Though all eyes are on this morning’s Oscar nominations, TV continues to heat up, too, as more new and returning series join the fray. This week, that means 10 different networks are represented in Paste’s Power Rankings, and that’s excluding honorable mentions: From family melodramas (no, not This Is Us) to documentaries, stoner comedies to sci-fi anthologies, we’ve got you covered. Until next week, happy watching!
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.
The Alienist, Alone Together, Corporate, Counterpart, Victoria, WWE Raw 25
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
James (Alex Lawther) is 17 and kills enough small animals that he truly believes he’s a psychopath. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is 17 and kills nothing, not that her words lack for trying. Both are unbelievably good at being at the wrong intensity levels for normal human interaction: Barden goes loud and acerbic, while Lawther shuts down so completely it’s hard to tell if he was born or simply emerged from the Britain’s collective post-punk sigh, like a Promethean clay figure stirring from Athena’s breath. But The End of the F—ing World doesn’t want your morbid fascination. Or, unlike almost every other show with similar subject matter, it doesn’t want it to stay morbid. A show about a boy bent on killing his road trip partner as the two high schoolers run away from home sounds more like the grisly true-crime TV we’ve been groomed to enjoy since news channels realized fear, violence and tragedy attracted eyeballs. Yet the The End of the F—ing World gives the middle finger to this Nightcrawler-esque worldview, finding hope in a world of psychopaths, within the context of a TV landscape that loves them. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
If your knowledge of Lorraine Hansberry is limited, as mine was, to reading her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun sometime in grade school, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart counts as a revelation, especially on the subject of her early life and career. A radical black feminist raised in relative affluence on Chicago’s South Side, where her father, Carl, challenged segregated housing covenants in the 1930s—the inspiration for Raisin—and a wunderkind jack-of-all-trades at the pioneering newspaper Freedom, Hansberry lived and wrote her politics with courage and conviction. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, which features interviews with Raisin stars Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in addition to friends, family, and an array of black cultural historians and literary critics, is a fitting treatment of her legacy. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of David Attie/PBS)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
DACA. Traumatic Brain Injuries. Recurrent childhood leukemia. Charter school independence. A stalker ex-boyfriend. Yes The Fosters covered all these topics in its most recent hour. But the genius of the show is that it never is too preachy and its characters never too saintly. The series educates its target audience about critical current issues—be it immigration or transgender rights—without ever being condescending to its viewers. All while having the requisite ingredients for a teen family drama, like love triangles and overprotective parents. I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical when Noah Centineo took over the role of Jesus, but he has brought a palpable vulnerability to the character, especially as he’s battled with his TBI. Now in its final season, The Fosters doesn’t offer easy solutions to living in today’s world, but it always gives you hope that things are going to be OK. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform/Mitch Haaseth)
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
If you’re in the mood for some serious dystopian foxfire, riddled with existential dread and quirkily romantic, you’re in for a treat. This anthology of wonderfully filmed episodes can be seen in whatever order pleases you, and the subject, style and genre vary broadly, though the episodes share a sumptuous production sensibility and terrific casting.
The what-ifs span numerous worlds and times and alternate realities, but each questions the fundamental human-ness of humans and they do it in some awfully clever and affecting ways. Timothy Spall plays a railway worker who finds himself in an alternate world where that thing you wish hadn’t happened actually never did. Geraldine Chaplin plays a 300-year-old woman on a mission to see Earth before she dies. Jack Gore’s father (Greg Kinnear) is replaced by an alien, and no, it’s not an overactive imagination and angst about his parents’ imminent divorce: The dude’s an alien. Each episode is richly imaginative, directed with seat-edge-gripping tension, and peopled with strikingly strong performers (Chaplin, Spall, and Benedict Wong, as a cynical tour-spaceship operator, are standouts, but there’s not really any significant dead space here). Some are post-apocalyptic, some are not. Some have a decidedly dystopian feel and some are just plain old neurotic. Each clocks in at a little under an hour, and while sci-fi isn’t always my go-to genre, I didn’t find a single episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams to be anything but compelling. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
