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

Week of 4/15/2019

TV Lists Power Rankings
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<i>Paste</i>'s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

You only get one guess at what sits atop this week’s Power Rankings—but that doesn’t mean there are no surprises in store. We bid farewell (for now) to one family sitcom and say goodbye (possibly forever) to another, highlight not one but two Cabaret-adjacent projects, and even throw some sports in the mix. To us, TV is never just zombies and dragons. Although those are pretty cool, too.

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:

Barry, Catastrophe, Fresh Off the Boat, The Good Fight, Jane the Virgin, On My Block, Santa Clarita Diet, Shrill, Veep

10. The Bold Type

Network: Freeform
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Early on in the season premiere of The Bold Type, up-and-coming journalist Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens) decides to do some opposition research on Patrick Duchand (Peter Vack), the wunderkind brought in to head up Scarlet’s digital arm. Skeptical about a man leading “the dot com” of a top-tier women’s glossy, she turns to Oliver Grayson (Stephen Conrad Moore), the magazine’s fashion czar, for an honest read on the newbie’s style. He describes it as sprezzatura, “perfect imperfection” or “studied carelessness”: “He wants you to think he didn’t put any effort in,” Oliver adds, “when in fact everything is planned.”

The same might be said of “topical” or “timely” TV, which has become increasingly ubiquitous amidst the intense politicization of, well, everything: Traditional ripped-from-the-headlines procedurals now jostle with late-night shows, family sitcoms, docuseries, The Good Fight, and countless others to handle hot-button issues, though doing so successfully requires a light touch—an air of sprezzatura, if you will. For The Bold Type—a woke Sex and the City, a gentler Devil Wears Prada, a kissing cousin to Younger, a frothily entertaining soap for the Millennial set—mastering the “topical” and the “timely” is more than a narrative technique. In its third season, it’s as central to the series’ identity as ever. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Freeform/Philippe Bosse)

9. Queens of Mystery

Network: Acorn TV
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Do you like a cozy British mystery? Do you like ensemble casts made up primarily of clever women? Do you miss the kooky, fairytale-murder charm of Pushing Daisies? Then get thee to an Acorn TV subscription (possibly at your local public library!), because that streamer’s newest original series, Queens of Mystery, is extremely that.

Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, Queens of Mystery stars Olivia Vinall as Matilda Stone, a young detective sergeant recently returned to her picturesque hometown, and to the three sharp-as-a-stiletto crime writer aunts (Julie Graham, Siobhan Redmond, and Sarah Woodward) who raised her after her mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was very young. As much a family mystery as it is a case-of-the-week procedural, Queens of Mystery has used the first two of its three Season One mysteries to explore the backstory of one of Matilda’s aunts: first the award-nominated Beth (Woodward) at a crime writing festival, and now the ex-rocker, bisexual graphic novelist Cat (Graham). In “Death by Vinyl,” her former all-girl rock band, Volcanic Youth, converges on Wildemarshe to record a reunion album, only to be killed off one by one—and in the process Queens of Mystery goes from good to great. Every person in the rock band feels like they’re in a rock band, a sleight of hand aided immensely by the original songs commissioned for the episode (Anna Straker on “Strangled” and “Death by Vinyl” are particular standouts), and the lost-love backstory that fatally tangles up the band and breaks Cat wide open is simultaneously complex and tragic. In service of Cat’s story, Matilda is given less to do than one might like, save make awkward doe eyes at the handsome medical examiner Daniel Lynch (Andrew Leung) and climb all up the walls of Britain’s coolest piece of hidden architecture, but if Stevenson’s narrator is to be believed, that state of affairs will eventually improve. And when it does, I’ll be there. — Alexis Gunderson

8. Speechless

Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

speechless finale photo.jpg
Just like JJ (Micah Fowler), the protagonist at the center of ABC’s charming, insightful and hilarious comedy, Speechless has defied the odds. In a landscape dominated by dragons and zombies, a TV series about a family whose oldest son has cerebral palsy shouldn’t have lasted for three seasons. But not only did it last, it thrived. The DiMeo family, with Maya (Minnie Driver, in a career-best role) as its fearless matriarch, represented not just a loving family with a special needs son, but all families who want what’s best for their children and won’t let any obstacles get in their way. In the pitch-perfect Season Three finale, JJ graduates from high school and makes the decision to go to his dream school, New York University. The move will take him far from his family and his fiercely overprotective mother, but it’s also a life change he knows he needs to make. “I’ve opened so many doors for you, and you’ve walked through every one,” his mother tells him.

Maybe, to use the show’s words, it’s “unrealistic” of me to hope for a fourth season. The comedy ended on a triumphant, beautiful and poignant note, with JJ in the Big Apple and his family realizing it’s time to let him go. If that’s the last we see of the DiMeos, it was a wonderful way to leave them. But I want more. I’m not going to be realistic. I’m going to be blindly optimistic that we will see them again. TV needs a show like Speechless and so do I. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC/Richard Cartwright)

7. Killing Eve

Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

If the season premiere of Killing Eve turned Villanelle’s (Jodie Comer) childishness into its foremost asset, and made Eve’s (Sandra Oh) reaction to their Paris encounter into dead weight, “Nice and Neat” offers an intriguing, if frustrating, reversal. Villanelle’s arc, in which she becomes the captive of a creepy Basildon doll collector named Julian (Julian Barratt), revs up the series’ penchant for excess so far and so fast it feels like a contrivance, while Eve returns to brilliant form, joining an MI-6 working group called Operation Manderlay and uncovering the existence of another female assassin. It’s a measure of the formidable task facing the episode’s writer, showrunner Emerald Fennell: The series hinges on keeping Eve and Villanelle far enough apart to avoid another confrontation, yet close enough together for each to read as a threat, a delicate balance that neither “Do You Know How to Dispose of a Body?” nor “Nice and Neat” manages on its own, even if the episodes seem to move in this direction when taken in tandem. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/BBCAmerica)

