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

Week of 4/23/2018

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

The season premiere of Westworld, which HBO is lining up to be its post-GoT tentpole, dominated much of the conversation this week—until The Little Show That Could turned in an eye-popping season finale twist to stick the landing on a brilliant season. Indeed, besides the usual suspects—namely, Killing Eve and FX’s trio of heavy hitters—it’s premieres, finales and cliffhangers that dominate the Power Rankings this week. You can almost smell May sweeps, right around the corner.

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:
Bosch, The Expanse, The Good Fight, Lost in Space, Roseanne, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Silicon Valley

10. Howards End
Network: Starz
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

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With room to breathe, writer Kenneth Lonergan and director Hettie MacDonald’s adaptation of the classic novel balances E.M. Forster’s sense of drama and humor, romance and politics, more delicately than the beloved Merchant/Ivory film—though perhaps with less punch. Leads Philippa Coulthard, as the vivacious Helen Schlegel, Hayley Atwell, as her more practical older sister, Margaret, and Matthew Macfadyen, as a warmer (and much hotter) Mr. Wilcox than Anthony Hopkins’, all acquit themselves well. But in Starz’s four-hour miniseries, it’s the supporting characters—Tracey Ullmann’s Aunt Juley, Rosalind Eleazar’s Jacky Bast, and most especially Alex Lawther’s note-perfect Tibby—are the true revelation. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Starz)

9. Killing Eve
Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

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Much of the plot of the third episode of creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s espionage caper makes it the victim of convenience that Paste’s Amy Amatangelo discussed in her original review: Eve (Sandra Oh) is an expert investigator who doesn’t find it at all suspicious that hers was the only suitcase stolen off the street? And by God, Bill (David Haig), don’t follow Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the woman whom you believe to be a bloodthirsty assassin, into a club so crowded it’s claustrophobic—especially if you’ve quite recently made a joke to your infant child that going with Eve on recon mission means you’re going to die. But this doesn’t mean the episode isn’t fun to watch, or necessary in moving the story forward. It solidifies the fact that clotheshorse Villanelle prefers to understand and infiltrate Eve’s life through her wardrobe choices, building her in her image on the sly as she drops off a suitable dress accessory at a boutique. And it also shows that Eve will do anything—even have dinner with a pervert—to get the information she needs. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: BBC America)

8. Homeland
Network: Showtime
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

In between the two operations in Moscow that comprise “All In”—an extraction-turned-ambush at an opulent dacha, thwarted by a sitting senator, the Russian ambassador to the United States, and a hacker living in his mom’s basement; and an armed incursion on the headquarters of the GRU, “democratic” successor to the KGB, orchestrated by an angry Russian oligarch—Homeland finds time for a period of quiet. Perhaps it’s the episode’s bifurcated structure, or its geopolitical orientation, or my sense that the series has clung to relevance this season by the skin of its teeth, but it’s this moment, as Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) speak on that wintry rooftop, that reminds me most of “Our Man in Damascus” or “13 Hours in Islamabad” or any of the other episodes in the series’ long run in which our heroine’s determination outmaneuvers the course of events. President Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) has been removed from office, at least temporarily; the raid on the dacha has failed, miserably; and yet Carrie is still “all in,” completely. “I’ve not come all this way in that fucking plane, and in my life, to fail in [the] mission when I know I can succeed,” she tells Saul, and neither has this fucking TV show. In its 83rd episode, nearly two seasons into its long walkabout through American politics, the series goes abroad for a genuinely enthralling, even sparkling hour: “All In” is vintage Homeland, and to that I tip my cap. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Kata Vermes/Showtime)

7. Scandal
Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

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After seven seasons of deception, murder, star-crossed love, red wine and fabulous coats, Scandal came to a satisfying end that saw the bad guy in jail (sorry, Jake) and the good-ish guys win. Olivia (Kerry Washington) and her gladiators confessed all their sins to Congress but somehow it all got redacted (I’m not even going to begin to try to explain the complicated machinations of B-613). Mellie (Bellamy Young) remained in the White House, signing gun control legislation and living out her life with Marcus (Cornelius Smith, Jr.). Quinn (Katie Lowes) and Charlie (George Newbern) got married and Charlie was released from prison. Olivia and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) got a reboot to their relationship. Not everyone was so lucky—poor David (Joshua Malina) died. But series creator Shonda Rhimes, who wrote the finale, got in some terrific moments. Why was B-613 created in the first place? “White men whose complacency, whose privilege, left this country in a state of neglect,” Rowan (Joe Morton) explains. And the show’s closing moment was one of two young black girls looking at a picture of Olivia in the National Portrait Gallery. Is Olivia president in the future? We can dream. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC)

6. Legion
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Due to its protagonists’ telepathy and ability to shape reality, Legion has often explored worlds inside people’s minds. But “Chapter 11” spends more time inside people’s minds than it does in reality. Of course, this being Legion, even reality is filled with the stuff of dreams, from disappearing cows to a deformed chick that crawls into your ear. There are plenty of disturbing visions in the episode, but there are also charming moments, like Syd wandering Division 3 in the body of a cat or Cary encouraging Kerry to become self-sufficient. Still, its focus on the Nocebo Effect (adverse placebo experiences) lends the hour an unsettling tone: “If the idea of illness can become illness,” narrator Jon Hamm asks us, “what else about our reality is actually a disorder?” —Josh Jackson (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX)

