Paste's TV Power Rankings

Week of 3/5/2018

TV Lists Power Rankings
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<i>Paste</i>'s TV Power Rankings

The Paste TV Power Rankings are back and ready to celebrate the love of… cinema? The Oscars telecast marks the end of the (unofficial) silly season, during which special events—the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Olympics—have dominated both our weekly list and the broader cultural conversation. That means squaring space for four titles making their very first appearance in the rankings, and bidding farewell to perennials Blue Planet II and One Day at a Time, both in their last week of eligibility. Happy watching, y’all!

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:
Altered Carbon, Andi Mack, Final Space, Good Girls, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Queer Eye

10. Blue Planet II
Network:   BBC America  
Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Still narrated by the irreplaceable Sir David Attenborough and still wall-to-wall mesmerizing, the seven episodes of Blue Planet II have stunning photography, enhanced by a lush score by Hans Zimmer and a beautiful, shimmering, crackling, scuttling, subtly ringing quality to the sound editing, so you really feel as though you’re in the water. You’ll see some images familiar to those who enjoyed the original series—the way a whale carcass on the ocean floor feeds an entire community of deep-sea dwellers for months or years; the relationship between turtles (and corals) and the moon. The sense of vastness and mystery and infinite diversity is still very much there and very much amazing. Now, though, there is no question that the time for pure celebration of the interlocking diversity of sea life (which includes us) is over. It’s time, not to despair, but to act. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Paul Williams/BBC America)

9. Corporate
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

I know. I know. Dark comedies can serve to justify your inner frustrations; not release them. But damn it, I love Corporate. The new series, created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman, somehow takes everything that drives me crazy about soul-crushing jobs and makes them funny (Singer Aimee Mann as an eternally optimistic coworker with no need for prescribed painkillers? Sure. Anne Dudek and Adam Lustick as a two-headed tool with no real authority besides the ability to make their underlings’ lives slightly worse? Yep. Been there.). But the most recent episode has something that even those who work from home can appreciate: The idea that everyone but you is obsessed with bingeing a certain TV show so much that it takes over every basic human interaction. I see you, writer Jake Fogelnest. Nice job titling this episode (and the fictitious futuristic TV show in question) “Society Tomorrow.” Because that’s actually society today. —Whitney Friedlander

8. One Day at a Time
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

With an assist from legendary producer Norman Lear, Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett’s multi-cam sitcom, which follows a Cuban American family in Los Angeles, has only grown more confident in the offseason—its combination of the topical and the timeless, the silly and the sincere, has become the leading engine of the form’s revival. Covering everything from LGBTQ rights and immigration to dating and depression, the series is anchored by the two extraordinary women at its center: Rita Moreno and Justina Machado, whose chemistry as mother and daughter find fullest in expression in two wrenching late-season entries. If the inseparable pair aren’t nominated for Emmys come summer, there should be a steward’s inquiry. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Netflix)

7. Ugly Delicious
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

The Virginia-born child of Korean parents, renowned chef David Chang is deeply interested in how foodways travel, intersect, and melt together. What begins to hit you once his new docuseries finds its groove—the second episode, for me; your mileage may vary—is that this is legitimately something beyond the super-trope established by Tony Bourdain all those years ago (Chef Seeks Wisdom in Travel and Eating the World). Chang is not a Bourdanian. He’s after something else: the notion that real authenticity isn’t about purity. On the contrary, it’s about recognizing diversity of contribution, making connections, and not being a damn snob. He doesn’t need you to be dazzled. He wants people to be open to one another. And, as one Vietnamese Houstonian notes in the series’ shrimp debate: “Food is the bridge.” —Amy Glynn (Photo: Netflix)

6. Seven Seconds
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

The Killing’s Veena Sud returns with another searing look at how an adolescent’s tragic death ricochets through a community. When narcotics officer Pete Jablonski (Beau Knapp) hit and kills Brenton Butler with his car, his boss forces him to cover up the crime while Brenton’s parents (a stellar Regina King and Russell Hornsby) search for answers. Even in her hungover state, functioning alcoholic and assistant prosecutor K.J.Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) knows something is not right. Michael Mosley is Joe “Fish” Rinaldi, the homicide detective not wanting to see this as anything less than an open-and-shut case. K.J. and Fish are a terrific pairing: Their reluctant rapport is the series’ biggest strength. As with The Killing, the characters and performances outshine the sometimes meandering and cliched story. Seven Seconds tells an imperfect but thought-provoking story of whose lives are valued, how good people do bad things, and how bad people can still be good. As the grieving mother, King is devastating. As a parent myself, her performance cuts me to my very core. Ashitey is a revelation, creating a character that will simultaneously infuriate you and evoke your sympathy. You’ll root for her even when she’s doing so much self-destruction. And the pilot’s final image, of Brenton’s blood sprawled over the Jersey City snow, will haunt you for days. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Jojo Whilden/Netflix)

5. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

There are a few moments in The Assassination of Gianni Versace where the temptation to feel pity for whatever happened to create the freakish empty husk that is Andrew Cunanan is relatively strong. Several such moments occur in the latest episode, “Descent.” Then you’re inevitably visited by a character he’s killed in a previous episode, and all you can do is feel sorry for the whole damned world. Because “Descent” is, in the end, about love. Sometimes when people can’t locate any within themselves they have a hard time finding it in others. Occasionally, someone is driven actually insane by this, and might even do something unspeakable. We already know what’s going to happen to Andrew Cunanan. I wonder if he does. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX)

4. The Looming Tower
Network:   Hulu  
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Disrupting the conventions of the counterterrorism drama—the narrative structure, the hard-charging hero, the constant sense of panic—The Looming Tower, based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, goes back to basics; it is, like the staff of bombastic FBI agent John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels), careful and competent, if sometimes hamstrung by circumstance. Most of all, though, it is pungently, horrifyingly alive to the roads not taken, the paths not pursued, to the cascade of decisions we might trace from first actions to future events. To treat 9/11 as an accident of history, an act of war absent context, has been, in politics as in popular culture, the most damaging consequence of the urge to commemorate it, the one that continues to propel us into the blunders of a collapsing empire, and The Looming Tower, imperfect though it may be, is a vital corrective. For all its relative sedateness, after all, the series’ most lacerating edge might be its existence: The conflict we’re in is so interminable it’s become the subject of a period piece. —Matt Brennan (Photo: JoJo Whilden/Hulu)

3. Counterpart
Network:   Starz  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

It isn’t that “The Sincerest Form of Flattery” has a surprising plot twist—that came at the end of the sixth installment and, quite frankly, was fairly predictable to anyone who watches TV for a living (sorry). Nor is it that the episode offers a major development in the relationship between pencil-pusher Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) and his domineering clone (also Simmons), who crossed over from a previously unknown-to-Silk parallel universe. That gimmick may have been an entrance to the show and an approachable way to set up its ideas about a new kind of Cold War, but it doesn’t seem like that relationship dynamic will continue to be the major problem for the characters. Instead, we’re treated to the backstory of Nazanin Boniadi’s Clare, and in the process get to look at things from another point of view. It’s something that scripted television could use more of—a chance to understand how our enemies have come to be and wonder if perhaps we don’t have all the facts, either—and Counterpart’s moment to go from “peak TV” to “think TV.” —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Starz)

2. Atlanta
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

In “Alligator Man,” written by series creator Donald Glover and directed by Hiro Murai, Atlanta condenses and clarifies everything I’ve loved about the series from the start, this time with a self-confident edge, a chip on its shoulder: It’s funny, provocative, offbeat, slyly beautiful, and gently affecting, often all at once. Take the scene in which Darius (Lakeith Stanfield, in one of the most magnetically strange and absurdly funny performances on television), sitting atop the car as he and Earn (Glover) fuel up, brings up the season’s unorthodox title. There’s the implausible print on his pants, his jet-black goggles, his color-blocked shirt with the white collar—bright, almost childlike splashes that led me to write in my notes, “That outfit is !!!!!” There’s Earn’s half-philosophical question about the flavor of Hot Cheetos, and Alfred’s (Bryan Tyree Henry) deadpan “Take me off speaker.” But there’s also the sound of sirens roaring past in the background, and the Timberlands on a corpse. “Alligator Man,” like Atlanta as a whole, remixes the comedy and the crime drama: It manages to lean into a certain gallows humor, even as it leans away from treating violence as the sole noteworthy feature of the characters’ environment. It’s realistic, at least temperamentally, but never resigned. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX)

1. The Women of the Oscars
Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

It was a night not dissimilar from the Golden Globes or the Grammys: an object lesson in cognitive dissonance. The first Academy Awards since #MeToo and #TimesUp swept through the zeitgeist began with host Jimmy Kimmel roasting Harvey Weinstein—and then handed out awards to an accused rapist (Kobe Bryant) and an alleged domestic abuser (Gary Oldman). “Diversity,” “inclusion,” and “representation” were buzzwords, but the winners were still largely white. The industry patted itself on the back for tackling “tough issues,” even as those issues were clear from a swift pan of the audience.

What saved the night—what will save us all—were its women: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph (future Oscar hosts, if there’s any justice) discussing blackness on stage at the Oscars, so white. Jane Fonda joking about Barbarella. Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek braced against Annabella Sciorra, comrades in arms against the crush of patriarchal culture. Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster replacing Casey Affleck to present Best Actress. And, of course, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri winner Frances McDormand, who single-handedly wrote the moment for which these Oscars will be remembered by turning it into a fearless collaboration: “If I fall over, pick me up” she said, before asking all the nominated women in the room to stand with her. “Because I’ve got some things to say.” —Matt Brennan

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