Paste‘s TV Power Rankings

Week of 11/13/2017

TV Lists power rankings
Paste‘s TV Power Rankings

A tie is a cop out, perhaps, but this week’s TV Power Ranking put the Paste team in a pickle. Edging out stalwarts like Crazy Ex Girlfriend (last week’s No. 1) and Stranger Things, the two series that share the top slot are both daring, deeply underappreciated comedies, both of which have (likely) aired their last episode. As our joint winners this week make clear, rules are made to be broken: Call it a cop out if you like, but we’re glad to see Nathan for You and Vice Principals go out on a high note—together.

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:
30 for 30: Nature Boy, Better Things, black-ish, Jane the Virgin, Mindhunter

10. The Walking Dead
Network: AMC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

The Walking Dead has gotten off to a pretty shaky start in its eighth season, but as Rick’s personal war against Negan begins to heat up, it’s finding surer footing. Sunday’s episode, “Some Guy,” was easily Season Eight’s best to date, focusing on Shakespearean actor/zoo trainer/tiger enthusiast King Ezekiel as he leads an extremely ill-fated attack against The Saviors and then has to grapple with the extreme consequences on his actions. The Walking Dead will never be the sort of show that is praised for its subtleties, which means it’s usually relying on action and fast-moving plot progression, which this episode had in spades—zombie spearing, people getting cleaved in twain with battle axes, cars flying down embankments and Carol mowing down entire rooms full of men twice her size. The episode even managed to deliver the season’s most genuinely upsetting emotional payoff so far, which is more than enough to let it squeak into the power rankings for now. Fan consensus always seems to be souring on The Walking Dead, but if it can keep up the momentum of “Some Guy,” perhaps it can actually rise on this list, rather than simply hoping to remain on it for another week. —Jim Vorel (Photo: AMC)

9. Grey’s Anatomy
Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

My love for Grey’s Anatomy is well documented, so this is definitely a biased opinion. But the 300th episode of the venerable medical drama was a love note to long-time fans. From the fond remembrance of characters past (in some cases represented by their younger doppelgängers), to the surprisingly poignant cameo, to the show making fun of itself with Miranda Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) shock at a supply room tryst where there isn’t even a lock on the door, to the focus on protagonist Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo, who definitely doesn’t get enough credit), Grey’s Anatomy proved why it’s highly likely the series will celebrate its 400th episode someday. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC/Derek Johnson)

8. Ill Behaviour
Network: Showtime
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Some reviews of this BBC series have been… lackluster, and I wasn’t expecting to love it. I might love it more than most people. Perhaps TV programs are all actually Rorschach tests, because I might relate more deeply than some to characters who are still relentlessly trying to work through karma-saturated relationships from high school as their hairlines recede and their partners divorce them. Maybe it says more about me than it does about the show that I found the premise (tailspinning divorced-but-rich guy finds his best friend has cancer and is foregoing chemo for “holistic healing” and enlists a mutual best friend and a Satanically unethical doctor to abduct him and force him to undergo treatment) not only original and daring but endearing and even… um, romantic? I did! Call me kooky. But this is the funniest and most poignant thing I’ve seen in ages and I utterly adored it. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Jon Hall/SHOWTIME)

7. The Long Road Home
Network: National Geographic Channel
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

The Long Road Home kicked off its eight-part mini-series with a nail-biting episode about the April 2004 ambush of the 1st Calvary Division on a peace keeping mission in Sadr City, Baghdad. E. J. Bonilla is a stand out as Lt. Shane Aguero who inadvertently leads his men straight into danger. Aguero is the epitome of calm under pressure. Lt. Col Gary Volesky (Michael Kelly) prides himself on having never lost a man in battle. His confidence is palpable. One thing The Long Road Home makes abundantly clear is that there is no room for wavering. In the face of incredible danger and unimaginable circumstances, Aguero and Volesky must lead decisively and with conviction. The Long Road Home is an unflinching look at the terrors of war, the heroes war creates, and the sacrifices of all involved. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: National Geographic Channel)

6. Stranger Things
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Stranger Things Season Two is full of the same kinds of joyful moments of television that made its breakout first season so fun. If ‘80s nostalgia, plucky kids, pre-teen awkwardness, scary-but-not-terrifying monsters, goofy minor characters and emotional reunions aren’t your thing, I get it, go ahead and skip this one. But if you loved the first season, loved Goonies and E.T. and the John Hughes canon, you may find yourself binging all nine episodes in a weekend. The world gets a little bigger than Hawkins, Indiana, and the stakes get a little higher, but at its heart, six kids must face up to their monsters, metaphorical and real, to a perfect ‘80s soundtrack. —Josh Jackson

