With Succession’s first season now over, The Bold Type’s sophomore run about to end, and Sharp Objects entering its back half, we solemnly swear to spend this week catching up on Better Call Saul. No crying over spilt milk, though (this isn’t The Bachelorette!), because in the interim, there’s still plenty to write home about, including the debut of WGN America’s very meta cop show, Carter, and a corker episode of Syfy’s Wynonna Earp. Plus, next week brings the return of a Paste favorite, Issa Rae’s Insecure. Who said these were the dog days of summer?
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.
The Affair, The Bachelorette, Lodge 49, Who Is America?
10. Orange Is the New Black
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
In the aftermath of Season Five’s ambitious misfire, set entirely within the 72 hours or so of the Litchfield prison riot, Orange Is the New Black strains, with intermittent success, to center itself in Season Six. The action shifts to “max,” introducing a host of new inmates and guards as well as placing familiar faces in novel combinations, yet another admirable experiment from a series getting long in the tooth. It’s spread too thin for its own good, but the sheer range of stories on Orange Is the New Black still makes it one of the most fascinating shows on television. —Matt Brennan (Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix)
9. The Bold Type
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
The road trip is a quintessential rite of passage for most TV shows, so Sutton (Meghann Fahy), Kat (Asha Dee) and Jane (Katie Stevens) set out for Sutton’s hometown to retrieve her birth certificate. As fans of the show know, Sutton’s never-before-seen mom, Babs (Rya Kihlstedt), was not a great parent. She was an alcoholic who missed school events and made her daughter care for her. Now, it appears that Babs has turned a corner. She’s sober and employed. Her house is clean. But Sutton has been down this road before, and she’s skeptical of her mom’s transformation. The Bold Type doesn’t offer a pat solution. However, Sutton realizes that perhaps she can open the door to communicating with her mom just a little. All this, plus a drunk Jane singing “Torn” and Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) continuing to deal with her job being under attack while she makes a short-sighted business decision. The episode required more willing suspension of disbelief than most (seriously, they can all just leave work in the middle of the day?!) but Fahy’s subtle performance of a daughter damaged by years of disappointment was a knockout. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform)
8. Sharp Objects
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
“Closer,” set amid the celebration of Wind Gap’s Confederate founder and his martyred wife, is, paradoxically, both a strong self-contained episode and an indication of Sharp Objects’ most glaring flaw: its treatment of a small town’s Southern “heritage” as set dressing, rather than the profound historical and ideological dislocation that it is. Still, the episode singes in its observations of the Preaker-Crellin clan’s own dislocations: There’s Adora (Patrica Clarkson) coolly observing the festivities; Adora attempting to sabotage Camille’s (Amy Adams) budding relationship with Richard; Adora swooning on the porch when Amma (Eliza Scanlen) disappears following Calhoun Day’s unsettling morality play—in which Amma’s character, Millie Calhoun, is bound to a tree, raped, and finally set aflame by Union soldiers. The episode, like the tradition it depicts, is a strange pageant, beautiful and hideous in equal measure, and as thorny as one of Adora’s blood-red roses. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Anne Marie Fox/HBO)
7. Castle Rock
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Castle Rock, inspired by the stories of Stephen King, is not a perfect piece of prestige TV, with plenty of silly allusions and worn concepts that are, if not quite ham, at least ham-adjacent. Bacon, maybe. Ham but a little more crisp, a little tastier, a little worse for your health. For good and for ill, that’s where much of King’s work aims, and Castle Rock is nothing if not a winning offering to its idol. Fans will find exactly what they came for, while curious newcomers and King agnostics will find themselves enveloped by the self-assured mystery densely woven blanket. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)
Network: WGN America
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
OK, so this guy named Harley Carter (Jerry O’Connell) is an actor. Jerry O’Connell is an actor who plays an actor who has a TV cop drama where he plays a detective named Charlie Carter and he solves various crimes and mysteries. He loses it over his wife stepping out on him and goes back to his home in small-town Canada, where he reconnects with Sam Shaw (Sydney Poitier Heartsong), who is a real-life, actual cop. You guys are never going to guess what happens. Except (plot twist!) somewhere around the second episode, I found myself cracking up laughing. Not at the show. With it. Because Carter’s absurdist-meta vibe completely seduced me: The series is a cheeky, sardonic, and emotionally forward dissertation on cop shows, and occasionally a dissertation on why humans need to solve puzzles. It’s epically clever. Who’d’ve guessed? —Amy Glynn (Photo: WGN America)
Network: TV Land
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
Each week, I talk about what a delightful escape Younger is, a much-needed salve for the constant onslaught of distressing news. Today, I want to talk about how freaking hot the show is. Liza (Sutton Foster) and Charles (Peter Hermann) finally consummating their long simmering attraction in “The Bubble” is so steamy I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. The clandestine graze of a finger during a meeting. The stairwell make-out sessions. It was all just wonderfully too much. And what I really appreciate is the show celebrating and embracing the fact that romance and sex after 40 can still be super hot and heavy. Too often, the TV relationships of those not in their teens and twenties are burdened with dysfunction, or with the idea that passion is a thing of the past. Yes, other things happened in the episode—Maggie (Debi Mazar) reunited with her girlfriend and Pauline (Jennifer Westfeldt) made her nefarious return—but I was too weak in the knees to notice. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: TV Land)
4. Wynonna Earp
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
“If we’re all destined to be here, and we’re all gonna die here, we need to figure out how BE here, together.” —Waverly “not even an Earp” Earp
In its Season Three premiere, Wynonna Earp did Eurotrash vampires in pink smoke. In episode two, it did demonic cannibals, emotional hallucinations, and a self-sacrificing half-dragon. In last Friday’s episode, it did, beautifully, grief.
