Paste‘s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now
Week of 2/4/2019Header photo: Netflix TV Lists power rankings
For the first time in memory, one series received unanimous support for the #1 spot in Paste’s Power Rankings, and it isn’t the dark workplace comedy, the Disney Channel standout, the meditative crime drama, or the zombie period piece. (It doesn’t star Chelsea Peretti, either, but she’s up there.) You get one hint: “Let’s fuck this party in the mouth.”
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.
Black Monday, Carmen Sandiego, Fresh Off the Boat, The Other Two, You’re the Worst
10. Super Bowl LIII
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
Yes, the game—the lowest-scoring in Super Bowl history—was dreadful. Yes, the halftime show—in which Adam Levine sounded like someone who’d get cut from The Voice during blind auditions—was offensively inoffensive. Yes, even the ads failed to make much of a splash. But the Super Bowl still deserves a spot on the Power List—if not the customary top spot—for being one of the last vestiges of mass culture as we once knew it. For now, that is: With just 100.7 million viewers, Super Bowl LIII was the least-watched in a decade. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Network: YouTube Premium
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
To get you interested in YouTube’s new original comedy, Wayne, all I really need to say is that it’s basically John Wick meets John Hughes, with Wayne (Sing Street’s Mark McKenna) as a kind of magnetically angsty cross between Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye—you know, if instead of middle-class Chicago affluence and deep wells of self-interest, Ferris and Cameron had grown up in Brockton, Massachusetts with shit luck, no money, and a violent desire to make bad people pay, and if instead of a day playing hooky with cool girl Sloane in Cameron’s dad’s borrowed sports car, they’d helped a no-shit-taking neighbor girl (Del, played with deadpan genius by Ciara Bravo) kidnap herself away from an oppressively scary home situation by whisking her off on the back of a dinky motorcycle to Florida to steal a stolen sports car back. That’s got to be enough to get you excited to watch, but if not: In addition to McKenna and Bravo, Wayne stars Mike O’Malley as a worn-down Massachusetts high school principal just looking for a break, Dean Winters as Del’s alcoholic dad (in the most dangerous version of the dirtbag failure he so often plays), and Timeless’ Abigail Spencer as Del’s charming, opioid-addicted mom. It was produced by some of the dudes behind Deadpool, Zombieland and Ride Along, and boasts some decent behind-the-scenes gender equity, with four episodes each directed and written by women. It is as funny and optimistic as it is violent and melancholic. Its visual language is sharp as a shiv. It kicks literal and narrative ass.
Then, in case all that still isn’t enough to get you to just get that Premium trial subscription already, there’s the sixth episode (“Who Even Are We Now?,” directed by Stephanie Laing), in which Wayne dresses up in a powder pink tux a size too small, does a wild solo dance in the middle of a crowd of strangers to sacrifice his comfort for Del’s, and then wins those strangers over so strongly that they all stream out to the parking lot to just WAIL on Del’s dad to the soundtrack of… well, I won’t spoil it here. I’ll just say that when it all came together, I shrieked with glee. And reader? I want that for you, too. WATCH WAYNE. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: YouTube Premium)
8. Sex Education
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
You’re an insecure, bright, sensitive teenage boy Asa Butterfield) with a wildly uninhibited sex-guru mother (Gillian Anderson), an absentee dad (the epically hilarious James Purefoy), a chronically foot-in-mouth bully-magnet best friend, a limited social life and a clinically interesting fear of your own penis. You have a stealth crush on your school’s official Way Too Precocious girl, who’s hard up for money. So, naturally, you open a sex clinic for high-school students in an out-of-service school lavatory, right?
Of course you do.
Netflix’s Sex Education is a decidedly raunchy and thoroughly adorable coming-of-age dramedy. While it’s not exactly afraid of well-worn tropes, it also doesn’t rely on them to a detrimental degree… and it has Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist, which would be enough for a lot of us even if nothing else about the show worked. Luckily, that isn’t the case: A testament to the power of character development, the series is riveting. None of its superbly crafted characters waste a single frame. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Sam Taylor/Netflix)
7. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
As Crazy Ex-Girlfriend enters the home stretch, co-creators Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom seem to be stretching their creative legs: After last week’s strong conceptual episode—a delightful, Nathaniel-centric send-up of rom-com convention—the latest installment, “I Need a Break,” offers up a set of powerhouse songs, and a useful reminder that the series is built on the characters’ halting evolution. As Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) courts exhaustion (and much worse) while trying to do it all, Rebecca (Bloom) gets complacent about self-care and finds herself spiraling: The lessons they’ve learned over the course of four seasons will not take easily, which is exactly as it should be. The highlight? Skyler Astin’s Springsteen-inspired water-park ballad “I Hate Everything But You,” which sneaks in a nice summation of what CExGF is all about: ” “I hate the phrase ‘Love conquers all,’” he croons, “and I hate that it’s true.” —Matt Brennan (Photo: Erica Parise/The CW)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
