Paste‘s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

Week of 7/2/2018

TV Lists power rankings
Paste‘s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

In case you’re not feeling particularly patriotic at the moment, there’s plenty of Independence Day counter-programming on offer below, most notably for the fine folks at Netflix—as broadcast sleeps and cable slows during the summer months, the streaming giant has leaned into its full-court press, comprising exactly half of this week’s Power Rankings. The rest? Take your pick: We’ve got comedy, drama, sci-fi, scandal, and more. Perfect if you’d rather spend the 4th lounging around in your pajamas.

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:
Claws, Impulse, Younger, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

10. Queer Eye
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

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Just four months after Season One, Queer Eye is back with eight new, tear-filled episodes, including heartwarming makeovers of a devout woman and her gay son, a twentysomething slacker, and a trans man fresh off top surgery. The reboot leans into the sensation it caused when it first premiered in February, with adorable anti-chef Antoni taking a backseat for macaroni salad and breakout star Jonathan Van Ness coining several more highly quotable lines, but that’s sort of the genius of the smaller episode order: By the time you start to tire of the formula, you’re already out of new material. “Always leave them wanting more” is a TV cliché for a reason. It works. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

9. The Bold Type
Network: Freeform
Last Week’s Ranking: 5

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After you get over the heady glow of falling in love, new relationships can be a bit tricky as the new couple navigates sharing their romantic history. Kat (Aisha Dee) struggles with this as she realizes Adena (Nikohi Boosheri) is still friends with many of her exes. Pinstripe (Ryan Decker) reappears. Now he’s working gathering gossip at parties while tempting Jane (Katie Stevens) away from sweet doctor Ben (Luca James Lee). Meanwhile, Sutton (Meghann Fahy) makes friends with a social influencer (Alexandra Turshen) who may have the wrong kind of influence on Sutton. Suffice it to say, the plots are ticking along nicely. But amid all this, The Bold Type has thoughtful discussions about religion and faith, a fairly accurate portrayal of freelance work and what sells these days, and a take-no-prisoners look at the club scene, the drug scene and the façade of success. The series so accurately hits on the emotions and struggles that come in your twenties that I think I even look younger after watching it. Sutton, Kat and Jane remain confident women who won’t always make the right choices, but whose mistakes remain fascinating to watch. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform)

8. Set It Up
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Where have all the romantic comedies gone? Not to the movie theaters, that’s for sure. Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and even Katherine Heigl brought forth that fluffy, entertaining love story that has all but disappeared. (I adore 27 Dresses, and you should, too). The kind of film where there are no explosions or special effects and the plot isn’t hard to follow. Thankfully, Netflix is bringing back that kind of romantic comedy. When I read the log line for Set It Up, I sent Paste TV editor Matt Brennan an email declaring the movie “1000% rated for Amy.” Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell as overworked assistants trying to set up their bosses, played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs? YES, PLEASE! The movie is as delightful as it sounds. Powell is charming. Deutch is adorable. And if you don’t know the whole thing ends with them falling in love, then you need to watch While You Were Sleeping and The Proposal and call me in the morning. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Netflix)

7. The Handmaid’s Tale
Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: 1

In a lot of ways, this is really one of this show’s weaker episodes, despite (maybe because of) the hugely dramatic moment it captures. It’s much more obvious than average. It’s a playground-bully-level heartstring-puller. Once the Waterfords come bombing into that house and we see they are both genuinely confused, one really must have an answer to the question, “What the hell happened to Nick, and on whose orders, and where is he?” And there is not an answer or the suggestion that one is forthcoming. It’s honestly not that well-handled. Yet this is where a show gets to falter a little because it has such a good credit score that nothing terrible goes down if it delays payment once in a while. The characters are humming engines, the visual sensibility is strong enough to handle the odd literal wolf or one too many aerial shots of the billowing scarlet cloak against the snowy-white snow. The deft and high-alacrity use of symbolism and metaphor makes room for an excruciating amount of Offred (Elisabeth Moss) trying to force her way out of a locked garage while a baby tries to force its way out of Offred. (And yes, that is Radio Free Oprah playing Springsteen over the car radio.) —Amy Glynn (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

6. Luke Cage
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 2

To say Luke Cage has upped its game in Season Two is putting it really mildly. I don’t remember the last time I saw a TV show take this huge of an artistic leap from one season to the next. The writing is so. Flipping. Good. Ham-handed conceits have been replaced with winking, sophisticated self-referentiality. Repetition has been replaced with extrapolation. Ponderous flashbacks are now hashed out in real time; there’s no “for those of you just joining us, here’s how Luke Cage became Luke Cage,” and yet you could watch this season without having seen the first one and you wouldn’t be lost at all. Marvel-Netflix-Industrial-Entertainment-Complex: I concede. Luke Cage Season One seemed laden with untapped potential. It has in fact been tapped. Season Two is a 13-hour mic drop. —Amy Glynn (Photo: David Lee/Netflix)