6. Fosse/Verdon

Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

The legendary dancer and choreographer Bob Fosse was a pathological philanderer, a raging egomaniac, a needy pain in the ass, and seriously out to lunch on drugs. And in FX’s eight-part biopic, Fosse/Verdon, he spells it out—at times to the series’ detriment. Sam Rockwell is excellent as the passionate, manipulative, adulation-seeking Fosse. As Gwen Verdon, Michelle Williams is very nearly perfect; she nails Verdon’s look, her vocal affectations, her way of moving; her conflictedness and loyalty, her frustration and codependency. The production is sleek, with a lot of well-rendered semi-dissociative or depersonalized moments, particularly from Fosse’s viewpoint. And while self-destructive artist tropes can become tiresome easily, in a biographical show like this, they can also function as a useful reminder that there’s something to them: In Fosse/Verdon, both leads come across as brilliant cautionary tales about over-reliance on external validation. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/FX )

5. Schitt’s Creek

Network: Pop
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Schitts Creek S5 Finale Cabaret Main.jpg
I’m a sucker for any musical sequence in a non-musical TV series. I’m especially a sucker for Kander and Ebb’s Weimar classic, Cabaret. And I’m most of all a sucker for Liza Minnelli’s indelible torch song, “Maybe This Time,” which has been performed on the small screen by everyone from Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) to Lea Michele (Glee). So it’s no surprise that the Season Five finale of Schitt’s Creek, “Life Is a Cabaret”—in which the town mounts a production of the musical, with Patrick (Noah Reid) as the emcee and Stevie (Emily Hampshire) as Sally Bowles—appealed to my sensibilities. And yet, after Stevie’s confession to Moira (Catherine O’Hara) that she’s afraid of being left behind, Hampshire’s gorgeous rendition of “Maybe This Time” exceeded even my own high expectations. The perfect meeting of character and song, it’s a rare moment for Stevie to step out “from behind the desk”: “You just stand your solid ground,” as Moira says during her lead-in pep talk, “refusing to be anyone but you.” Brava, Stevie. Brava. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Pop TV)

4. Special

Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Special Netflix Main.jpg
Creator and star Ryan O’Connell’s semi-autobiographical Netflix series is being heralded for how (ahem) brave it is: A disabled person! Who is gay! And has issues with his mom! And dating! And a crazy boss! All in eight 15-minutes-or-less episodes! And did we mention he has a super cool new bestie—Punam Patel’s Kim—who isn’t afraid to drop hard truths? Maybe that’s because O’Connell, who has cerebral palsy and who really did tell co-workers that his limitations were caused by a car accident, doesn’t make his own experience seem all that far from what so many of us go through, from issues with a parent to lying to ourselves about our own internal biases. Plus, again, the episodes are 15 minutes. What kind of a commitment are we asking for here? —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

3. Les Misérables

Network: PBS
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Written by Victor Hugo and published in 1862, Les Misérables is known as one of the great novels of the 19th century. And as the title implies, it’s all about misery, of a sort that’s difficult for most of us to imagine. The most recent retelling of the novel—which many people familiar with the story through the stage musical and its screen adaptations may not have read—is brought to you by Masterpiece, and it lives up to the name. There have been many prior versions of the tale, and most of them condense it to two or three hours. The beauty of turning Les Misérables into a miniseries is that we get a long view of the characters, finding new sides to well-known figures—Lily Collins’ Fantine, Dominic West’s Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo’s Javert—and finding depth in those, like Olivia Colman’s Madame Thénardier, who often come across as one-note. This Les Misérables may be the best one yet. —Keri Lumm (Photo: Laurence Cendrowicz/BBC)

2. The Masters Tournament

Network: CBS
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

The Masters Tiger 2019 .jpg
Though an earlier-than-normal start (on account of approaching storms) dampened the otherwise impressive ratings, the final round of the 2019 Masters Tournament needn’t have earned monster numbers to land on this list. Fourteen years removed from his last green jacket, 11 from his last major title, former supernova Tiger Woods completed one of the unlikeliest comebacks in the history of sports at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday. After multiple injuries and surgeries, tabloid scandal and subsequent divorce, and falling from the top-ranked golfer in the world to 1,199th, Woods’ come-from-behind win captivated even those who rarely tune in—which has, of course, always been his particular magic. Like his landmark victories in 1997, 2001, 2002, and 2005, this one was an instant classic. —Matt Brennan (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

1. Game of Thrones

Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: ineligible

I was giddy just watching the opening titles and seeing a big hole in The Wall and shouting out all the little details below Winterfell and King’s Landing while watching with friends. Because this felt like a TV event that you should gather people for, like the Super Bowl or The Great British Baking Show finale.

And while we were all waiting for Jon (Kit Harington) to find out that, like it or not, he’s a king, dammit, it was hard to beat opening scene with the Unsullied marching into Winterfell. That the camera remained with Arya (Maisie Williams), as she hid among the common people—just as she did when King Robert marched into town all those years ago—was the kind of patient, grand filmmaking that helped us fall in love with this show. It was all over too soon in 55 minutes. And with a grisly ending—I would not have put my money on little Lord Umber as the most well-known character to die tonight. Winter has been too long coming. So glad to be back. —Josh Jackson (Photo: HBO)

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