In the past decade of TV shows, The Wire is widely considered one of the greatest television dramas ever produced. Former President Barack Obama even called it one of the greatest pieces of art created in the last couple of decades. The Wire creator David Simon weaved together a series that took a hard look at how institutions indirectly and directly have a part in drug trade and corruption. Baltimore, Maryland is the setting for The Wire; the show deals with different divisions of the city, but the stories and themes featured in the show resonate with cities all over the globe. The Wire is a great TV drama that helped define the early 2000s era of television.
Thanks to the power of streaming services like Netflix, The Wire and other great television shows of the early 2000s are available to watch on any device. The early 2000s was a critical time for the small screen because it’s when many of the formulas that now dominate the airwaves started to form. Anti-hero main characters, sci-fi epics, political dramas, and feel-good-but-makes-you-cry shows began to find their place in pop culture and on mainstream television. As we embrace a new decade of television, let’s take a look at some of the best TV shows of the early 2000s that are available to stream.
This list only includes dramas from the early 2000s that are available to stream through a subscription service. It’s also limited to series that began between 1999 and 2006, and series that reached their final episodes by 2011.
The Wire (Amazon Prime Video)
The Wire premiered in 2002. It features actors who have become some of today’s biggest names in Hollywood, including Aidan Gillen, Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, Lance Reddick, and Dominic West. The Wire gave a gritty and honest portrait of Baltimore: the show highlights how different institutions influence crime in the city. The Wire received critical acclaim but the Emmy voters mostly ignored it—one of the Emmy’s many great injustices. The Wire aired from 2002 to 2008. All five seasons are available to stream on HBO Now and Amazon Prime Video. Stream The Wire HERE.
The Sopranos (Amazon Prime Video)
Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was the man in charge from 1999 to 2007. Fans may never know what really happened to Tony after everything faded to black, but his legacy continues. David Chase’s Sopranos revolutionized the television world in a couple of ways. First, it de-glamorized the mob lifestyle, and second it let viewers know that it was okay to follow the bad guy over the course of multiple seasons. The Sopranos paved the way for the Walter White and Dexters of the TV world. The premise of a mob boss in therapy expanded to a look at a damaged family, a deconstruction of the mob drama, and a conversation on mental health. All six seasons of The Sopranos are available on HBO Now and Amazon Prime Video. Stream The Sopranos HERE.
Veronica Mars (Hulu)
From 2004 to 2007, Kristen Bell played everyone’s favorite Marshmallow, Veronica Mars. Veronica Mars was a teen drama that was smart, funny, surprising, and heartbreaking in all the right ways. Veronica Mars’ original run left viewers wanting more after the CW’s abrupt cancellation of it after three seasons. By the end of the series, the teen P.I had won a loyal cult following that was willing to go to the ends of the earth for their LoVe of the series. This meant the show would receive two revivals, first as a movie and then as an additional season. It also had a book series and a web series about Dick. All four seasons and the Veronica Mars movie are available on Hulu. Stream Veronica Mars HERE.
Friday Night Lights (Hulu)
Emmy winning and critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights became a favorite among people who wanted heartwarming sports dramas. Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler led an ensemble cast as Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor. Friday Night Lights was adapted from the 2004 movie of the same name, which was based on the Friday Night Lights book. The series aired on NBC from 2006 to 2011- gaining more loyal fans with each new season. Hulu has all five seasons of Friday Night Lights available to stream on Hulu. Stream Friday Night Lights HERE.
Unfortunately, most critics and viewers now associate Lost with its much-debated final season. When Lost first aired in 2004, fans were blown away by the mystery of the island, the cast, and the potential of the series. At the heart of Lost was a character driven show that explored what happens when people are forced into unfamiliar situations and unknown dangers. Lost featured an ensemble cast that included Matthew Fox, Naveen Andrews, Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, and Emilie de Ravin. Lost aired for six seasons and ended in May 2010. All six seasons of Lost are available to stream on Hulu. Stream Lost HERE.
The Shield (Hulu)
FX’s crime drama The Shield follows Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), a corrupt Los Angeles Police Department cop. Mackey and his friends often use illegal methods to coerce confessions and ensure arrests. Michael Chiklis’ performance on The Shield won him both the Emmy and Golden Globe award for the series’ first season. FX aired The Shield for seven seasons from 2002 to 2008. The show captured the attention of many big Hollywood names and featured guest appearances by Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker. Hulu has all seven seasons of The Shield available to stream. Stream The Shield HERE.
The West Wing (Hulu)
Aaron Sorkin’s political drama The West Wing dominated ratings and award season for most of its seven-season run. In The West Wing, Martin Sheen plays President of the United States Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. The series follows him and his administration, which includes C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), Leo McGarry (John Spencer), and Joshua Lyman (Bradley Whitford). The West Wing is considered one of the best-written TV shows of all time. It won 26 Emmy Awards, including four for Outstanding Drama and numerous writing Emmys. All seven seasons of The West Wing, which aired from 1999 to 2006, are available on Netflix. Stream The West Wing HERE.
Fans of the Fox Network know that the company rarely hesitates when cancelling shows. This has led to many beloved series reaching their conclusion far too soon. In 2003, Firefly became one of Fox’s cancellation victims. Joss Whedon’s space western followed the crew of the Serenity spaceship led by Nathan Fillion’s Mal Reynolds. Firefly’s cast also included Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, and Summer Glau. Firefly only aired for one 14-episode season. However, Joss Whedon and crew were given a chance to give the series a proper conclusion with the Serenity movie in 2005. All fourteen episodes of Firefly are available to stream on Hulu. Stream Firefly HERE.
Boston Legal (Hulu)
Long before Red,James Spader, along with William Shatner, was the star of David E. Kelley’s legal drama and The Practice spin-off Boston Legal. Like The Practice, the show centered around the characters at a law firm and the cases that they tackled each week. Boston Legal received many award nominations, especially for Shatner and Spader. Boston Legal aired from 2004 to 2008, and had five seasons. Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have all five seasons of the series available to stream. Stream Boston Legal HERE.
The 4400 (Netflix)
In 2004, USA Network introduced a new sci-fi series called The 4400. The 4400 follows the return of 4400 people who went missing during various periods, starting in 1946. All of the 4400 disappeared in a similar fashion with a white beam of light grabbing them. Once returned to earth, the 4400 remain the same age they were when taken. The series follows these individuals and how they must adjust to their return, and the new powers that they’ve developed. From 2004 to 2007, The 4400 aired for four seasons. Some of the cast included Billy Campbell, Mahershala Ali, Patrick John Flueger, and Laura Allen. The complete series of The 4400 is available on Netflix. Stream The 4400 HERE.
Six Feet Under (Amazon Prime Video)
Six Feet Under follows widow Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) and her three children, Nate (Peter Krause), David (Michael C. Hall), and Claire (Lauren Ambrose). It focuses on the Fisher family’s funeral business and personal relationships and struggles. Six Feet Under was another one of HBO’s critically acclaimed series with a huge cult following. The Fisher family’s highly dysfunctional nature, magical surrealism elements, and overall strong writing and acting is what made Six Feet Under one of the most popular series of the early 2000s. It aired on HBO from 2001 to 2005. All five seasons of Six Feet Under are available on Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now. Stream Six Feet Under HERE.
The early 2000s brought a lot of great television series, many that helped shaped the TV landscape forever, and even more that are considered the greatest series of all time. Let’s hope the next twenty years of television shows are just as profound and exciting.
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.
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