These are the most divisive TV shows of the decade. The 2010s has seen some major shifts in the TV landscape, moving from the Golden Age of Television into the Peak TV era, and with that have been changes viewers consume TV, and thus how they react to it as well.
Thanks to social media, there's been an increase in die-hard fandoms around TV shows, such as Rick & Morty, and it's never been easier for fans to express their opinion - and in particular their displeasure - about a certain TV series or specific episode. And while this decade has seen a lot of TV shows both good and bad, there has also been a number that have been controversial and split opinion, whether over their entire run or just in the final few seasons.
It might be a case that there's a TV show critics hated but audiences clearly loved, or a series disliked by fans but that received great reviews, or otherwise a TV series that absolutely no one could agree on, but everyone argued about. From 2010-2019, these were the TV shows that tore people about and proved extremely divisive.
12. The Newsroom
Aaron Sorkin is rightly revered as one of the all-time great screenwriters, especially when it comes to TV, but he couldn't please everyone with The Newsroom. Airing on HBO from 2012-2014, The Newsroom chronicled life at a fictional cable news channel, and attempted to portray the rapidly-changing world of news long before the term "Fake News" became so ubiquitous. However, despite a great pilot episode, the series continued to divide both critics and fans: there were those who loved its strong political messaging, and others who found Sorkin's decision to tackle whatever topic was on his mind in a way that meant he won the argument. Stirring stuff that spoke to the heart of news and real-life America, or self-satisfied and preachy? When it came to The Newsroom, no one could quite decide.
11. Hemlock Grove
Hemlock Grove often feels like Netflix's weird, forgotten little show. It was part of its first slate of Original Series, but while both Orange is the New Black and House of Cards went on to have length-run, critical acclaim, and plenty of awards, Hemlock Grove was canceled after three seasons and didn't leave too much of a mark. Produced by Eli Roth, the horror series was unsurprisingly shlocky, and critics were largely put off by the series' tone and gore, with Hemlock Grove's Rotten Tomatoes score at just 38%. At the same time, it developed something of a cult following, with fans enjoying its horror elements, universe building, and characters and performances, holding a much more respectable 64% audience score on RT.
HBO's Girls largely garnered strong reviews over the course of its six-season run, but that didn't stop it from being both divisive and controversial among both critics and viewers alike. Following the lives of four female 20-somethings in New York City, Girls was quickly praised for its humor, fearlessness, and the fact it was so authentic in portraying female relationships. Conversely, it also brought a lot of controversy over its lack of racial representation despite being set in NYC, and there were arguments about Girls' approach to feminism too. A big part of Girls' division was creator and star Lena Dunham herself, who can divide people, and it was often the cast that if you liked Dunham, you probably liked Girls, and vice versa.
When ABC decided to revive Roseanne, which had been a hit in the 80s and 90s, it at first seemed like a masterstroke: 18 million people watched the Roseanne season 10 premiere, and critics generally approved of it too. It was a return to the classic sitcoms of old, but most seemed content with what it was offering - yet the division came because of Roseanne Barr herself. An outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, Roseanne was already proving divisive because of her political views before she made racist remarks about Valerie Jarrett on Twitter, causing ABC to cancel the series. While many critics and analysts praised the move and condemned Barr, there were plenty of supporters who believed it shouldn't have been canned and that Roseanne instead should've remained on the air, causing more division off-screen than it did on-screen.
8. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is one of the biggest TV shows of the decade, and with that kind of fanbase - especially when it's a series with beloved source material and a whole lot of violence - is bound to come some division. Despite its huge ratings numbers, The Walking Dead has often been somewhat overlooked by critics and awards bodies, but it's also caused plenty of arguments among its own fans too. There are plenty of moments, from almost all of season 2 to deaths of characters such as Beth, but none better showcase how divisive The Walking Dead can be than the Negan cliffhanger at the end of season 6, and the season 7 premiere that followed. The latter was decried for being needlessly violent, but its defenders will simply tell you that's The Walking Dead, and while the ratings have dropped off now, at its height there were long arguments about whether it was actually any good.
7. Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery was the first new Star Trek TV series in over a decade when it debuted back in 2017, so there was already a lot of pressure riding on the series from the outset. Aiming to put its own spin on Star Trek, Discovery was largely praised by critics, but its first season especially was very divisive among Star Trek fans. There were arguments that it "wasn't Star Trek", and some fans disliked new elements such as following a lead character who wasn't the captain, or just the personality of Michael Burnham in general, while others found it to be a fresh, exciting take on what's come before, exemplified by its Rotten Tomatoes scores: its 82% with critics, but just 43% with audiences.
6. Iron Fist
Iron Fist was perhaps the MCU's first true failure, and certainly of Netflix's corner of the Marvel universe, which had looked as bulletproof as Luke Cage. Iron Fist's first season was roundly panned by critics, being savaged unlike anything else in the MCU for its weak fight choreography, poor plotting, and Finn Jones' performance among other things. However, there were still plenty of Marvel fans who enjoyed the series and defended it from the criticism, evidenced by season 1's critics and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes being 20% and 73% respectively, although things did improve slightly in Iron Fist season 2. There are people who'll say Iron Fist is the worst thing the MCU has produced, and others who'll say it's not even the worst of the Netflix shows.
Starting off as a Batman series without Batman, Gotham has long received decent-enough reviews from critics, but where it's proved most divisive is amongst DC fans. Despite featuring the vast majority of Batman's key supporting characters and rogues gallery over the years, Gotham played things extremely fast and loose when it came to established Batman canon - or at least, mythology - and fans weren't always receptive to the changes, especially things like messing around with Ivy's character or having Barbara lead the League of Assassins. Other changes, such as Penguin's character, were more warmly received, but there was generally a divide between those who enjoyed Gotham's new twists on Batman lore and those who rejected it changing such core aspects of the character.
4. How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother was popular with fans and critics for the majority of its run, although things did take a turn in later seasons when the CBS sitcom started to run out of steam and drag out elements of its story. Its final season took that further by being set completely over a weekend, but it was How I Met Your Mother's series finale that made it so truly divisive. By quickly killing off the Mother and having Ted end up with Robin, a lot of fans were furious with the idea that they'd wasted so much time invested in the show only for those last twists. At the same, the HIMYM finale has been defended for its story, being true to life, and nailing its other aspects too, but nonetheless it remains one of the most controversial series endings ever made.
Lost may have only aired one season this decade, but that was enough for it to become one of the most divisive TV shows of the 2010s, because it was one of the most divisive seasons of television of all-time, and that's certainly true of its finale. Even prior to "The End", however, Lost season 6 was polarizing among fans and critics alike, with "Across The Sea" perhaps the most divisive episode of the series' entire run until the finale, hailed as both the best and worst of the show. And then there was the Lost finale itself, which was loved by some fans, despised by others, and spent most of the decade as TV's punching bad and go-to example of a bad finale.
2. 13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is another of those shows that was always going to attract controversy, since it deals with topics such as teen suicide and sexual abuse, but few might've predicted just how divisive it turned out to be, with its first season in particular leading to strong opinions on both sides. Did the depiction of Hannah Baker's suicide go way too far, or was it important to show it? Did the show handle sexual assault delicately, or terribly? Is it sending the right message to its teenage audience, or dangerous for them to watch? Both sides of those debates have, and continue to be, argued by critics, fans, medical professionals, school officials, classification bodies and more, making 13 Reasons Why Netflix's most divisive and controversial series so far.
1. Game Of Thrones
It's tempting to say that all of Game of Thrones' backlash started and ended with season 8, and it's true that the final season was the one where the controversy and division boiled over: where petitions were signed, the internet raged, and many declared the TV show ruined while quieter corners of the internet tried to defend it. But Game of Thrones has long been divisive. Certainly, from season 5 onwards, when it really started moving past George R.R. Martin's books, it's been less universally praised, and even before then there was some division amongst show-watchers and book-readers, alongside controversy and anger over its depiction of sexual assault and lack of diversity. Game of Thrones is the biggest TV show of the last 10 years, so it's not much of a surprise that it's also the most divisive TV series of the decade as well.