In case you’ve been stuck in one of STAR Labs’ definitely illegal metahuman containment cells for the past year and haven’t already seen ads and trailers across the Internet, all over The CW, and even in NBA commercial breaks, Salim Akil’s Black Lightning series brings to life not only the first black superhero to lead a live-action DCU television property, but the first lead who is a superheroing veteran, the first who’s a father of grown children, the first who’s regularly, physically affected by the systemic evils festering in the community he’s sworn to protect. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) may have taken on the crime lords and criminal politicians plaguing the darkest corners of Star City, but as a rich white man in his non-vigilante life, the only Glades-born violence he had to worry about facing when he walked out his front door was that which was personally directed at him as a poorly disguised vigilante; Jefferson Pierce—a black man living in what might as well be Belair-Edison or Inglewood or Ferguson, for all that the series is unflinchingly reflective of both gang and police violence indiscriminately threatening black communities in our real world—has no such luxury. Black Lightning is a stellar, heart-pounding post-retirement outing. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: The CW)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
The Chi functions as a resounding response to President Trump’s continual attacks on Chicago. It serves as eloquent proof that the people who inhabit the city are much more than statistics. That there is a complex vitality to the city and the people who live there. The president seems to delight in demonizing Chicago, particularly by focusing on the city’s crime rate. But The Chi pulls back the layers to reveal the causes of the strife and the real people behind the headlines. Like the neighborhoods you live in, there are people who care about their community, parents who love their children, adults who work hard. The Chi is about the choices we make every day. But it’s also about life—the crushes, the friendships, the families that are the very fabric of our existence, on the south side of Chicago and everywhere. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Matt Dinerstein/SHOWTIME)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
On the morning of his 1997 murder, the Italian fashion designer (Edgar Ramirez) strolls through his Miami Beach palace in a flowing, fluorescent robe, the camera retreating skyward as he breakfasts by the pool; the corresponding image of his killer, Andrew Cunanan (the magnetic, frightening Darren Criss), peers in on the con man as he tosses off his matching pink cap and vomits into a toilet, then pauses for a glimpse of the message etched into the bathroom stall: a rough drawing of two dicks, with the caption “Filthy faggots.” From here, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which premieres tonight on FX, unspools in reverse, tracing the lives of its two main characters back to their childhoods—and among its constants is that unutterable word, that unforgivable commonplace, that useful descriptor, that reclamation. The “crime” in this season of American Crime Story is the assassination of Gianni Versace, certainly, but it’s also, doubtless, homophobia itself, socialized and self-inflicted, individual and internecine: At the heart of the anthology’s magnificent second act is a potent, political, possibly even dangerous reconsideration of what it means to be called a faggot, and then what it means to become one. —Matt Brennan
Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
Still narrated by the irreplaceable Sir David Attenborough and still wall-to-wall mesmerizing, the seven episodes of Blue Planet II have stunning photography, enhanced by a lush score by Hans Zimmer and a beautiful, shimmering, crackling, scuttling, subtly ringing quality to the sound editing, so you really feel as though you’re in the water. You’ll see some images familiar to those who enjoyed the original series—the way a whale carcass on the ocean floor feeds an entire community of deep-sea dwellers for months or years; the relationship between turtles (and corals) and the moon. The sense of vastness and mystery and infinite diversity is still very much there and very much amazing. Now, though, there is no question that the time for pure celebration of the interlocking diversity of sea life (which includes us) is over. It’s time, not to despair, but to act. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Paul Williams/BBC America)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
The season premiere of Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld’s former web series, which made the move to HBO in 2016, is set during an unspecified catastrophe—and though more that one observer has described it, probably rightly, as a depiction of the day after the most recent presidential election, it’s this blurriness at the episode’s margins that bolsters its bleak humor. “Globo” might be set in the aftermath of a bombing, a mass shooting, an earthquake, an eruption; the point is that this state of crisis has become (or in fact been) the status quo, and that life has a way of going on anyway. Following “The Guy” (Sinclair) through three disparate scenarios—including a woman’s deliriously enjoyable threesome with two muscle-bound men—the episode finds High Maintenance continuing to stretch its legs, examining the ways we disconnect from the world at large, and the fact that we can never quite manage to make it disappear entirely. —Matt Brennan (Photo: David Giesbrecht/HBO)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
When I finally got around to catching up with “Rhonda, Diana, Jake and Trent” on Sunday, I remember thinking, “I have no fucking idea where The Good Place goes from here, but it’s my favorite show on TV right now and it’s not even close.” The episode, named for the main quartet’s aliases (Jake Jortles!) on a mission to the heart of the Bad Place, earns that praise and then some. As ever, it’s wickedly, wackily funny (“How do you smell loud and confusing?”), with a particularly strong showing for Manny Jacinto’s Jason Mendoza—dressed in a natty suit—as the live-action Vincent Adultman we need: “”Take my credit card to the hedge fund, I’ll meet you at the martini store,” he says, before Janet (D’Arcy Carden) takes back his briefcase. But it’s also, even more impressively, a sneakily moving moment of truth for Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and Michael (Ted Danson), whose emerging friendship has lent the series’ sublime second season its definitively good heart. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC)