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

Week of 7/23/2018

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

If you’ve been relishing the brief break from “peak TV” these last few weeks, enjoy it while it lasts: The return of Orange Is the New Black, the debut of Castle Rock, a new docuseries about Trayvon Martin, and much more are in the pipeline as July comes to an end. Until then, the lighter-than-usual schedule doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. From the conclusion of Pose’s extraordinary first season to Succession’s first appearance in the Power Rankings, there is (as always) plenty worth watching.

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.

10. Younger
Network: TV Land
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Look. We can’t lie. There’s no denying that our beloved Younger is in a bit of a slump, spinning its wheels as it continues to revisit and revisit (and revisit) the show’s central love triangle. All the momentum garnered from Charles (Peter Hermann) learning the truth about Liza’s (Sutton Foster) age has been squandered. And Josh (Nico Tortorella), honey, we say this with the utmost love and respect: MOVE ON! But even with these quibbles, there is so much to love about Younger. Let’s start with Diana (Miriam Shor), who discovers after a lovely date with her sexy plumber, Enzo (Chris Tardio), that he still lives with his mother. I would let Diana tell me off in Italian anytime. (Also, in the TV fan fiction that goes on in my mind, Diana and Diane from The Good Fight go shopping for statement necklaces together.) “Sex, Liza and Rock & Roll” also features a hilarious turn by Gina Gershon as a famous and famously kooky rock star who isn’t turning in the first draft of her autobiography. Kelsey (Hilary Duff) romances both Zane (Charles Michael Davis) and Jake (Jason Ralph), and Maggie (Debi Mazar) gets a huge break in her career, proving that even if the A storyline is floundering a bit, Younger has a deep bench of characters and plots to keep summer fun and frothy.—Amy Amatangelo (Photo: TV Land)

9. Dark Tourist
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Is there such a thing as a triumph of substance over style?

If there is, Netflix’s new docuseries might be an example of it. Dark Tourist theoretically has everything I love. It takes a totally affable curator (David Farrier), a guy whose ethical, down-to-earth manner and charming New Zealand accent are a great foil for his subject area: “dark” tourism, where people deliberately go to places most people are desperate to avoid (like combat zones, or nuclear disaster sites, or a small village terrorized by rampaging killer bees-not literally killer bees, at least not that I saw, but you get the picture). There are tourist industries set up to cater to adrenaline junkies, disaster rubberneckers, people who adore the macabre, and lovers of the kinds of history that tends to get left out of the books. Farrier covers the globe documenting them: from an unbelievably tacky JFK assassination tour in Dallas (complete with a Jackie impersonator) to busload of very antsy people carrying Geiger counters through the ruins of Fukushima, Japan, to an “interview with some vampires” in New Orleans and a Segway scooter tour of a war-torn borderland in Cyprus where if you turn one way you might crash your absurd scooter and if you turn the other way you might be shot by angry military guards. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Netflix)

Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 7

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)

7. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

As Michelle Wolf recently reminded us, we are increasingly looking to late-night hosts not only to deliver the news, but also to be a guide to help us navigate a swamp of thick, sticky and varying worldviews. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah did this for us last week during The Daily Show’s “Between the Scenes” segment, where he speaks candidly to the audience during commercial breaks. This time, he responded to French ambassador Gérard Araud’s critique of Noah’s own comments that “Africa won the World Cup” instead of France because, well, look into the ancestry of that football team. Noah uses this to launch a conversation about culture, race, immigration and (to quote Araud’s letter to him) “hyphenated identity.” It’s a conversation I’m still thinking about a week later. —Whitney Friedlander

6. The ESPY Awards
Network: ESPN
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

When 141 “sister survivors” of widespread sexual abuse by former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser appeared on stage at the ESPY Awards to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, it was the culmination of a long and arduous journey toward justice. Led by three-time Olympic gold medalist and Nasser survivor Aly Raisman, former Michigan State softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez, and Sarah Klein, the first person preyed upon by Nasser, the group—an astonishing sight, even in sheer numbers—highlighted the most powerful (and damning) takeaway from the entire experience, which was the span of time over which their reports of the abuse were ignored. As narrator Jennifer Garner explains in the heartbreaking segment above, Nasser’s was not a case of one bad apple, but of a “dangerous culture” of silence in which winning was prized over women’s safety. —Matt Brennan

5. Sharp Objects
Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Words carry so much meaning in Sharp Objects that they have to trickle out in the many tiny bits of flagellation that Amy Adams’ Camille carves onto her body, or writes as reminders onto her belongings, or appear to the audience through production-designed imagery. They’re the guilt, shame and pain that ooze out while she listens to loose-lipped gossip in the small town of Wind Gap, or when she attempts to self medicate and forget with bottled “water.”

