Paste‘s TV Power Rankings (Week of 12/4/2017)

Week of 12/4/2017

TV Lists power rankings
Paste‘s TV Power Rankings (Week of 12/4/2017)

One week off (to reveal our 25 best TV shows and 17 best new TV shows of 2017) and Paste’s TV power rankings already feature a number of new titles, including a pair of streaming series that debuted to acclaim just before Thanksgiving and a pair of strong entries from dramas that have had their ups and downs. Plus, this week marks a farewell to Stranger Things, whose second season is not longer eligible after this week. (Not to worry, The Crown Season Two arrives Friday—and it’s very, very good.)

The rules for this list are simple: Any series on TV qualifies, whether it’s a comedy, drama, news program, animated series, variety show or sports event. It can be on a network, basic cable, premium channel, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or whatever you can stream on your smart TV, as long as a new episode was made available the previous week—or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous six weeks.

The voting panel is comprised of Paste editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes. We’re merciless: a bad episode can knock you right off this list, as much good TV is available right now.

Honorable Mentions:
At Home with Amy Sedaris, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

10. Stranger Things
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Stranger Things Season Two is full of the same kinds of joyful moments of television that made its breakout first season so fun. If ‘80s nostalgia, plucky kids, pre-teen awkwardness, scary-but-not-terrifying monsters, goofy minor characters and emotional reunions aren’t your thing, I get it, go ahead and skip this one. But if you loved the first season, loved Goonies and E.T. and the John Hughes canon, you may find yourself binging all nine episodes in a weekend. The world gets a little bigger than Hawkins, Indiana, and the stakes get a little higher, but at its heart, six kids must face up to their monsters, metaphorical and real, to a perfect ‘80s soundtrack. —Josh Jackson (Photo: Netflix)

Network: Showtime
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

Frankie Shaw’s Showtime series about a single mother in South Boston has grown on me with each week—engaging topics both excruciatingly relevant (sexual assault) and wicked absurd (Tough Mudders). But this week’s Back to the Future-inspired episode, with elements of Rashomon and Run Lola Run, is its most ambitious yet, turning the tale of a missing teddy bear into a lively, wildly funny Father’s Day-for-Mothers fantasia. It still needs time to jell, but I have to think it won’t be long before SMILF is one of TV’s best comedies. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME)

8. Lady Dynamite
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Lady Dynamite has always been a very easy show to recommend to some and a very difficult show to recommend to others. This is in part because of how successfully it melds the strongest attributes of its creators (South Park’s Pam Brady, Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz, and Maria Bamford) into one singular voice. If that voice speaks to you, its specificity often feels like a one-to-one connection. Returning after an 18-month hiatus, Lady Dynamite doubles down on these qualities while also cohering faster than the first: Season Two, which picks up on last season’s present-day timeline while flashing back to Maria’s childhood and forward to the future, has a real streak of optimism to it. Even with conflicts and mania looming on the horizon, it makes Season One’s peppy steps forward look almost fatalistic by comparison. —Graham Techler (Photo: Netflix)

7. Riverdale
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Riverdale, even this far from the height of its powers, still has its moments, and the inventive triptych “Tales from the Darkside” is most certainly one. Set during the same space of time, its three distinct stories—involving Archie and Jughead; Josie; and Betty and Veronica, respectively—unearth more formal vigor and narrative verve from The CW’s small-town noir than the rest of the second season combined. At once the season’s most ambitious entry and its most entertaining, it even made me say “Daddy” aloud to myself. (Thanks, Sheriff Keller.) —Matt Brennan (Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW)

6. Alias Grace
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Alias Grace Column Main.jpg
Adapted by Sarah Polley from Margaret Atwood’s historical novel, and directed by Mary Harron with forthright shudders of psychological horror, this sterling Canadian limited series is a tightly constructed marvel. In Canada in 1859, “celebrated murderess” Grace Marks (the brilliant Sarah Gadon) submits to an interview with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), and their ongoing conversation unearths a pattern of violence and trauma, which Alias Grace spins into a scintillating mystery, an intricate biographical portrait, a lushly appointed period drama, and a ferocious treatment of the distance between what “the world at large” deigns to call harm and the countless ways men cause it. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix)

5. Future Man
Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Future Man takes a bit to get going. It’s a series executive produced and partially directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, so it’s their brand of strange, silly, R-rated kids content (think of all the references in This Is the End) applied to time travel, the apocalypse, and other great science fiction subjects of (but not limited to) the 1980s. The pilot episode features Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) completing the last level of his favorite video game, which turns out to be a recruitment tool sent from the future. This is a future run by perfect Biotics (a fear of anyone in any minority, let alone a loser janitor like Futterman), the flawed, human resistance to which is made up of a bunch of subterranean Mad Max machos.