5. Westworld
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Rather than pile mystery on top of mystery—though there are plenty of unexplained components of this episode (hosts setting traps?)—the Season Two premiere, “Journey into Night,” suggests that the writers are now more interested in focusing in on their oppression allegory—which has been and remains iffy at best, considering that there’s a pointed scalping of a Native American host—and moving it towards the future. I’m loving the path the hosts are set on, and that allows me to be tangentially curious about why, say, there’s a big ocean full of dead bodies and also a tiger from Park 6. Since there’s a central conflict that matters, the frayed edges now concern me more rather than less. This shift of focus brings about the collision of worlds in the narrative, but also in the park. Someone’s messing with the sanctity of this space and, as any programmer will tell you, as soon as different systems interact, there will be all kinds of unexpected bugs. —Jacob Oller (Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO)

4. Atlanta
NetworK: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 4

If you thought Westworld was going to be the only show making you question what was really “real” this week, you thought wrong. Atlanta’s been getting into the existential game all season, and “Woods” is one of its most potent statements. Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) depressed malaise is told through the deflated blocking (courtesy of director Hiro Murai) and the poignant passage of time (as written by Stefani Robinson). It’s more room for Henry to earn his Emmy for the season—partly because of his acting and partly for being such an exquisite canvas for Murai to film. No shot of him is ever boring. Something is always moving or challenging us to figure out why it’s still. That goes for the woods he finds himself in after he’s robbed. It’s a place where “real” and “natural” aren’t necessarily synonyms and things in fact have a heightened sense of fantasy about them. The sound design creaks and hums like Lord of the Rings’ Fangorn forest, while death and madness lurk around every corner in the form of a deer corpse and a Chapstick-hocking homeless man. Suddenly that sweaty strip mall seems like home. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Curtis Baker/FX)

3. black-ish
Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

I have a friend who says that everything that will bother you about your spouse, you learn on the first date. And there’s a lot of truth to that. My husband, for example, is a terrible emailer/texter. This has been the case since we first met and I didn’t hear from him for ten days because he got busy at work. And so it was with Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who are finding that they are constantly bickering over small things (like a birthday cake) and big things (like whether their one-year-old son should be walking). Dre always wants things a certain way (his way) and has a penchant for blowing things out of proportion. Bow balks at Dre’s constant micro-managing. He bristles that she won’t take his concerns seriously. It’s a dance that has coursed through all the show’s episodes since its inception.

But suddenly, the pair can’t laugh away each other’s annoying ticks. They revisit their therapist, have a date night and things seem to be back on track before once again they find themselves in the same circular argument. Deftly directed by Ross, “Fifty-Three Percent” explores how you can grow apart even while living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed. Black-ish never shies away from difficult topics, whether they’re things that affect the individual (post-partum depression) or society at large (the election of Donald Trump). The comedy does this by mixing in some great humorous moments (cue Daphne yelling at the white women in Dre’s office) with the gravitas of the topic at hand. Our hearts broke for Dre and Bow while sympathizing with both of their perspectives. This mix of real problems portrayed with humor and grace is the show’s sweet spot. It’s too bad we’ll never get to see the politically themed February episode ABC pulled because of creative differences with showrunner Kenya Barris. Black-ish is the show we all need right now. The episode’s title refers to the amount of marriages that end in divorce. Let’s hope Dre and Bow aren’t included in that statistic. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC)

2. The Americans
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking 5

After “Tchaikovsky,” with its interest in the meaning of work, and “Urban Transport Planning,” with its references to the language of salesmanship, “Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” sees The Americans triple down on its critique of capitalism—one more nuanced, and more thorough, than anything on Mr. Robot. Philip’s sudden skepticism, or perhaps self-doubt, is most arresting because it doesn’t come at the point of Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) bayonet: During their strange, sweet, softly charged conversation in bed, for instance, she offers reassurances he can’t seem to accept. Philip is “stuck,” and the fact that Kimmy (Julia Garner) can see this through his disguise suggests the depth of his dissatisfaction. The boy so eager for scraps in that cruel Russian winter has learned, in time, to want more, and more, and more, and all he’s gotten is more want in return. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX)

1. Jane the Virgin
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 8

SPOILER ALERT: No explicit spoilers listed here—the finale was just too good—but an exhortation: Please do not go out and spoil yourself before watching. You’ll want to remember the exact feeling you have when you see the last shot hit your screen.

It is a mighty show that can pack its finale with an almost-proposal four seasons in the making, “I love you”s between a still fairly new queer ‘ship no one was certain would last, not one but TWO happy couples suddenly moving in together, a citizenship ceremony, a proposal-thwarting night of silent self-loathing, Brooke Shields shadowing a Real Life™ family for a day and learning Big Life Lessons along the way, a small child nearly lost on a bus, the celebration of masculine emotionality and familial passion, a heartfelt speech about the meaning of patriotism and community, an instantaneous greencard wedding, a visually compelling breaking of writer’s block, fireworks!!!, the uncovering of treachery and accidental murder, a major breakup, a final-act turn from a previously unmasked villain, a near-murder of a principal character, a real murder of a mystery character, a DALLAS???? Reference (#JRShotWho?), and a major character [SPOILER]— and still jump gracefully out the other side into shark-free waters.

Jane the Virgin is one damn mighty show. True to its telenovela roots, it closed out its strong fourth season with the wildest of crazy cliffhangers, but in that moment and every other outlandish one that preceded it, Jane earned every emotionally grounded minute. Once the dust settles, that final shot is likely to sow some unease among fans who have been reading the show a certain way (hi), but what Jane the Virgin is richer in than just about every other show on air is goodwill. Jennie Snyder Urman, Gina Rodriguez, and every other hero behind the JtV scenes, they have busted their butts to earn our trust these past four years, and that trust, it’s unconditional. So Season Five? Bring it. Our telenovela-loving bodies (and hearts and souls) are ready. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Patrick Wymore/The CW)

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