The 27 Best 2000s TV Shows

No low-rise jeans necessary.

tv shows
(Image credit: Courtesy)

A piping hot plate of nostalgia is always the best dish for satisfying your craving for quality TV. I don't make the rules! Or maybe I just did? Either way, picking up that handy-dandy TV remote to watch some classic '00s TV shows sounds like the perfect way to ride out whatever storm, whether that be boredom or a pandemic. Maybe it's because things just seemed easier back then? Boybands and Britney Spears reigned supreme on the airwaves. Being fashionable meant you owned some kind of low-rise pant, and don't even get me started on how thin the eyebrows were. And T-Mobile's Sidekick was so iconic, it's going for some serious dough over on eBay right now. But enough about that. Let's get back to why we're all here: the beauty that was '00s TV.

The decade gave us classic comedies like The Office to Arrested Development, the beauty of MTV's Laguna Beach, sitcoms that made listening to a fake laugh track actually enjoyable, and a whole bunch of other goodies. With this much greatness, it can be hard to pick what to binge first. Have no fear; I wrangled up some of the greatest shows of the period. Ahead, here are some of the very best 2000s TV shows that you should rewatch, like, immediately.

'The Simple Life' 

Original run: 2003-2007

Starring: Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie

Why it makes the list: A show about Hollywood socialites ditching their designer handbags and extravagant ways of life to live like "the middle class" is '00s reality TV at its best. 

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'One Tree Hill' 

Original run: 2003-2012

Starring: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush, and Lee Norris

Why it makes the list: The high school drama of the teens of Tree Hill, North Carolina, can get a little bit cheesy at times, but it's a classic angsty staple that paved the way for the Riverdale-y genre of television we see today. 

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Original run: 2000-2008

Starring: Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, Reginald C. Hayes, and Jill Marie Jones

Why it makes the list: There are tons of shows about a group of 20-somethings going through life together, but none of them are as funny or relatable as Girlfriends. From tackling issues from interracial relationships to parenthood, all while wearing elite '00s fashion, the show that introduced us to Tracee Ellis Ross is a must-watch.

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Original run: 2003-2015

Starring: Ashton Kutcher 

Why it makes the list: Watching your favorite celebs get secretly pranked by other A-listers and host Kutcher was PEAK reality television. How so many of them managed to keep their cool during the high-stress situations is beyond me. 

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'How I Met Your Mother' 

Original run: 2005-2014

Starring: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hannigan

Why it makes the list: Hearing the story of how your parents met shouldn't be this funnyYears later, and we haven't stopped quoting it (or expressing our frustrations with that massively divisive finale). 



Original run: 2001-2006

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, and Victor Garber

Why it makes the list: Watching a fresh-faced Garner kicked some ass for a secret branch of the CIA is what the doctor ordered! Also, a young Bradley Cooper makes an appearance for a couple of episodes, and I have no complaints. 

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'What I Like About You' 

Original run: 2002-2006

Starring: Amanda Bynes, Jennie Garth, Wesley Jonathan, Leslie Grossman, Allison Munn, and Nick Zano

Why it makes the list: Was it the 2000s without teen queen Bynes? Absolutely not! While movies like What a Girl Wants and She's the Man get all the love, this underrated favorite about a 16-year-old who moves in with her older sister has all her usual funny antics and more. 

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'The Sopranos'

Original run: 1999-2007

Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Steven Van Zandt

Why it makes the list: Before Games of Thrones became the hot girl on campus, a.k.a HBO, The Sopranos ruled the network. The show about a mob boss and his family set the standard for dramedies everywhere. 

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'My Wife and Kids' 

Original run: 2001-2005

Starring: Damon Wayans, Tisha Campbell-Martin, George Gore II, Parker McKenna Posey, Jennifer Freeman, and Noah Gray-Cabey

Why it makes the list: The Kyle family became one of the most relatable families on TV as they strived not to be the cookie-cutter family we see on network television. 

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Original run: 2001-2007

Starring: Reba McEntire, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Steve Howey, Christopher Rich, and Melissa Peterman

Why it makes the list: Unlike most sitcoms of the time, Reba's main character was a single mother of three. While most shows portray that as a setback, Reba hardly did as she managed to navigate every situation with strength (and some Southern sass.) 

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Original run: 2004-2010

Starring: Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, Terry O'Quinn, and Daniel Dae Kim

Why it makes the list: Watching a group of strangers try to survive on a deserted island after a deadly plane crash should get boring after a couple of seasons, but with legendary showrunner J.J. Abrams as one of the writers, think again. 

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'Laguna Beach' 

Original run: 2004-2006

Starring: Kristin Cavallari, Talan Torriero, Stephen Colletti, Lauren Conrad, and Lo Bosworth 

Why it makes the list: Laguna Beach walked so that The Hills could run! Forever thankful to MTV for following eight Laguna Beach teens during their last years of high school and considering it high-quality entertainment. (It is!) 

