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

Week of 2/11/2019

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

Love is in the air on the Paste Power Rankings this week. Well, pheromones, to be precise: Four of the 10 entries below focus on or feature characters working their way through the vagaries of adolescence, from the relatively chaste to the groundbreaking to the extremely horny, and a fifth finds adults at a “high-school slumber party”-themed get-together. Which means you could celebrate Valentine’s Day on Thursday without ever leaving your couch. Who says we can’t have nice things?

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:
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Kingdom, True Detective, Sex Education, You’re the Worst

10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

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After several weeks of going bold and new to celebrate its move to NBC, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s latest episode sees the series return to two of the stories/themes that have most helped define it over the years: Jake’s (Andy Samberg) cat-and-mouse frenemyship with Craig Robinson’s Pontiac Bandit, and the Nine-Nine’s eternal enmity with all other branches of New York City law enforcement/civil service. To iterate once more on the latter, Rob Riggle steps into the shoes previously worn by Patton Oswalt, Ed Helms, and Phil Augusta Jackson as the head of the local FDNY precinct angling to win a drink-off and turn Shaw’s into a firefighter bar, complete with framed signed headshot of Rescue Me’s Denis Leary on the wall. To iterate once more on the former, well—what’s the one way the Pontiac Bandit arc possibly get any better? Bring in Terry (Terry Crews) as Jake’s cynical foil who refuses to believe Doug Judy’s gone legit, duh, and add Nicole Byer to the Judy family!

Between Byer nailing Trudy Judy’s sweet/horny essence while also skewering the state of student loans, Jake and Doug managing to pull off a joke about dressing up like a person from another race (each other but also somehow the Twins from The Matrix?) without needing to resort to even a hint of blackface, Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) saying of Amy’s (Melissa Fumero) 4-drink persona, Horny Amy, “Feels like we should retire that one in the #MeToo era,” and Terry capping it all off with beaming, arm-pumping gratitude at having lost his 100,000 push-up bet with Jake (“I’m so glad I lost this bet, I never make time for things I enjoy!”), these were both stories’ best iterations yet. O Brooklyn Nine-Nine, long may you reign. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Vivian Zink/NBC)

9. Folklore
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Just as The Lure brought mercreatures back to their murderous roots or Guillermo del Toro refuses to coat his fantasies in sugar, the six campfire stories that comprise Folklore approach their morality tales with the same punitive pedagogy as Aesop: Nobody learns unless they suffer. Created by Singaporean director Eric Khoo, the anthology of hour-and-under movies plucked from the festival circuit has terrifying fables from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea, and the grouping of these specific stories speaks to an elemental morbidity that links not only their unique mythologies, but also those world-over. Folklore makes the case that the stories that get passed down often, if not always, have their roots in death, fear, and the unknown. —Jacob Oller (Photo: HBO)

8. Andi Mack
Network: Disney Channel
Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Friday, Cyrus Goodman (Joshua Rush) told his friend Jonah Beck (Asher Angel) that he was gay. As in, on the Disney Channel, during primetime, one teen boy character looked at another and said the words aloud: “I’m gay.” Well, actually what he said was, “That, of course, is Aunt Ruthie’s kugel… that’s your classic bagel and lox… that’s gefilte fish, skip that… and I’m gay.” To which Jonah replied, “Yeah? K, cool.” And then dove back into the shiva spread Cyrus had been describing. (Reader: He ate the gefilte fish.)