Well, in the Wynonna Earp shit show way of things, it also did Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) shooting a Revenant in the dick. And Doc Holliday’s (Tim Rozon) vampire wife committing petty larceny as a means to lure him to a tarot reading. And that same dick-shot Revenant from the start getting jacked up on knockoff Black Badge lizard serum before crashing Dolls’ wake with his equally jacked-up crew. But mostly it did grief, in all its unreasonable, individual messiness, as Waverly, Doc, Nicole (Kay Barrell), Jeremy (Varun Saranga), and Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) struggled to find any light or equilibrium or logic after the death of the stoic Black Badge badass who brought their found family together in the first place. For some, this meant facing what their own previous near-deaths had been (Doc: bad; Nicole: Bolshar-shaped). For others, it meant facing what their place in their various families might mean (Waverly: not technically an Earp; Jeremy: not technically free of Black Badge suspiciousness). For Wynonna, it meant admitting to herself things she hadn’t let herself admit before—and then having to live with knowing she’s admitting them all too late.
On a macro level, the death of yet another of genre television’s few prominent black principals is a frustratingly bad look, regardless of reports that both the timing and the method of Dolls’ apparent final exit were shaped by Shamier Anderson himself and done with the full love and support of series creator Emily Andras and the rest of the show’s cast and crew. But on a micro level, within the cursed (but still achingly cinematic) prairie bounds of the Ghost River Triangle, it was the kind of narrative turn that a season set up to be as unforgiving as this one has been needed to make—not only to establish the stakes moving forward, but to prove the character growth each member of the Ghost River Triangle team has undergone up to this point, and the unshakeable bonds that growth has created between them. Of course, this just means that the rest of the season is going to rip our hearts out. Thanks, Andras. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Syfy)
3. Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story
Network: Paramount Network
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Rest in Power starts with an acceleration of images: First, Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, becoming emotional during a pre-trial deposition; then, faster, the indelible iconography of the ordeal, the bag of Skittles and the black hoodie; finally, approaching a blur, the markers of a historical moment, Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter, Dylan Roof and Donald Trump. By the time it arrives at its conclusion, Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason’s six-hour docuseries—wide-ranging, provocative, polemical—fulfills the promise of this fretful beginning, emerging as perhaps the definitive treatment of an American tragedy, the consequences of which reach far beyond one family, one community, one case. As Fulton reminds us, there are exactly 71 seconds unaccounted for in the fatal exchange between the 17-year-old Trayvon and his killer, neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, on that late February evening in 2012: “71 seconds. And it changed America.” —Matt Brennan (Chachi Senior/Paramount Network)
2. The Sinner
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
There is nothing more terrifying than a malevolent and disturbed child. Children are supposed to be our most innocent, our most loving, our most precious. So, suffice it to say that the second season premiere of The Sinner got under my skin. Eleven-year-old Julian (Elisha Henig) is on a trip to visit Niagara Falls with his parents when their car breaks down. They check into a rundown motel and the next morning, after his mom and dad drink the tea Julian made for them, they die violent, awful deaths while Julian calmly looks on. But all is not as it seems, and the season premiere saves its big twist for the episode’s final moments—when Carrie Coon, whose Vera had been seen in hazy flashbacks, arrives declaring that she’s Julian’s mother. Suddenly, the narrative’s central crime opens up to a litany of possibilities. Bill Pullman returns as the disheveled Detective Harry Ambrose. He is drenched in melancholy; his sadness is pervasive. The series is filmed in muted tones, as if all vibrancy and pleasure has been sucked out of it. Take heed: You don’t need to have seen the first season to be completely on board with the second. The Sinner is not a happy show, but it’s an extremely good one. It’s not to be missed. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: USA Network)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Succession caps off its terrific debut season with a stomach-churning turn into the belly of the beast, as Kendall (Jeremy Strong) reaches the bottom of his downward spiral. And yet, for all the awful tension of that climactic sequence, the series never loses the thread of its entertaining “horse race” aspect—see Shiv (Sarah Snook) literally announcing herself as a woman to be reckoned with, and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) displaying dominance to someone who isn’t Greg (Nicholas Braun)—or its vicious sense of humor—see Roman (Kieran Culkin) watching silently as his satellite blows up on the launch pad. In fact, Succession’s brutal and brutally funny wedding arc, in “Pre-Nuptial” and “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” is a sort of perfectly balanced two-parter, and if taken together they’d almost surely qualify as one of the best TV episodes of the year. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Colin Hutton/HBO)