From the late Luke Perry final episode of Riverdale and Batman’s first appearance on Gotham to super-solid installments of Fosse/Verdon, Gentleman Jack, and Les Misérables, it’s the series that didn’t make this week’s Paste Power Rankings that show just how chock-full the schedule is. Oh, and a little program about the advance of a zombie army on a warring human civilization falls out of the top slot for the first time this season. It’s competitive out there, folks!
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.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fosse/Verdon, Gentleman Jack, Gotham, Jane the Virgin, Les Misérables, Now Apocalypse, The Red Line, Riverdale, Special, Supernatural
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
TV must evolve as society does. For too long on the small screen, it’s been shadowy, easily identifiable villains who attack and sexually assault women. Women have long known—and the #MeToo movement has brought to light—that consent, especially implied consent, isn’t always clear to men. In a storyline inspired by Kristen Roupenian’s The New Yorker short story, “Cat Person,” which went viral in 2017, an old friend of Alex (Matt Ward) writes a story about how she slept with a man she didn’t want to because she felt pressured to do so. Alex meets up with her in the hopes of profiling her for Scarlet only to discover, to his horror, that he is the man who is the subject of the short story. Alex is one of the “good” guys: At the top of the episode, he’s so pleased with himself and how he treats women. The storyline gives the underused Ward a chance to shine as Alex comes to terms with what he’s done and takes ownership of his actions. Now in its third season, the Freeform series remains unafraid to tackle difficult, murky subjects. While Alex is having a personal reckoning, Jane (Katie Stevens) is freezing her eggs and Kat (Aisha Dee) is considering a run for city council. The Bold Type celebrates millennials while acknowledging the tricky landscape their generation must navigate, all while being entertaining no matter what your age. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform/Philippe Bosse)
Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
As I hoped after “The Hungry Caterpillar,” though, Killing Eve continues to press on its protagonists’ soft spots, and it’s for that reason “Desperate Times” works. In particular, the episode uses its more-dour-than-ever back half to steer into Villanelle’s (Jodie Comer) skid, so that the over-the-top hideousness of the assassination in Amsterdam reads as a symptom of psychological distress: Coupled with her brutal (and genuinely frightening) attack on a rude woman in a dance club’s restroom, in which Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) has to intervene lest she kill the girl, we begin to sense at a more visceral level the burbling brook of rage and pain beneath her bubbly, bright-pink exterior. Similarly, Eve’s (Sandra Oh) neglect of Niko (Owen McDonnell)—who, in one of the series’ many canny gender-flip scenarios, accuses her of “gaslighting” him by claiming everything’s normal—finally blossoms into action, as she allows herself a fried chicken-fueled flirtation with the oily Hugo (Edward Bluemel). He understands her desire not to “die of boredom.” He credits her attraction to both watching and being watched. He leans in to kiss her without a lecture or a nag. He, like Villanelle, sees her. By the time it arrives at the many mirrors of its final moments—as Villanelle breaks down crying in the hotel bathroom; as Eve sees several forms of herself in her own face, in Carolyn (Fiona Shaw), even perhaps in the Ghost—Killing Eve goes through the glass darkly, and comes to reflect the allure of spinning out of control. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/BBCAmerica)
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
At long last, Bosch is back on the case.
Now officially Prime’s longest-running original series, the Los Angeles-set contemporary noir is, in its fifth season, as starkly wrought and subtly brutal as it’s ever been. With Harry (Titus Welliver) taking off on a dangerous undercover assignment deep in the desert, Maddie (Madison Lintz) stepping professionally into the ethical shadows tangled up in the legal corners of her dad’s world, and the very future of the Hollywood Homicide division possibly up in the air, Season Five sees every character in its sprawling ensemble cast—including our beloved Crate and Barrel—forced to reorient their perspectives more sharply than they have collectively had to in any of the series’ first four years, a move which ends up bolstering the storytelling from every angle. Because each season is so doggedly dedicated to the realistic minutiae of one or two long-term cases, to go into much more detail here about what those perspective shifts look like would risk any number of spoilers. Suffice it to say, though, with such a strong foundation to build on, the team behind Bosch felt comfortable raising the stakes significantly for Season Five—and for no one more than for Bosch himself. As Welliver told Paste when we visited the set last year, this season probably has the most action the series has ever seen—but, importantly, none of it’s contrived. “It’s all linked, and in [a] way that dictates that it’s real life-and-death this time. We really pull out all the stops. And with good reason, the audience will be concerned for his welfare.”