Oh, yes, that’s right—the same episode in which a Disney Channel character said “I’m gay” for the first time was also Disney’s first episode in which a Jewish shiva was featured, according to a network spokesperson, while also continuing Jonah’s panic attack/anxiety storyline on top of all the normal happy family melodrama as Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and her grandma Cece (Lauren Tom) collaborate to plan Bex (Lilan Bowen) and Bowie’s (Trent Garrett) wedding. And if that weren’t already more than enough for drama-loving fans of the family comedy to bear, the final beats of the whole episode featured TJ (Luke Mullen), Cyrus’ friend (and the Internet’s fervent hope for endgame), showing up at the shiva moments after Cyrus’ big announcement, a loaf of challah in hand, a tender look on his face. Look, I don’t love being this gut-level invested in a possible TV-teen puppy love romance, but as a person, I can tell you that their chemistry is sweetly electric, and as a professional television watcher, I can tell you that every pre-romance narrative box is being ticked. Please don’t @ me; just watch the show and get invested for yourself. —Alexis Gunderson

7. PEN15
Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Two young women make a comedy about middle school. It’s based on their own experiences, and they name the characters eponymously: Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle). Then they make a really interesting choice, casting their 30-ish selves as the 13-year-old principal characters, and surround themselves with a supporting cast of actual middle schoolers. The result is so excruciatingly awkward it probably out-awkwards actual middle school, which is no small feat. Erskine and Konkle absolutely hurl themselves into the roles, sparing nothing in their quest to anatomize seventh grade in all its disgusting, giddy glory. They’re hilarious, and there are moments when you entirely forget they’re adults. And then there are moments when that fact sticks out like a sore thumb and those moments are possibly the best, because they evoke the competing impulses of the age—to race into adulthood and to go back to the safety of childhood—with a kind of zany, surreal brilliance. These are young people for whom every single minute seems momentous and defining, and who cannot realize that nothing momentous and defining has yet happened to them. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Alex Lombardi/Hulu)

6. Supernatural
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

The ember smoldering hottest at the heart of Supernatural has always been the importance of family, and how broken Sam and Dean were by losing theirs to tragedy (well, demons) so early on, so the impact of all four Winchesters getting to sit down together for a family dinner in “Lebanon”—of John getting to tell Dean and Sam how proud he is of them, of John and Mary getting to have their big farewell—is likely to hit just as hard in two, seven, 20 years as it does now. As will Dean’s coming to terms with how his life has turned out, the hell of all his 40-odd years, and choosing to choose the person he’s become as a result: “Say we could send Dad back, knowing everything,” he tells Sam, humoring Sam’s frustrations at their predicament. “Why stop there? Why not send him further back, and let some other poor sons of bitches save the world? But then here’s the problem: Who does that make us? Would we be better off? Maybe. But I gotta be honest, I don’t know who that Dean Winchester is, and I’m GOOD with who I am, and I’m good with who you are. Because our lives, they’re ours. And maybe I’m just too damn old to want to change that.”

Not to get overly zealous about it, but if I’m not mistaken, that’s precisely what the #SPNFamily spent the whole day of the 300th episode saying: Supernatural changed my life. For me, this show is home. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW)

5. The 61st Grammy Awards
Network: CBS
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

A teary-eyed, humble Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year for her untouchable masterwork Golden Hour, and beat out the likes of Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne to take home trophies for Best Country Song, Solo Performance and Album. St. Vincent, often an indie outsider, won the Grammy for best rock song. H.E.R., who also had nominations for Album of the Year and Best New Artist, delivered a star-making solo performance of “Hard Place,” just after snagging the award for Best R&B album. Brandi Carlile sung an anthem for the ages. Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and more joined Dolly Parton in a moving tribute to the country legend. The night’s performances were also beautifully out of the ordinary for a Grammys broadcast: Carlile’s devastating “The Joke” will likely go down in history as one of the best, and Camila Cabello’s energetic opening of the show with her hit “Havana” was a spectacle honoring the current Latin domination of the pop charts. Lady Gaga, no stranger to the Grammys stage, did an earth-shattering take on “Shallow.” It will be interesting to see how her Oscars performance compares. Cardi B, who rightfully won Best Rap Album last night, wowed in an unforgettably confident performance of “Money.”