In the miniseries’ third episode, titled “Fix,” we understand more of why this is. It isn’t just that Camille couldn’t save her sister or herself; it’s also that she still feels responsible for the death of a young girl completely out of the Wind Gap orbit: Alice, her roommate during her stay in a mental hospital and a character played by the immensely talented The Handmaid’s Tale actress Sydney Sweeney. Alice is a the haunted, willowy creature we still see in the shadows of Camille’s imagination and whose damaged iPod she’s inherited. “You love dead girls,” Amma (Eliza Scanlen) taunts big sister Camille. Boy, does she ever. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Anne Marie Fox/HBO)

4. Succession
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Power List Succession Main.jpg
Creator Jesse Armstrong’s savagely funny family drama—about a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), and the four adult children eager to pry the empire from his aging fingers—has flown under the radar so far this summer, thanks in part to an uncertain start. Could we stomach a bunch of wealthy white people fighting over the family fortune? The answer turns out to be a resounding “No,” and I mean that in the best way possible: As Tom (the phenomenal Matthew Macfadyen), the sycophantic/deranged fiancé of Logan’s daughter, Siobhan (Sarah Snook), says in Sunday’s episode before his bachelor party, “I’ve got a feeling it’s liable to get a little disgusting.” “Prague,” the majority of which is set not in the Czech Republic but at a secretive warehouse party in New York City, is Succession’s ghoulish depiction of the 1% at its most concentrated, a liquor-, cocaine- and MDMA-fueled bender of sibling rivalries, corporate jockeying, and dialogue so pungent it could strip wood. “Don’t pre-rationalize,” ne’er-do-well Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin, in full Igby Goes Down mode) tells Tom about cheating on Siobhan, and by extension about watching Succession: “You get off, you eat the shame for dessert.” Yum. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO)

3. Detroiters
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Detroiters Power List Mort Crim.jpg
“Mort Crim” wraps up everything that makes Detroiters great into a fantastic little package. You’ve got the sincere love for the city of the title, in the form of beloved local news legend Mort Crim (who was supposedly one of the inspirations for Ron Burgundy). You’ve got the gentle absurdity of the eighty-something Crim first appearing as a pool shark at a dive bar (complete with Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” on the soundtrack, in what might be the most perfectly Detroit scene of the entire series). You’ve got the pointed, not-at-all-gentle absurdity of Crim trying to turn a local furniture ad into a rant against ISIS and how they “won’t stop until we’re all pink mist in the wind.” And you’ve got the friendship between Tim (Tim Robinson) and Sam (Sam Richardson) underneath it all, in what might be the most adorable (if not exactly healthy) codependent relationship on TV right now. This show’s love affair with Crim has me wondering why Donald Glover hasn’t found room for Monica Kaufman (sorry, Monica Pearson) on Atlanta yet. —Garrett Martin (Photo: Comedy Central)

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

The triumphant conclusion of Pose’s first season is a breath of fresh air, as bracing as Elektra’s (Dominique Jackson) assessment of the off-white in Blanca’s (Mj Rodriguez) apartment: “This color looks like a shit-stained diaper left out in the rain.” Challenging decades of pop culture in which queers are tragic figures, “Mother of the Year”—set around the highlight of the social calendar, the Princess Ball—finds Blanca extending the olive branch to Elektra, Elektra coming to her defense against the mean-spirited bitches from House of Ferocity, Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) returns to the fold, two new recruits in tow, and Pray Tell (Billy Porter, capping off a performance that practically demands an Emmy) finds the first stirrings of romance since the death of his lover and his own diagnosis with HIV. Fighting stigma, embracing New York fashion (Indochine is the hot spot du jour) and—as ever—transforming its forthright emotions into the heat, color, and action of the ball, Pose confirms its place alongside Killing Eve as the best new TV series of the year. Brava. —Matt Brennan (Photo: JoJo Whilden/FX)

1. Trial & Error
Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Is there anything Kristin Chenoweth can’t do?

I don’t even mean this rhetorically. We know the Emmy- and Tony- winner can sing, dance and act. But I also kind of feel like she could come over and fix my leaky faucet and cook me a gourmet dinner.

Chenoweth’s performance in the second season of Trial & Error, now subtitled Lady, Killer is so inspired, so utterly delightful, such a master class in what can happen when an artist holds nothing back that I just want my entire review to be that GIF of Meryl Streep clapping at the Oscars.

If you didn’t see the first season, it doesn’t matter. The second season is a self-contained joy. A blissful and much needed escape. Tell all your brother cousins to watch. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: NBC)

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