That said, the series has already been renewed for Season Six. Whatever stakes Bosch sets up next, we can’t wait. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)
Network: YouTube Premium
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
Last year, Cobra Kai, the YouTube Premium series that continues The Karate Kid story, was a delightful surprise. No one, certainly not TV critics, could have predicted that the first season would be so great. What a relief to report that the second season remains a highly entertaining and remarkably nuanced blast. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka are still fantastic as Daniel and Johnny, now grown men with their adolescent rivalry still intact more than three decades later. Against the backdrop of an homage to the 1980s (gotta love those slow-motion action sequences and music montages), Daniel opens the Miyagi-Do as a tribute to his sensei, Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita). Johnny, reunited with his own sensei, Kreese (a still sinister Martin Kove), struggles with how to teach his students honor while living by his creed of no mercy. The season ends on a devastating note, with a hint at a familiar face who might be part of Season Three (please oh please). The young cast is terrific and Macchio, who must have a portrait in the attic aging somewhere, is great. But I must call specific attention to Zabka, who brings such depth to his role—balancing humor and Johnny’s great one-liners with the struggles of a man for whom life hasn’t worked out the way he planned. If he doesn’t get an Emmy nomination this July, it might be time to sweep the leg of the Television Academy. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: YouTube Premium)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
A quarter-life crisis has never been sweeter than in Ramy. The half-hour Hulu dramedy follows a fictionalized version of star Ramy Youssef (who also writes many of the first season’s episodes) as he figures out life as a young Muslim Egyptian-American in New Jersey. Co-creators Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, along with showrunner Bridget Bedard, find an endearing doofus in Ramy and plenty to say about generational compromise, religious identity, and culture clash. Ramy is easy to watch, radically optimistic, and a groundbreaking portrayal of Islam on screen. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Barbara Nitke/Hulu)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
“The Long Night” is unique in that it’s the one Game of Thrones episode I will never watch again, under any circumstance. I do not need to relive that. If television could give you PTSD, this would have done the job. The real Night King is Miguel Sapochnik. This was the claustrophobic horror of the Battle of the Bastards dialed up to 11, and it makes Hardhome look like one of those YouTube videos where they put a cucumber behind a cat to make it jump. Did I enjoy it? I don’t think so. It was a marvel, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t say I had fun, even though I absolutely couldn’t look away. I don’t even know the answer to the question of whether or not this was a “good” episode. I think so? The pure outrageous choreography of the whole thing, which apparently took 55 days to shoot, certainly paid off in terms of pure spectacle. But was it great storytelling or simply an exercise in provoking horror before a deus-ex-Arya reversed the narrative in a split second? In terms of story, if you had told me before this episode that the Army of the Dead would totally dominate, have every major character cornered, and then Arya (Maisie Williams) would make a flying leap-kill of the Night King to undo an hour and a half of plot, I probably would have said, “That sounds kinda dumb.” But it didn’t feel dumb in the moment. —Shane Ryan (Photo: HBO)
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
There’s a moment near the end of “The Unknown” that underscores Pamela Adlon’s underappreciated talents as a director: After a run-in with an old pal (Griffin Dunne) and his much younger girlfriend, the last act of a long personal/professional flirtation with talent manager Mer Kodis (Marsha Thomason), and a subsequent fight with her own close friend/manager, Tressa (Rebecca Metz), actress Sam Fox (Adlon) mopes through the cast party for a reading of a new, Broadway-bound play. The camera follows her out into the vestibule—where, instead of bailing for her hotel room, Sam texts “Let’s go” to another potential love interest, Matthew Broderick’s therapist—and then back into the bar, where Norm Lewis’ rousing rendition of “On the Street Where You Live,” from My Fair Lady, brings a smile to her face and a tear to her eye. The scene perfectly captures the moment at which Sam decides to leap into “The Unknown,” and as with so much of Better Things, it is so sneakily beautiful and surprisingly moving it knocked me flat on my ass. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX)
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention
While you were off Tweeting about dragons, raising the dead, and bad lighting, let us remind that Thrones wasn’t the only show in HBO’s Sunday programming block that featured a young woman succeeding where grown-ups so epically failed and ended with deaths served as plot progression. In fact, this week’s episode of Barry, “Ronny/Lily”—which star Bill Hader directed and co-wrote with his series co-creator Alec Berg—is a master class in how to do dark comedy.
