Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now from Pam & Tommy to Reacher

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<i>Paste</i> Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now from <i>Pam & Tommy</i> to <i>Reacher</i>

The Winter Olympics are here, and by that I mean that there were a solid 30 TV shows on our list of potential Power Ranking entries this week! But yes, on top of all that the Beijing games have been a constant on our screens, and it’s been exciting to pretend we could probably succeed in curling and the alpine jump if we really tried (spoiler: we would not).

Also of note: And Just Like That didn’t make it on the list for its finale—because the show is bad—we did want to acknowledge our collective hate-watch of it, which was fun to parse through week to week. And since a view is a view, angry or not, we’ll probably get Season 2. C’est la vie! There’s a lot of great TV on right now though—check out our favorites this week below.

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.

Honorable Mention: The Righteous Gemstones (HBO), Somebody, Somewhere (HBO Max), As We See It (Prime Video), Resident Alien (Syfy), Single Drunk Female (Freeform), The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+)

5. Reacher

Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Say hello to the big man.

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Tom Cruise may have played Jack Reacher in two separate films, but when it comes to the embodiment of the character from the popular Lee Child novels, the actor doesn’t quite match the description. In the long-running book series, Jack Reacher is described as being 6’ 5,” around 250 pounds, with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. That’s a far cry from the 5’7” star of Mission Impossible and Top Gun. The height of a lead actor for a television series may seem unimportant, but not in this case. Reacher’s imposing size is part of the character’s identity, something more appropriately personified in the brawny 6’2” Alan Ritchson (Titans, Smallville), who takes over the role in the TV series. Thankfully for viewers, there’s a lot more to Reacher than looking like an intimidating NFL defensive lineman; all of his unique character traits from the Lee Child novels have made their way into the series, as well as his compelling backstory. -Terry Terrones [Full Review]


4. Raised by Wolves

Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Loved Dune? Get in on this.

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As you may (or may not) recall, TV’s most uniquely insane series Raised by Wolves began in Season 1 by introducing us to two increasingly human-like androids in shiny spandex, Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), tasked with caring for and raising a host of children transferred via pods after two warring factions destroyed Earth.

But from the start, Raised by Wolves began subverting expectations. The religious sect were not anti-tech; they embraced it, building androids and using them in their society. And the utopian atheist community set up with these pod children? It didn’t work. But Raised by Wolves didn’t take sides; over and over again, it showed how fanaticism on either side is dangerous.

That general fabric of belief vs unbelief constantly simmers throughout Season 2; there is a lot at play here between androids and humans, alongside the rigidity of a “just” society and the relative freedom of a burgeoning cult. But once again, Raised by Wolves grounds these grand ideas with its excellent storytelling, balancing constantly expanding mythology with constantly evolving characters. And somehow, it all kinda makes sense. Creator Aaron Guzikowski seems to have a clear vision for the series, even if moment by moment it’s impossible to predict what will come next. A snake god? A skeleton resurrected by blood milk? The Tree of Life? An android fighting pit? Puberty? You simply cannot have a series this out-there and not have a plan. So far, it’s working. —Allison Keene [Full Review]


3. Abbott Elementary

abbott-elementary-main.jpg

Network: ABC (Hulu the next day)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week: Which came first, the snake or the egg?

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The best new network show of the season is already delighting viewers and dominating 2022. Quinta Brunson writes, executive produces, and stars in this ABC comedy inspired by her mother’s experience as a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system. The show is both hilarious and poignant as it lays bare the inequities in public education both for the children and those who are dedicated in their profession to enriching their lives. Keep an eye out for Tyler James Williams as a substitute and Sheryl Lee Ralph as the veteran teacher who has seen it all. —Amy Amatangelo


2. Pam & Tommy

Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Pure ‘90s goodness.

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Much like its subject matter, Hulu’s Pam & Tommy is a series that, on the surface, feels like it’s going to be a joke. Happily, it’s not—the series not only contains surprising emotional depth but feels like an important piece of the much-needed reckoning our pop culture is currently undergoing when it comes to the misogynistic way we treated female celebrities in the 1990s. Featuring a pair of uncannily accurate physical transformations and layered performances from stars Lily James and Sebastian Stan, Pam & Tommy is a series that manages to harness the utter ridiculousness of its premise for good. -Lacy Milas Baugher [Full Review]


1. The Afterparty

Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: Are we living in the golden age of murder-mystery comedies?

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If I can only use one word to describe Christopher Miller’s genre-defying murder mystery The Afterparty, it’s “super-freaking-fun.” The eight-episode first season follows the investigation of a high-profile murder that occurs at a high school reunion afterparty. Each episode is a retelling of the night’s events as viewed through the lens of a different popular film genre that corresponds to the perspective and personality of the person being interrogated. The result is a series that both operates within and pokes fun at the tropes of not just the formulaic murder mystery, but also romantic comedies, psychological thrillers, musicals, and high school movies. It’s not a terribly deep show, but with a cast filled with actors and actresses who are often the funniest and best parts of every project they’re in, it’s an exceptionally good time from start to finish. [Full Review] —Kaitlin Thomas



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