Though there weren’t any new TV shows that premiered since our last Power Ranking, the list this week did change quite a bit. It’s a testament to how we watch shows now—it can take us awhile to catch up (The Good Fight) or find something that quietly appeared on a streaming service without fanfare (Starstruck). But weekly episodes do still matter! It’s why Loki dropped a little, but Kevin hit big. Each week is a different mood, and below is our current one.
Programming Note: I Think You Should Leave Season 2 is eligible for next week’s list.
The rules for the Power Rankings are simple: Any current 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 (ending Sunday) —or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous four weeks. The voting panel is composed of Paste Editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes.
Trying (Apple TV+), Love, Victor (Hulu), Legends of Tomorrow (The CW), Bosch (Amazon Prime), Physical (Apple TV+)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Join in the fun, and don’t forget to donate!
On the free streaming / gaming platform Twitch you can catch the great semi-annual event Games Done Quick, a charity live stream and speedrunning event that raises money through viewer and corporate donations. All virtual again this year, Summer GDQ will again be championing Doctors Without Borders over the course of the week, as gamers gather to show off their skills at beating beloved titles as quickly as possible, or with specific challenges dictated through donation incentives. As a rare live event with user integration built-in, it’s a unique, fun, silly, raucous good time had by all, from the E-sports competitors to those watching from home. Its winter version, Awesome Games Done Quick, will return for more marathon streams and events in January. Gotta Go Fast! —Allison Keene
Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week: More and more people keep finding this excellent gem—don’t miss out!
“He’s a famous actor, and you’re a little rat nobody.” It’s a tried-and-true fanfiction scenario, the inverse plot of Notting Hill, and now, the premise of HBO Max’s truly delightful Starstruck. Premiering first on BBC Three in April, the London-based romantic comedy follows Jessie (New Zealander comedian Rose Matafeo) after she has a drunken New Year’s Eve one-night stand with Tom (Nikesh Patel), only to learn the next day that he is a famous actor. Anyone who’s seen a rom-com can probably guess what happens next: a will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation, a disastrous fight, an eventual reconciliation. But while Starstruck riffs off a familiar fantasy, it stays grounded in its approach, playing with genre tropes with great aplomb.
Starstruck is clearly the product of people who unabashedly love rom-coms. Inspired by the genre’s classics, the short six-episode series provides a light-hearted modern update with a protagonist who toys with expectations. I’ll keep it vague, but the season’s final moments are so lovely and understated that the tenderness took my breath away. (And it has been renewed for Season 2). Clocking in right over two hours, Starstruck makes for a quick summer watch that leaves you wanting to linger in the escapist joy for a little longer. Just like a good rom-com should. —Annie Lyons
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: There’s no love like that between a man and his jetski.
Of all of the Marvel TV series on Disney+ so far, Loki has been the most highly anticipated. An OG associate of the Avengers universe, Loki remains the brightest spot of any movie he’s in. Tom Hiddleston has made the character iconic, and his portrayal—be it in Thor movies or Avengers get-togethers—is off-the-charts charming. It’s also the reason Loki has been the only truly successful Marvel villain to date, one who not only has a fully-realized backstory and emotional connection to the heroes, but who just keeps gloriously popping up (as the God of Mischief is wont to do). He’s not a one-off rushed through 120 minutes of storytelling, he’s a dynamic presence who has earned his own fandom.
And now, at last, he has his own show. In Loki, our Asgardian prince starts off in 2012 where he deviates from the “sacred timeline” of events by snatching the Tesseract and zipping away from imprisonment. He’s quickly apprehended by agents of the TVA (Time Variant Authority), who are charged with keeping the multiverse down to just one stream of approved reality. This Loki, now a “variant,” is essentially marked for extermination, until an agent named Mobius (Owen Wilson) advocates for him to help the TVA investigate a series of crimes suited to his unique skill set.
From there, Loki turns into a kind of buddy-cop procedural. Sure it takes a lot of convincing to get Loki on board, and no you can never tell whether or not he’s lying or what his ultimate game is, but that’s all part of the fun (and when the show is at its best). The key to Loki—both the character and the show—is always Tom Hiddleston. He is the king of arrogant grandstanding, withering looks, and the ability to turn on a dime and make you feel overwhelming pathos for him.
All of this to say: If you like Loki, the character, you’ll probably like Loki, the show. It’s not as groundbreakingly bonkers as WandaVision, but it’s also not as dourly macho as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. One perhaps wishes for more when it comes to Loki. Then again, he’s known for not living up to his own expectations at times. “For a guy born to rule, you sure do lose a lot,” Mobius notes. But by Odin he sure is a charmer. —Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: This show hasn’t missed a beat.
Five seasons into its run, The Good Fight isn’t showing any signs of slowing down or being less audacious of a series in terms of tackling topics of the day. That’s true even in how it handles the exit of two integral characters, Delroy Lindo’s Adrian Boseman and Cush Jumbo’s Quinn. In the premiere episode “Previously On,” it uses that story point as a catch-up device to brilliantly tell an imaginary season’s worth of stories to explain why and how they’ve exited the narrative. What’s left are Diane Lockhart and her husband Kurt (Gary Cole) navigating a marriage after his possible insurrection involvement on January 6th, Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald) mulling over making the firm one with all Black partners again, Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) suffering long-haul COVID and seeing visions of Frederick Douglas, and Marissa (Sarah Steele) attempting law school while also helping in Mandy Patinkin’s faux court experiment that’s attempting to rectify the broken justice system. Plus, the Cases of the Week. It’s brilliant madness already, but we’re entirely here for it. —Tara Bennett
Network: AMC / AMC+
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week: Annie Murphy continues to be a revelation.
The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane once wrote, “the most volatile compound known to man is that of decorum and despair.” This proves ever-true in Kevin Can F—k Himself, AMC’s strange, emotionally-resonate hybrid series. In it, we follow the travails of Allison (Annie Murphy), a long-suffering wife whose husband’s world is a low-brow sitcom. When Kevin (Eric Petersen) is on screen, their lives are illuminated by stage lights and augmented by a laugh track—almost always at Allison’s expense. The fictional audience guffaws over Kevin’s infantile interests and behaviors, as Allison tries to find anything positive about the marriage she has felt trapped in for 10 years. Humiliated, ignored, and gaslighted throughout, Allison tries to keep up a good face while inwardly falling apart. Then as soon as Kevin leaves the room, the studio goes with him; Allison is left alone in the quiet of a drab house, feeling the full weight of her crippling frustration as the laughter fades away.
But desperate times lead to desperate measures, and after a particularly stinging bit of news, Allison hatches a plan to take back her life—by taking her husband’s. Kevin Can F—k Himself (which hits its sitcom beats almost too well) is ambitious and experimental, and it’s far more than satire. It’s also the kind of show that doesn’t feel like it could run forever, or even possibly past this season. There’s a growing “Too Many Cooks” meta-chaos that is building in each episode, and eventually Allison will have to find a way out, whatever that looks like. Here’s hoping the show takes a cue from its leading lady and makes some bold moves on the road to freedom. —Allison Keene
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