It opens as Hader’s hitman/struggling actor attempts to clean up the problem from last episode’s cliffhanger when Detective Loach (John Pirruccello) told him he’d ignore the fact that Barry killed his partner if he offed his wife’s new boyfriend, Ronny Proxin (Daniel Bernhardt). Because Barry’s a changed man, he decides he’s just going to show up at Ronny’s house in broad daylight wearing a ski mask and goggles and suggest he relocate to Chicago. Ronny, a taekwondo all-star, doesn’t agree: A fight between middle-aged men ensues as the camera more or less holds steady and the characters jump in and out of frame. Leaving Ronny to expire from a busted windpipe, Barry is about to be on his way when Ronny’s daughter (Jesse Giacomaszzi) comes home. Barry has a code and doesn’t want to harm the middle-schooler. Lily, rightly so, has no similar code, and Barry takes another beating. Not stopping there, Lily eventually jumps on top of his getaway car, sneaks in the back window and bites into the cheek of Barry’s handler, Fuchs (Stephen Root).
Ronny, who actually survived his run-in with Barry, is finally brought down in a (contrived, convenient) shoot-out at a grocery store at the end of the episode. So is Loach. And Barry uses this opportunity to end his relationship with Fuchs. But Lily? She’s still roaming free. I hope we get to see more of her particular brand of vigilante justice now that she’s had her superhero origin story. —Whitney Friedlander
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
The co-star and co-creator of Comedy Central’s dearly missed Detroiters, Saturday Night Live alum Tim Robinson is equally comfortable on either side of the camera—he’s a fantastic sketch comedy writer who’s just as good of a performer, and who has carved out a unique and immediately recognizable niche in both. And he puts both skills to brilliant use in his new Netflix show, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.
Robinson is a master of embarrassment. His sketches tend to focus on two types of characters: People who tell small lies that grow larger and more obvious as they refuse to come clean, and people who are too irrational, confused, or stubborn to understand what’s happening—or refuse to understand because that would require admitting their own ignorance. This might sound like typical cringe comedy turf, but Robinson keeps it fresh by extending ideas behind all bounds of logic, resulting in characters or situations so utterly absurd that you won’t even think of comparing them to such cringe comedy forefathers as Larry David or Ricky Gervais. —Garrett Martin (Photo: Lara Solanki/Netflix)
Network: CBS All Access
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
With “The One Where Diane and Liz Topple Democracy,” The Good Fight achieves the holy grail of the TV spin-off: It’s taken the animating question of The Good Wife—How far can you push the law?—and reinterpreted it for our own moment: Does the law even matter? As Diane (Christine Baranski) and Liz’s (Audra McDonald) “book club” debates whether or not to hack voting machines to right the disenfranchisement of voters in the 2016 presidential elections, or as Gary Carr, playing himself, shadows Roland (Michael Sheen) and Lucca (Cush Jumbo) to prepare for a role, The Good Fight is reminiscent of The Good Wife on a molecular level, and yet its characterization, aesthetic, tone, and plot are utterly without nostalgia for it. “What isn’t a lie these days, though?” Gary asks Lucca when she explains why she doesn’t like TV. “Politics, art, science: Everything is TV.” The Good Fight would know: It’s the best show on television. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)