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

Week of 7/9/2018

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

After a supremely (even uncharacteristically) busy June, the summer “slow” season is upon us—and there’s still plenty of worthwhile TV to dig into. Debuting on the list this week, and likely to occupy a spot for most of the next two months, is HBO’s must-see, slow-burn, Southern-fried mystery, Sharp Objects. Oh, and a little football tournament that’s entering its final stages this week. See? One man’s “slow” is another’s “plenty of time to watch the World Cup semis.”

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, Queer Eye, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

“Postpartum” puts the pedal to the proverbial metal on “Gilead Masculinity.” Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) clearly wants approbation, wants connection (intellectual and physical), wants… love, probably. Just not as much as he wants control. Because women scare him. Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) clearly has mixed feelings about what he has done. He flouts the rules behind closed doors. He is a raging cynic about the system, he takes in “stray” servants seemingly at least partially in atonement, and he probably misses the days when his wife didn’t scream “You’re a monster” at him all the time. But he doesn’t want it enough to give up control. Because women frighten him. Both of these men are scary because they can, empirically speaking, end the lives of any of the women around them. But they are brittle, and pitiful. And they know it. That’s what really makes them dangerous. —Amy Glynn (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

6. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

With Nanette, very much the revolutionary work of art critics have been raving about Hannah Gadsby has fashioned an unapologetically queer and feminist salvo against patriarchal culture that is by turns terrifically funny, apoplectically angry, and wrenchingly sad, all 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: 2

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)

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

the bold type stride of pride.jpg
Giddy. That’s the word Paste TV Editor Matt Brennan and I used to describe our feelings while watching last week’s episode of The Bold Type. The series just makes us burst with happiness. It wasn’t only the scene of Sutton (Meghann Fahy), Jane (Katie Stevens) and Kat (Aisha Dee) delightfully singing ABBA at a karaoke bar. It was Sutton finding out she had slept with a married man and 1) Not beating herself up about it; and 2) Not demonizing the one-night stand’s wife. Instead, Sutton tracked her down and told her what had happened and the pair had a mature and honest discussion. It’s Jane realizing she’s never truly reflected on how far her white privilege has gotten her and Kat calling her on it, while Kat herself realizes that she has to be honest about all her socio-economic advantages. It’s Kat facing down the board of directors over their policy that all prospective employees must have a college degree. It’s the sexual tension between Richard (Sam Page) and Sutton and the totally hot sex happening between Jane and adorable Dr. Ben (Luca James Lee). This show is doing so many excellent, non-clichéd things with its female characters during a time when portraying women in complex, nuanced, unique and enlightened ways is more important than ever. Mamma Mia, how we love The Bold Type. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform)

3. Pose
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 5

In the latest episode of Pose, ballroom impresario Pray Tell—the extraordinary Billy Porter—spins MFSB’s soul anthem “Love Is the Message” on a weeks-long loop. Recently diagnosed with HIV, his lover living out his last days on a hospital ward for AIDS patients, Pray spends much of the hour drinking hard, lashing out, lamenting the defining crisis of the era. It’s New York circa 1988, and Pray is desperate to recapture, or at least remember, an age before the virus linked one of life’s most intimate acts to its ultimate end: the summer of 1980, as he explains to his boyfriend, of Fire Island and “Love Is the Message,” when they were still “free to love, free to fuck, free to be our gay-ass selves.”

Though the song’s repetition frustrates the ball scene’s youngsters (“This song is a classic,” Dominique Jackson’s elder stateswoman, Elektra Abundance, retorts with a sniff), Pray’s rationale for playing it is, in fact, the clarion call of Pride: Pride is presence, the refusal to be shouted down, erased, ignored, shamed. It is also, of course, resistance: Pride originated with the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in which queer people of color—those at the bright, unabashed heart of Pose—played a central role. Long before “Love Is the Message” offers up back-to-back renditions of “For All We Know” and “Home,” then, the episode, co-written and directed by Janet Mock, emerges as the message’s proof, the installment of FX’s blistering drag/dance musical that best encapsulates Pray’s admonition against hiding. In this sense, more than “I Like It,” “Slow Burn, “Boo’d Up,” or any of the other contenders, Pose is truly the song of this summer, an ecstatic, mad hot bop for a season of rage. —Matt Brennan (Photo: JoJo Whilden/FX)

2. Sharp Objects
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Our mind plays tricks on us. Our memories expand and contract. Become fuzzy and clear. Weave in and out of our subconscious. We can remember sad memories more happily or happy ones with more sadness. We are often the most unreliable narrator of our own lives.

This idea comes to life in the new HBO miniseries Sharp Objects. St. Louis Chronicle reporter Camille Preaker (the mesermizing Amy Adams) returns to her small Southern hometown of Wind Gap to cover the murder of one preteen girl and the disappearance of another. Camille has left Wind Gap and her overbearing mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson, in a career-best performance) behind. It’s not just the small-town gossip Camille has escaped from; it’s also the haunting memory of her younger sister Marion’s death. Adora and Camille’s step-father, Alan (Henry Czerny), now have Amma (major discovery Eliza Scanlen), a 15-year-old trying to escape the overbearing confines of Wind Gap much like Camille did years before her. This one is not to be missed. Sharp Objects cuts deep. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: HBO)

1. FIFA World Cup
Network: Fox/Fox Sports
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

World Cup Power Rankings.jpg
The end is near. The 32 teams competing in Russia have been pared down to four semi-finalists in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Favorites Germany, Argentina and Spain are long departed, and Brazil has now followed suit. There will be no Messi, no Ronaldo, no Neymar in the finals. It’s been a tournament full of late goals and memorable heroics. And the four European teams who remain all play beautiful team football and all have stars capable of breathtaking moments: France’s Kylian Mbappe, poised to dethrone the reigning soccer royalty; Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, who can pick out the perfect pass without even looking; England’s Harry Kane, who leads all players with six goals so far; and Croatia’s dominating midfield duo of Luka Modri? and Ivan Rakiti?. Nothing on television will compare to the audience these games will attract in the tournament’s final week. And there’s no better time for even the most casual sports viewer to discover why. —Josh Jackson (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

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