What else could be No. 1? When Downton Abbey premiered in 2010, it took the world by storm, and obsessing over the lives of the Crawley family and their servants became a way of life for some fans.
The series notably takes advantage of the fact that it's set during a time when the British aristocracy was waning. As a result, the Crawleys are often making desperate moves to hold on to their family estate, but behind the scenes, many members of the household — both upstairs and down — are flirting with modernity. From joining the women's movement to navigating the perils of practicing safe sex in the early 20th century, the characters are always moving forward, despite the older generation's desire for things to stay the same.
Ultimately, Downton Abbey excels at balancing classic period-drama tropes with the style and substance of prestige TV. The end result is a show that nabbed Emmys, captured the zeitgeist, and led to a successful film, all while proving to Hollywood that there's no reason a show can't be soapy, romantic, and utterly deserving of the same level of accolades as something as dark and serious as Breaking Bad.
Downton Abbey's success broke boundaries for period dramas and paved the way for shows like Bridgerton, Sanditon, and Gentleman Jack to keep pushing the genre forward in terms of inclusivity and content. I shudder to imagine what might have happened had the Crawleys never elbowed their way past Hollywood's gatekeepers. Thankfully, absolutely no one can stand in the way of the Dowager Countess — or the march of period-drama progress.
Watch Downton Abbey on Amazon Video.