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 within the past 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. Happy viewing!
A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO), The Baby (HBO), Better Call Saul (AMC), The Man Who Fell to Earth (Showtime), Russian Doll (Netflix), The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: An interesting week-long rollout for a riveting show.
On June 13, 1980, Texas housewife Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel) killed her friend/frenemy Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey) by striking her 41 times (!!) with an ax. This five episode Hulu miniseries tries to unpack this violent tragedy. Candy is steeped in 1980s nostalgia. But here’s the thing: Fashions and styles may come and go but the cattiness of suburban moms is timeless. Candy is popular among the moms in her church group. Betty isn’t well-liked and is ostracized. Moms can be quite cliquey and despite the fact they all attend the same church, Betty isn’t part of the in crowd. The rest of tragic tale is best left for viewers to discover for themselves. Biel, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, disappears behind Candy’s accent, permed hairstyle and oversized glasses. With Candy’s flashes of panic, we get glimpses of how deep in denial she is about what she has done. Candy desperately wants everything to “go back to normal” and doesn’t seem to fully comprehend that’s not possible.
And no one does an insecure woman who feels she is being overlooked and ignored better than Lynskey. She exudes a woman simmering with rage right beneath the surface. Lynskey’s plaintive expressions speak volumes even when she doesn’t utter a word which leads to a very powerful scene in the finale. The truth of how these two women came in conflict when Candy was merely stopping by to pick up a bathing suit and what truly transpired on that fateful day only they truly know. The rest is left to Betty’s account and the police and prosecutor’s investigation. Can a crime this evil ever truly be explained? Probably not. The series will leave you with more questions than answers right down to the kicker of a final line.—Amy Amatangelo [Full Review]
Network: FX (streaming the next day on Hulu)
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: The best loglines in the biz
With so many TV series formerly on pandemic hiatus now returning, it’s been hard to remember where things left off two years ago. In the case of Atlanta, it’s been four years since its Season 2 finale, an unfathomable span of time that also—in this particular case—doesn’t matter. As one of television’s most experimental (and experiential), inventive series, Atlanta rolls back in on its own terms and in its own unique way. Four years? It’s no time at all.
Atlanta returns to themes from both of its prior seasons, led once again by director Hiro Murai’s dreamy interpretations. We continue with the story of Earn (series creator Donald Glover), as he manages his rapper cousin Paper Boi / Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) on a European tour. Along for the ride is the always chilled-out Darius (LaKeith Stanfield), who goes on his own journey with Vanessa (Zazie Beetz)—the mother of Earn’s child—who also came along to try and figure out what she’s doing with her life.
Though taking place mostly in Europe this time season, the show doesn’t miss a chance to lean into the specifics of Atlanta as its guiding light. There are thoughtful impressions, strange occurrences, exceptional happenstance. In many ways, Atlanta is creating its own folklore. Like the city after which it was named, it has a curious allure that’s hard to define, but captivating nevertheless. —Allison Keene [Full Review]
Network: HBO (streaming the next day on HBO Max)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
This Week: Is there any possible good ending to this show?
Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by former Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton, We Own This City showcases not only the corruption within a unit of the Baltimore Police Department but the tireless work of the FBI agents who broke the real life scandal in 2017, and the Department of Justice lawyer that tries to repair one of the most corrupt law enforcement agencies in the country. Even though it has some issues, David Simon’s latest work is a captivating by the story of how a criminal justice system has failed its citizens. Provocative, powerful and with first rate performances, We Own This City is the next generation of The Wire fans have long craved. —Terry Terrones [Full Review]
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
This Week: This show is so good at character exploration.
The Wilds is the kind of show that makes you think magic might be real. Or, if not magic, then at least magicians.
In its first season, the twisty, stranded-teen mystery series on (Amazon) Prime Video was tasked not only with getting its audience invested in the lives of nine extremely different young women, but also with getting us to keep track of all their fraught, emotionally complex journeys across three different timelines. More than that, it had to drop enough meaningful crumbs about Gretchen Klein’s (Rachel Griffiths) sociopathic masterplan to keep us breathlessly chasing her machinations through 10 increasingly convoluted episodes, without dropping so few that we might just decide to bail. That creator Sarah Streicher and her team pulled it off? I’m telling you: magicians.
And now that they’re back for a long awaited Season 2, not only are all the same asks from the first season still in play—nine(ish) girls, multiple timelines, and a villainous plan only Gretchen Klein knows the limits of—but, with the introduction of the control group of nine(ish) boys that Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) discovered in the bunker in the final moments of Season 1, those asks have effectively doubled. And just in case you’re worried you’ll resent these nine new boys for taking screen time away from the seven(ish) girls we were left with at the end of the first season, let us assure you: You absolutely will not. Neither will you resent all the narrative parallels to that first season in all the paces Gretchen puts “her boys” through. Because as it turns out, the benefit of The Wilds treading so much of the same glittering narrative water this season is that all that familiarity gives viewers a rock-steady structure to hold onto as they work to make sense of what is now an even twistier games of cat-and-mouse.
That said, fair warning: The season does end with another cliffhanger. But all (we hope) that means is, a Season 3 pick-up is right around the corner. —Alexis Gunderson [Full Review]
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: A highly entertaining show that isn’t trying to reinvent television. Sometimes you just want to be entertained!
A densely packed thrillride following the trials (both emotional and literal) of L.A.’s best criminal defense attorney, Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer brings, if not an actual bit of Paste-favorite Bosch to a whole new audience, then at least the Connelly playbook. That said, don’t expect anything like the same aesthetic here. Boasting Ally McBeal’s David E. Kelley as series creator and The Good Wife’s Ted Humphrey as showrunner, The Lincoln Lawyer is as much froth as it is high-level crime. Meaning, while the story Harry Bosch belongs to might be a sun-soaked noir, the one Mickey Haller belongs to is mostly just sun-soaked.