In Netflix’s beautiful Kingdom, zombies become important only as an aside, when civil unrest rumbles after the king’s rumored death. A tortuous inquest follows as the current regime tries to unearth traitors. There’s all sorts of palace intrigue over the succession, a cross-section of the lower class suffering the same illness that afflicts (or afflicted) the king, and a usurping clan tired of losing wars—which they attribute to a larger cultural softness. Confucius isn’t cutthroat enough, they say. Politics are heavily at the forefront in Kingdom, while zombies slowly become less and less ignorable on the outskirts. But the series is by no means a plug-and-play piece of historical mythologizing like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: There’s actually meaning in putting the supernatural into these stories, as the class politics that marked both Seoul Station and Train to Busan find even more room to expand on TV. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Juhan Noh/Netflix)
5. Andi Mack
Network: Disney Channel
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
“The Quacks,” which features A Quiet Place’s Millicent Simmonds in just one of its many plots, is Andi Mack at its most densely packed and zippily progressive: The episode takes on six distinct stories (the series is, in its narrative ambitiousness, like Jane the Virgin’s sweet kid cousin), but while each stands on its own, they all share the thesis that if you want any relationship to succeed, then communication? It’s super important. In her second appearance as Libby—Jonah’s (Asher Angel) first post-Andi girlfriend, who also happens to be deaf—Simmonds’ arc examines the emotions and frustrations that can boil over when the nuances of deaf communication are lost—frustrations compounded, in this case, by the fact that now it’s not only Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) who’s signing with her throughout all of their conversations, but also Cyrus (Joshua Rush), while Jonah still has yet to try to learn a single word. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Disney Channel)
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
Because dark comedy aficionados cannot subsist on office relationships alone, last week’s episode of Corporate attacked one of the biggest double standards of the ages: How the expectations of both men and women keep grooming the multi-million dollar beauty industry. Titled “Natural Beauty” and written by Langan Kingsley, the episode is a 20+-minute of evisceration of these issues, complete with a Matrix-style explainer of what happens when one man (co-creator and co-star Matt Ingebretson) dares to step outside of his comfort zone while also touching on the larger issues of a corporate culture that will strip a woman (in this case, Anne Dudek’s executive, Kate) of her voice, literally and figuratively, as long as it better serves her male counterparts. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Comedy Central)
3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
Hear ye, hear ye! Gina Linetti—human form of the 100 emoji, unofficial ruler of the 99th precinct, Ultimate Human-Slash-Genius—has officially left the Nine-Nine. Her reign was long; her reign was glorious; her reign was ultra-GIFable.
Fans had fair warning that actress Chelsea Peretti would be moving on from Brooklyn Nine-Nine sometime early in the series’ sixth season, but that doesn’t mean we were ready; who could ever be ready to quit Gina Linetti? Still, between the previous week’s excellent, high school reunion-set Gina and Jake episode, “The Tattler,” which set up her exit plan, and her vignette-y final farewell, “Four Movements,” which executed that plan, Dan Goor and the crew at Brooklyn Nine-Nine managed to pull together all the cartoonish broadness that has made Gina so indelible throughout the years and use it to underscore the real human impact Gina had in the lives of everyone in the Nine-Nine. “Four Movements” is especially clever at twisting each broad stroke into a character-defining point, shifting her from individual “Gina Moments” between her and Holt (Andre Braugher), Amy (Melissa Fumero), Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) and Jake (Andy Samberg) to one big, gilded gesture to the whole squad (and a yogurty surprise for Terry) at the end. Given how unkillable Gina has been throughout her run with the Nine-Nine, it seems unlikely that she/Chelsea Peretti will never pop back into the squad’s lives, but as far as giant—nay, grandiose—Gina Linetti gestures go, “Four Movements” was fire emoji fire emoji crying face emoji fire emoji gold star emoji fire emoji. You know: Toit. — Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Vivian Zink/NBC)
2. True Detective
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
We spend a lot of time in 2015 in “If You Have Ghosts,” which has the peculiar effect of thrusting us deeper into the past. The focal point of the episode, in many ways, is a long scene between Hays and West in 2015. They haven’t seen each other in some time. They’re both battered. They’ve got their grudges. West drinks way too much; Hays is sinking into dementia. They’ve each got reason to feel let down by the other. But each is also all the other has in some ways, and their fundamental respect for each other is too deep to really disappear. Hays wants West to join him in working this case one more time. West is not having it. At all. But Hays kind of wears him down. By the end they’re both weeping and laughing and almost letting on how much they miss each other. Time might or might not be a flat circle. What’s 100% clear is that it’s a bitch. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Warrick Page/HBO)
1. Russian Doll
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
Netflix, if you’re reading this: Please don’t renew Russian Doll.
Renew Natasha Lyonne. Renew Amy Poehler. Renew Leslye Headland. Renew Charlie Barnett. Renew Rebecca Henderson and Greta Lee as hot mess hipster art friends ready to make parties across the Netflix spectrum that much spikier and sparklier. Renew Elizabeth Ashley as every Netflix heroine’s no-bullshit therapist (but make it fashion) mom-figure. Renew sharp, funny women directing sharp, funny women written by sharp, funny women. Renew that hair. Renew every damn thing about Russian Doll that helped make it such a brambly triumph of black comedy, macabre ennui and existential optimism. (Everything, that is, except Dave Becky in a producer’s chair—if Broad City can change precedent after four seasons, new series can avoid setting one altogether.) Just, please, don’t renew Russian Doll. It is, in the eight shaggy, smartly-constructed puzzlebox episodes of its debut season, nearly perfect. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Netflix)