5. Lady Dynamite
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Lady Dynamite has always been a very easy show to recommend to some and a very difficult show to recommend to others. This is in part because of how successfully it melds the strongest attributes of its creators (South Park’s Pam Brady, Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz, and Maria Bamford) into one singular voice. If that voice speaks to you, its specificity often feels like a one-to-one connection. Returning after an 18-month hiatus, Lady Dynamite doubles down on these qualities while also cohering faster than the first: Season Two, which picks up on last season’s present-day timeline while flashing back to Maria’s childhood and forward to the future, has a real streak of optimism to it. Even with conflicts and mania looming on the horizon, it makes Season One’s peppy steps forward look almost fatalistic by comparison. —Graham Techler (Photo: Netflix)

4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 1

“Move on, dude.” This impulse to sweep disappointment under the rug—introduced as Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) tries to get over Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), and later repeated by Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s band of “needy misfits” tries to cope with Rebecca’s resignation—is the subject of “I Never Want to See Josh Again,” the darkest hour to date in the series’ jet-black third season. After the concentrated fury of last week’s revenge-themed stunner, Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s musical comedy deepens its daring treatment of mental illness; by the episode’s denouement, the sunny (if skewed) rhythms of Rebecca’s girl-group inspired ditty about her mother (Tovah Feldshuh) turns into a frank confrontation with despair. Its characters may dream of moving on, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is committing to examining, in its own offbeat fashion, the ugly details of its protagonist’s descent. If there’s a more ambitious show on TV right now, I am not aware of it. Watch. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW)

3. Alias Grace
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Alias Grace Column Main.jpg
Adapted by Sarah Polley from Margaret Atwood’s historical novel, and directed by Mary Harron with forthright shudders of psychological horror, this sterling Canadian limited series is a tightly constructed marvel. In Canada in 1859, “celebrated murderess” Grace Marks (the brilliant Sarah Gadon) submits to an interview with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), and their ongoing conversation unearths a pattern of violence and trauma, which Alias Grace spins into a scintillating mystery, an intricate biographical portrait, a lushly appointed period drama, and a ferocious treatment of the distance between what “the world at large” deigns to call harm and the countless ways men cause it. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix)

T1. Vice Principals
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Who knew Vice Principals would ultimately be a (sort of) tender, (somewhat) touching treatise on love and friendship? The HBO show from Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green finished its second (and last) season by reaffirming the deeply weird friendship between McBride’s Neil Gamby and Walton Goggins’s Lee Russell. The Fatal Attraction twist in the finale might have been a bit telegraphed, and it and the graphic tiger attacks might have been on the more cartoonish end of the show’s spectrum, but both fit the violence-suffused heightened reality that the show has always been set in. In the end Vice Principals does right by its most uncomfortably beleaguered character, Kimberly Hebert Gregory’s Belinda Brown (who was deeply missed this second season), and provides relatively happy endings for both of its leads while still not fully celebrating or rewarding them for their vile behavior over the last school year. And yeah, if you’re a Kenny Powers fan who’s been sitting on the fence with this one, Vice Principals was a worthy follow-up to Eastbound & Down. —Garrett Martin (Photo: Fred Norris/HBO)

T1. Nathan for You
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

nathan for you finale main 2.png
In its fourth and possibly final season, Nathan For You continues to be the most challenging critique of capitalism and television currently airing. That’s an obnoxious way to start this blurb, I realize, especially when I’m talking about the funniest show around—the kind of show that can reduce even the most hardened comedy snob to the painful kind of runaway laughter that is typically the province of childhood. But it’s also true. Nathan Fielder, playing a slightly more awkward version of his real self (I think?), continues to skewer American business and reality TV with merciless, cringe-worthy precision, all while exposing the fundamental weirdness at the heart of modern man. The two-hour season finale, which is the best and most unique episode he’s ever done, features a 78-year-old Bill Gates impersonator trying to re-connect with the lost love of his youth. “Finding Frances” does what no NFY episode has ever done—it moves the viewer in a way that is utterly without irony. At the same time, it is never sentimental. Bill is a flawed man, to say the least, and only sympathetic in small doses. The fact that his pursuit of Frances can feel heartwarming and deeply unsettling all within the span of one episode is remarkable. Also remarkable? Nathan uses Comedy Central’s money to visit an escort in Arkansas over and over again, which is a concept that only gets funnier the longer I think about it. (The moment when he gives her a lap dance is the artistic apex of 21st century television.) Somehow, even this feels integrated with the narrative. At one point, the escort watches old episodes of Fielder’s show, and she tells him it’s funny, but mean. This is true, but only insofar as it’s true of the society in which Fielder plies his trade. And it reflects life in late capitalist society—it is funny, it is cruel, and it is lonely. It takes an absurdist like Fielder to capture it all, and “Finding Frances” is deserving of all the awards it definitely will not win. —Shane Ryan (Photo: Comedy Central)

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