Without a doubt, women owned the night. —Ellen Johnson (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

4. Schitt’s Creek
Network: Pop TV
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

The “A” plot in “Housewarming” is so familiar you might roll your eyes at it: During a game of Spin the Bottle at his boyfriend’s “high-school slumber party”-themed shindig, David Rose (series co-creator Daniel Levy) lands a kiss from his sister’s studly, soused beau, an act that promises, as one character proclaims, to create “DRAMMAAA!” In truth, the stakes are astoundingly minimal—a sulk in the corner is the night’s worst consequence, and all is forgiven by episode’s end—which means “Housewarming” is the perfect moment to appreciate TV’s most relatable romance. With their half-sweet, half-adversarial, opposites-attract rapport, David and Patrick (the disarming Noah Reid) achieve a delicate balance between sitcom charm and the screwball singe.

In expressly flipping the script on David and Patrick’s established formula, the episode marks a new frontier in their, and the series’, development. Though Patrick has, on occasion, thrown up his own defenses, most of these situations have focused on his uncertain sexuality—on David wanting to spend the night for the first time, for instance, or Patrick’s dissembling about his ex-fiancée. “Housewarming,” coming on the heels of his search for a new apartment, squares space for Patrick to grow in other ways. Season Five has yet to construct a scene quite as winsome as the climax of “Open Mic,” but the conclusion of “Housewarming,” in which David’s gentle ribbing teaches Patrick a thing or two about trust, is still a delight, its rhythms that of a relationship setting a new stride. —Matt Brennan (Photo: PopTV)

3. Big Mouth: “My Furry Valentine”
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Paying perfectly horny homage to When Harry Met Sally—with the kids and their Hormone Monsters replacing the film’s long-married couples, and Nick (Nick Kroll) and Connie (the unconscionably funny Maya Rudolph) reenacting the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene—Big Mouth’s Valentine’s Day special, “My Furry Valentine,” is counterprogramming for those of us eager to miss the holiday’s saccharine rituals. (But also, you know, hold out hope for finding true romance.) The main plot, perhaps admirably, goes to great, discomfiting lengths to explore the toxic masculinity on display in Andrew’s (John Mulaney) creep-tastic pursuit of Missy (Jenny Slate), but for me the highlight is the almost-inevitable pairing of platonic singles Jessi (Jessi Glaser) and Matthew (Andrew Rannells), lamenting their “plight” together and becoming fast friends. Musical numbers, “cafeteria oysters,” Oedipal arrangements, a literal gaydar, and Maya Rudolph describing a pair of nipples as tender and swollen “like a Butterball turkey”: If this double episode doesn’t deepen your crush on Big Mouth, I don’t know what will. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Netflix)

2. Russian Doll
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 1

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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)

1. One Day at a Time
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

I promised myself I would savor the third season of One Day at a Time. That I would space out watching the 13 episodes, treasuring each one. I would relish how each precious half-hour was simultaneously timeless and cutting edge. I would marvel at the series’ ability to be quietly groundbreaking. I would reflect on how it made Cuban culture at once unique and intimately relatable.

Instead, I devoured it. The series is so excellent and so compulsively watchable I couldn’t help myself. It’s like that old commercial for Lay’s potato chips: “Betcha you can’t watch just one.” In a seemingly impossible feat, the third season of this cherished comedy is even better than the two that preceded it—and the two that preceded it were pretty awesome. For its third outing, the series goes deeper on the challenges of modern parenting, addiction struggles, and living with anxiety and depression. It explores with great nuance what makes a family. It is pioneering in its ability to treat Elena’s (Isabella Gomez) same-sex relationship as a high-school first love, with all the drama and issues that accompany that regardless of gender. Justina Machado and Rita Moreno are, of course, reliably fantastic as the mother/daughter matriarchs of the family, but the season really gives Todd Grinnell, as handyman/landlord Schneider, a chance to shine. Alex (a terrific Marcel Ruiz) also gets a complex storyline, which is honest in its admission that adolescent issues aren’t easily solved. Now I’m off to watch the third season again. ¡Dale One Day at a Time, dale! —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Ali Goldstein/Netflix)

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