For the most part, this balance works. The Lincoln Lawyer wants, unabashedly, to be more primetime than prestige. At the same time, though, between four major criminal arcs and like four thousand interpersonal ones, it occasionally stretches itself too thin. Still, the casting is clever, the performances are solid, and the moral (and musical) parallels with Bosch are tight. For both Connelly fans and newbies, this will be a fun watch. —Alexis Gunderson [Full Review]
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week: BPE!
Here’s the thing about Girls5eva: You are either an Xennial woman who will feel so seen by every single moment of the series that it will be impossible for you to not text every line to your friends and hum “BPE” regularly, or… you aren’t. That’s not to say that Girls5eva isn’t an extremely fun and witty satire of the music industry that could easily be enjoyed by anyone interested in a tightly-packed half-hour comedy. But if you are its niche target demographic, there’s no expressing the heights of its excellence.
That specificity, of a time, a place, a people, is what makes Girls5eva so wonderfully dense and rewarding to watch. Like the group itself, it knows what it wants to say and it makes no apologies for it. The songs remain great and catchy (I’ll never stop singing that theme song at every opportunity), and from top to bottom the series winningly mixes together low-key humor with laugh-out-loud moments.
Grounding it, though, it that show allows its characters to grow—which is the real crux of Season 2. The women finding new, adult roles for themselves in this girl group is part of that, along with the joy of success on their own terms. But it’s also about their growth as people. And yet, the show never makes that feel forced or lame; how could it, when the culmination of their efforts is the song “Big Pussy Energy”? They’re discovering their own power, and some of their own foibles, and they are owning all of it. That’s BPE, folks—and you don’t want to miss it. —Allison Keene [Full Review]
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
This Week: The FLDS has entered the chat.
Based on the popular true crime novel of the same name, Under the Banner of Heaven will likely introduce a whole new generation to the horror of the Lafferty murders—in which a young mother and her baby were brutally murdered by her Mormon fundamentalist brothers-in-law—and spark renewed interest in the darker corners of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its history. But while the show is unflinching in its honesty about the dangers of religious fanaticism and the horrors of violence done in (any) God’s name, it’s also a thoughtful look at what it means to believe in something enough to trust that it can not only withstand scrutiny, but that such questioning ultimately makes one’s faith stronger in the end. Andrew Garfield shines as everyman detective Jeb Pyre, who must balance his devout belief in the church he’s dedicated his life to with the horror slowly unfolding in front of him as their case continues to pull back the curtain on some of that church’s darkest secrets. —Lacy Baugher Milas [Full Review]
Network: HBO (streaming the next day on HBO Max)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week: That detonator app customer service call was everything
It is exceptionally rewarding to see a show that goes all-in for half an hour in a way that mixes action, emotional resonance, horror, and humor in such a satisfying way. Which is, of course, what Barry has been doing all along.
But the show also makes clear at the start of Season 3 that Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is not a hero. He’s a deeply troubled man, or as he is asked early in the first episode, “are you a psycho?” Maybe.
In this way, Barry continues to impress in how it weaves so many different themes and tones into an exceptional TV tapestry, managing to comment on serious topics alongside absurdist hijinks. There is a silliness to Barry, but also a soul—and a lot of darkness. Even when the show reaches unbelievable narrative heights, there is an intimacy that continues to ground it. It’s up close, personal. It relishes in making us uncomfortable, and then backs off just enough for us to take a deep breath before the next thrillingly unpredictable round.
In addition to second rounds, Barry Season 3 is all about second chances. There are various seeds of revenge being planted, but also the powerful idea that forgiveness must be earned. Where Barry or Barry goes next is an exciting, if trepidatious mystery. But both the man and the show are earning every step. —Allison Keene [Full Review]
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: Get you a captain who can cook.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is an absolute blast, and a big reason for its success is that it’s deeply rooted in the DNA of the Star Trek mythos. It’s full of compelling characters, and its episodic format serves as one of several bridges that link it to The Original Series. Allowing viewers to see the action aboard the Enterprise from multiple perspectives is refreshing. Smart, addictive, and flat-out fun, Strange New Worlds is the best Star Trek series since The Next Generation, and acts as a faithful love letter to the original. Old fan or new, this is a trek you’ll certainly want to take. —Terry Terrones [Full Review]
Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Hacks is back and on a road trip!
Season 2 of Hacks takes place primarily on the road as comedy veteran Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) workshops her new stand-up material, but in a metaphorical sense, these episodes are a path to something larger. It’s a liminal season, as the characters figure themselves out with no fixed end point in sight. But the truism holds out here: it’s about the journey, not the destination.
In case you forgot where we left off, Ava (Hannah Einbinder) had just sent a damning email about Deborah to some Hollywood producers, Deborah was planning to leave Vegas behind for a fresh start on tour, and Marcus’ (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) relationship had fallen apart thanks to his obsession with work. The writers also keep pushing the cringe comedy, just as they did in Season 1, and the dynamic duo of Ava and Deborah proves as watchable as ever; the progress of their relationship is spoiler central, but needless to say that the show continues to mine the vein that Ava is, in many ways, a younger version of Deborah. While this similarity was more than established in Season 1, it finds real purchase here.
Hacks’ second season is very much a middle act, with plenty going on, but no concrete resolutions. And that’s perfectly okay; these characters are well-established and enjoyable enough that it’s fun to simply hit the road with Deborah, Ava, and Marcus. —Clare Martin [Full Review]
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