night Lights was able to blend profound themes with the sports genre. Television critics also enjoyed the series’ strong cast performances, surprising narrative twists, and the heartfelt drama at the core of it all.
Each season of Friday Night Lights has received an A grade from Rotten Tomatoes critics, with the lowest scoring first season still pulling an impressive 91% rating.
As a result, Friday Night Lights sits at a high 97% rating overall on the site.
4 Worst: The Ghost Whisperer (9%)
Even some of the worst series are still able to pull double-digit ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Not so for The Ghost Whisperer, which was so despised by critics that it was unable to break even a 10% overall rating.
CBS’ supernatural drama starred Jennifer Love Hewitt as Melinda Gordon, a woman who has the mystical ability to see and talk to ghosts. She uses these skills to help ghosts solve the issues that are keeping them on earth while trying to keep a normal lifestyle on her own at the same time.
The series was highly popular with viewers at home when it was on air and was actually one of CBS’ highest rated series, as the show consistently pulled in millions of views each week.
However, The Ghost Whisperer did not receive the same level of love from critics by a long shot.
Even though American audiences loved the drama, critics found it too melodramatic and overly sentimental. The series lacked the amount of depth critics look for, and many found Jennifer Love Hewitt’s lead performance to be lackluster. Some just found The Ghost Whisperer to be flat-out absurd.
Still, despite its single-digit rating of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes as a result of its heavy criticism, The Ghost Whisperer remained popular through the ‘00s and ran on CBS for five seasons before being cancelled.
3 Best: Deadwood (100%)
HBO’s gritty and realistic western Deadwood is always named whenever there’s a conversation on excellent television series that were cancelled far too soon.
Deadwood’s cast alone was enough to make it one of the most exciting series from the ‘00s.
Actors Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, and John Hawkes formed the series’ cast, all playing characters based on real-life figures from the real lawless frontier town of Deadwood, South Dakota.
With its refreshingly realistic take on the western genre, Deadwood immediately caught the eyes of television critics. Its honest and unflashy depictions of the history American west, excellent writing, and top-notch performances earned Deadwood a score of 100% for each of its seasons.
Some critics even argued that it was the strongest drama to ever hit American television.
When it was on air, Deadwood was one of the strongest shows in HBO’s roster. It’s still considered among HBO’s best dramas today. Deadwood enjoyed a three season run before it was cut down in its prime.
There have been rumors of a movie that would reunite the original cast, but that production’s fate is still questionable. Fans may never get new Deadwood material ever again.
Nevertheless, it is still remembered as one of the best dramas ever put to television, and Deadwood’s perfect score of 100% reflects its memorable status.
2 Best: Band of Brothers (100%)
Many critics would argue that they consider Band of Brothers to be the best series to come out of the ‘00s. The visceral, unnerving depiction of World War II framed the legendary conflict in a new light, emphasizing the tragic sacrifices many in the American Armed Forces had to make in order to win the war.
The HBO series told the story of the “Easy Company,” a part of the Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 101st Airborne Division during World War II. The series spanned the Company’s time from training in the United States to the end of the war.
The series also featured an extraordinary ensemble cast. Band of Brothers served as a stepping-stone for many of today’s A-list actors to grow the huge careers they’re known for having today.
Actors such as Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Michael Fassbender, Stephen Graham, Colin Hanks, Simon Pegg, and Tom Hardy all starred in Band of Brothers.
Also, their knockout performances weren’t the only aspects of the HBO drama that garnered critical acclaim. The series’ shocking intensity, engrossing drama, and its realistic characters’ heroic exploits all won over critics’ favor.
It was remarkable qualities such as these that has earned Band of Brothers its flawless 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
1 Worst: Crash (6%)
Paul Haggis’ 2004 movie Crash was one of the strongest drama films to come out of the ‘00s and is still celebrated today for its emotional depth and award-winning performances.
So when it was announced some years later that Starz would be adapting the series for television, many grew excited, hoping a classic could grow out of the adaptation.
However, Starz’s Crash did not enjoy much success. Instead, the show is considered one of the biggest television failures of the ‘00s.
Developed by Glen Mazzara, who is best known today for his work on The Shield and The Walking Dead, Crash starred Dennis Hopper, D.B. Sweeney, and Dana Ashbrook. The series told the story of an array of different characters living in Los Angeles attempting to find their own versions of success.
All of the subtleties that contributed to the success of the original 2004 movie were lost on Mazzara’s television adaptation. According to critics, even though the series attempted to take on heavy social themes, it floundering under the weight and only ended up preaching to its audience.
In addition to its heavy-handedness, critics found the series too self important, while the storylines were found completely ridiculous and the performances were described as flat and uninspired.
Crash was cancelled after two seasons and remains today as one of the lowest-rated series of the ‘00s, with an embarrassing 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
How did your favorite series from the '00s fare? Let us know in the comments!