5. Pose
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

“Mother’s Day” begins with a flashback to 1982, when Elektra, mother of House Abundance (Dominique Jackson), brings Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) under her wing, and culminates, in 1987, with Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) expressing his love for Blanca, now mother of House Evangelista. In between, Pose captures fraught familial relationships both fictive and real, particularly as Blanca spars with her hateful siblings at her biological mother’s funeral. Though the episode suffers (as has the entire season) from its dreadful, white-bread subplot starring Evan Peters, Kate Mara, and James Van Der Beek, the rest is, in the series’ inimitable way, a glorious celebration of those who care for us in our time of need, blood ties or not. “It takes work, drive, sacrifice to be a woman,” Elektra explains to Blanca in that opening flashback. “You have something rarer than beauty, though. You have heart, and you’re not afraid to lead with it. That quality will get you everything.” —Matt Brennan (Photo: JoJo Whilden/FX)

4. A Very English Scandal
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Hugh Grant, the man I have always dismissed as a rom-com-milking sot has, regardless of my disregard, always been top-drawer at playing the painfully nervous, the deucedly awkward, and the chronically twigged-out. In his evolution from blinky-eyed stammering schoolboy to decidedly middle-aged and slightly dissipated kink-meister, he has only honed that skill set. He’s more weirdly roguish and rakish and a tiny bit beaten down and it works. In A Very English Scandal he’s actually kind of hideous, and yet he is nonetheless both sympathetic and strangely sexy. That’s no mean feat. Granted (as it were), Hugh had an embarrassment of riches to work with here: Stephen Frears directing, a great script by Russell T. Davies and John Preston, fabulous co-stars and above all a plucked-from-the-headlines and totally batshit crazy story involving a politician, a secret lover, a high-profile trial, a conspiracy to murder, a nutter assassin, a very unfortunate Great Dane bitch and the notoriously obnoxious British tabloid press. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Sophie Mutevelian; (c) Blueprint Television Ltd)

3. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

I must confess, Nanette belonged on this list last week: Hannah Gadsby’s “stand-up comedy special” (note the scare quotes), which debuted on June 19, is very much the revolutionary work of art critics have been raving about, and it wasn’t until the drumbeat became too loud to ignore that I finally caught up with it. In the current entertainment ecosystem, perhaps this is the highest possible praise. After all, with Nanette, Gadsby has fashioned an unapologetically queer and feminist salvo against patriarchal culture that is by turns terrifically funny, apoplectically angry, and wrenchingly sad, this in the form of a “stand-up comedy special” in which she announces she’s quitting comedy maybe 20 minutes in. The rest of the hour shouldn’t be spoiled, so here’s my advice: Watch. — Matt Brennan (Photo: Netflix)

Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Most Netflix series begin in medias res, and then retreat to mere prologue. The first season of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, for the uninitiated) is all prologue, and it’s compelling as all get-out: The Reagan-era narrative follows aspiring actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), her former friend, soap star Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), and journeyman director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) as they prepare to film the pilot for a local cable station’s wrestling series. Season Two of Netflix’s GLOW opens as Season One of the characters’ GLOW is getting underway: “Ruth, it’s not rocket science, OK?” Sam bristles when she—the self-styled Alma to his Alfred Hitchcock—asks after the format, shortly before the gals sign their (impenetrable, exploitative) contracts. “Same thing every week.” In Maron’s exasperated deadpan, this counts as a laugh line, but it’s also a wink—at the structure of an episode, the uses of genre, the problems (and possibilities) of making popular entertainment week after week. In Season Two, from set construction and producing credits to the medium’s disappointing lack of opportunities for women and people of color, GLOW comments constantly on the nature of television, and in the process becomes a brilliant backstage comedy. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Erica Parise/Netflix)

1. The Expanse
Network: Syfy
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

The Expanse may not have won the audience that it needed to stay on SyFy, or to compete with other current genre shows with Very Big Ideas, but it did at least win the confidence of Amazon, which picked it up for a fourth season after its cancelation. This is a loss for cable TV, but a win for the cast and crew on the show—and a validation of the kind of agile storytelling the series has been interested in from the beginning, which culminates in its literally stellar third season. After all, streaming is where the team always saw this going: As series co-creator Mark Fergus noted (prophetically!) in our interview with him, “The show lives on beyond broadcast. When the show is said and done, people will watch it in a linear, streamed kind of way, or they’ll binge it or whatever. It will be a straight line, so you can’t really worry about the season enders and the rhythm of the show, at least in terms of the big pauses in between. If you look at it as a big book, by the end of it, it’s five seasons—or seven seasons, or whatever we get—and it’s one big, long story.”

And given Holden’s portentous monologue to holograph-ghost Miller at the end of the excellent Season Three finale, a monologue that caught hold not just of the big sci-fi protomolecule story but all the internecine human misery and striving those sci-fi threads weave in and out of, that big long story is one we can’t wait to keep watching. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Rafy/Syfy)

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