This set-up is so tired that the show has to call attention to it, and the loser-done-good trope is as simplistic as you can get, but as the season progresses to the genre’s more exciting aspects (including the spectacular time travel episode “Herpe: Fully Loaded,” which manages to nail a racial tension/humor divide), it gives itself more chances to exhale and expand its weirdness. There’s a lot of fun to be found in the ridiculous “what-if” theorizing the show explores, especially as it abandons its fake-out “chosen one” premise for its time travel craziness, that make me even more excited for where it’s going. Starting with references to 1980s sci-fi and ending with a nod to Her (and Avatar), Future Man’s present is strong enough that it deserves to live on. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Brandon Hickman/Hulu)

4. She’s Gotta Have It
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

She’s Gotta Have It may not be the revolution it was in 1986, but Spike Lee’s serial remake of his own first feature is more refined in almost every way, while kicking the formal bravado into overdrive. There’s a ten-minute vigil mourning Donald Trump’s election. There’s Requiem for a Dream-like butt injections. There’s a full-on dance sequence to “Raspberry Beret.” Its lead is smarter, braver, and more complex than ever while tackling social threats with infectious energy and relatable vulnerability. If this doesn’t more than make up for a first-timer’s misjudged scene, I don’t know what does. Doing it again may be a rarity, but when Lee does it this well, I’d be happy for that to change. —Jacob Oller (Photo: David Lee/Netflix)

3. Mr. Robot
Network: USA
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

If “eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00” crystallized the streamlined shape of Mr. Robotnight Rider / Breaking Bad-inspired “eps3.6fredrick&tanya.chk” (R.I.P., Trenton and Mobley) suggested that even this tighter focus has limits, the latest Mr. Robot, “eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko,” unwraps the sentiment hidden in the side pocket of the season’s action and underscores it to superb effect. Bookended by more familiar features of Sam Esmail’s fictional universe—grief, regret, philosophical inquiries on the meaning of “deletion,” digital and analog—the heart of the hour is a sweet, surprisingly funny two-hander, a buddy comedy discovered on the edge of despair. It is, in its way, as unexpected a development in the series’ arc as the singular momentum of “runtime-err0r.r00,” in part because it’s a respite from Elliot’s (Rami Malek) inner monologue. For the space of an afternoon, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) goes silent, because he and Elliot are one in the same. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

2. Godless
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Godless, Netflix’s amazeballs seven-part Western, takes place in the No Man’s Land of La Belle, New Mexico. Most of the town’s men have died in a catastrophic accident, and that’s pretty much OK with the ladies. Now, I need to digress for a moment and say that in times when gun violence is an especially freighted issue, there’s probably at least a master’s thesis to be had from a revival of the Western genre. There, I’ve got that on the record. Now: This show is the dictionary definition of “bingeable.”

I’ll spare you the plot and just say this seven-hour movie (which is what it essentially is) has a great cast (Wow, Merritt Wever! Just wow is all), including Sam Waterston, Kim Coates and Scott McNairy, and, as in many of the best Westerns, one of the principle characters is the landscape itself. This is one lavishly and beautifully shot vision of 1880s Santa Fe. I mean gorgeous. I mean like Howard Hawks would watch it and go “Yup.” If you love Westerns, this is definitely one to try. If you don’t, check it out anyway; it’s very likely to seduce you. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

1. Search Party
Network: TBS
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

From a neon sign that reads “slay” and an eerie synth jingle to a painting of a dead man and a play about Charles Manson, Season Two of Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers’ superb comedy is littered with half-frightful, half-funny details; the episode titles (“Murder!” “Suspicion” “Obsession,” etc.) might’ve been culled from the poster for one of Hitchcock’s classics. Indeed, if the first season’s search for Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty) once reminded me of Vertigo, the second completes the connection: Dory (Alia Shawkat) and co. are the series’ Scottie Fergusons, unraveled not by the chase, but the capture. Shifting from mystery to (psychological) horror, and buoyed by standout comic performances from Meredith Hagner and the relentlessly funny John Early, Search Party is as witty and strange as ever. What sophomore slump? —Matt Brennan (Photo: TBS)

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