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'Desperate Housewives' 

Original run: 2004-2012 

Starring: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Ricardo Chavira, and James Denton

Why it makes the list: Suburban life didn't seem that boring, thanks to the ladies of Wisteria Lane. From hooking up with the sons of their neighbors to figuring out what happened to one of their own, every episode was like a totally normal day in the neighborhood.

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'The O.C.'

Original run: 2003-2007

Starring: Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Ben McKenzie, and Rachel Bilson 

Why it makes the list: Teenage soap dramas set in Southern California for the win! Primarily when they're set in Newport Beach and feature a baby-faced Brody and McKenzie trying to survive high school. 

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'The West Wing' 

Original run: 1999-1996

Starring: Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford

Why it makes the list: Today's culture lovers know a fair share of political dramas center around the White House, and we owe it all to this bad boy right here. Countless scandals, threats, and political scuffles ran amok over its seven seasons and introduced us to a ton of stars we still love today. 

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'Everybody Hates Chris' 

Original run: 2005-2009

Starring: Terry Crews, Tyler James Williams, Tichina Arnold, Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, and Vincent Martella

Why it makes the list: Comedian Chris Rock narrates this show about his childhood in the '80s. It's clever, and its honest retelling won an NAACP Image Award for its writing in 2007.

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'Arrested Development' 

Original run: 2003-2006, 2013, 2018-2019

Starring: Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat, and Tony Hale

Why it makes the list: Dysfunctional families who go from being filthy stinking rich to dirt poor in a matter of hours are the kind of comedies we love to see! Just ask those who came after it, like Schitt's Creek. 

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'Breaking Bad' 

Original run: 2008-2013

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, and Dean Norris

Why it makes the list: Antiheroes have long been everyone's favorite character on TV, but none of them compare to high school teacher turned methamphetamine seller Walter White. 

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'Gossip Girl' 

Original run: 2008-2012

Starring: Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Taylor Momsen, Ed Westwick, and Chace Crawford

Why it makes the list: What's better than watching a bunch of hot, wealthy New York socialites get in all sorts of messy drama while simultaneously trying to avoid becoming the subject of Gossip Girl, the most talked-about anonymous gossip blog, like ever? Absolutely nothing. 

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'The Wire' 

Original run: 2002-2008

Starring: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, John Doman, and Deirdre Lovejoy

Why it makes the list: Every part of the drug food chain, from junkies to dealers and from cops to politicians, gets dissected in this gritty HBO drama set in Baltimore. Narcos, who? 

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'Friday Night Lights' 

Original run: 2006-2011

Starring: Kyle Chandler, Taylor Kitsch, Brad Leland, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, and Zach Gilford

Why it makes the list: Say it with me, people, "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose." While we can't technically ever attend a Dillion Panthers football game (ugh), Friday Night Lights was one of the strongest and well-executed teen dramas of its time, tackling topics like racism and teen pregnancy with a whole new lens. 

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'Gilmore Girls'

Original run: 2000-2007

Starring: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Keiko Agena, Scott Patterson, and Melissa McCarthy

Why it makes the list: Team Dean, Team Jess, or Team Logan? This was the biggest problem to pop culture lovers everywhere in the '00s, and we have Rory Gilmore and her inability to make a proper decision to thank for it. 

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'The Office' 

Original run: 2005-2013

Starring: Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and Ed Helms

Why it makes the list: Friends to the '90s was The Office to the '00s, okay?! The dysfunctional paper company Dunder Mifflin and its employees in Scranton, Pennsylvania, brought a new outlook to the 9 to 5 experience. 

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Original run: 2001-2010

Starring: Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, John C. McGinley, Ken Jenkins, and Neil Flynn

Why it makes the list: Scrubs proved that shows based in hospitals could actually be fun, not the drama-fests we're used to. (We still love you, Grey's Anatomy!) 

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'Degrassi: The Next Generation'

Original run: 2001-2015

Starring: Miriam McDonald, Shane Kippel, Cassie Steele, Lauren Collins, Stefan Brogren, and Drake

Why it makes the list: Degrassi was the Canadian drama of the '00s, with its honest depictions of real problems affecting teens (bullying, teen pregnancy, even school shootings) and its cast featuring several generations of young stars.

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'Avatar: The Last Airbender'

Original run: 2005-2008

Starring: Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack De Sena, Dante Basco, Michaela Jill Murphy, and Mako

Why it makes the list: For every '00s kid who tried water and earthbending at the beach (or was that just me?), this cartoon hold a special place in the heart, with its hilarious and heartfelt story about a kid chosen to master the elements and save the world.

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Original run: 2007-2013

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, Joe Dempsie, Hannah Murray, and April Pearson

Why it makes the list: You could argue that Skins started off the whole teens-behaving-badly genre that led to shows like Euphoria dominating the airwaves now. Watching this show is also a Where's Waldo  for your favorite British actors (including Dev Patel and Daniel Kaaluya!!!).

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Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. In addition to spearheading commerce content across brands—from writing about wardrobe must-haves and sales at major retailers to strategizing—she is also an avid reader with a deep love and knowledge for books of all genres. More often than not, you can find her lounging with a good book on the weekend.