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

Week of 6/11/2018

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

The (unofficial) start of summer has brought with it a host of new and returning TV series, many of the breezy (Younger), brightly colored (Claws), bomb-throwing (Dietland), or otherwise bombastic variety—which, let’s face it, is just the thing for those sultry nights in. Add a trio of Emmy-angling dramas nearing the end of their second seasons, the capstone to a strong debut run, and a very dramatic celebration of the theatrical arts and you’ve got a Paste TV Power Ranking that’s perfect for the season. Someone pass the s’mores.

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:
Billions, The Break with Michelle Wolf, Claws, Pose

10. Dietland
Network: AMC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

AMC’s newest prestige hopeful, Dietland, is a RIDE, so ambitious and wildly stylized as to be nearly uncategorizable. Everything that it is a bit like—Ugly Betty, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Lizzie McGuire, Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme—is an ambitiously stylized cultural giant on its own, but not one of those has been so brazen, so explicitly, murderously dark, so obsessively in service to an unapologetically female, brutally anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchy, anti-fat-shaming story as to merit a 1:1 comparison. I genuinely DON’T KNOW what to make of Dietland, but after a two-hour premiere that screamed (better yet, hissed) “allegory” like some kind of beauty industry Wizard of Oz, a follow-up episode that 1) put the heroine’s romantic interest in a full on tiger costume; 2) dropped murdered sexual predators from the sky; 3) showcased feminine collusion in patriarchal systems; and 4) hacked its OWN episode in the middle of said collusion to cut in with the videotaped confessions of said murdered sexual predators, and the consistently fantastic performances from Joy Nash, Julianna Margulies, Tamara Tunie, Erin Darke, Trammell Tillman, and yes, Adam Rothenberg as the detective/sex tiger of Plum’s dreams, I am so incredibly along for the ride. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Patrick Harbron/AMC)

9. Legion
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention

Legion is slowly turning into a Greek tragedy this season with the villain (The Shadow King Farouk) manipulating circumstances so that the hero (David) will become an even more destructive force, thereby turning Farouk into the hero. He does this by kidnapping David’s girlfriend Syd and then turning her against David. The ironies are as twisted as David’s mind, which may be free from the parasitic control of Farouk, but not from the trauma he’s caused. Syd watches in disbelief as David becomes increasingly more sadistic as he tortures Oliver for information on Syd. The looping narratives are finally catching up with the stylistic brilliance that has kept our attention even when the plot has crawled this season. And any Legion episode where Kerry gets to battle monk warriors is going to be entertaining, especially when they’re crawling out of a surreal drain in the earth with a enormous pink stopper. —Josh Jackson (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX)

8. The Handmaid’s Tale
Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

While not as richly layered with visual symbolism as some previous episodes, “Women’s Work” advances the narrative a great deal and, in particular, shows each of the primary characters what is at stake for them—what happens to them, specifically—when order is maintained and when it is disrupted. Neither comes without a price. Once you’ve taken the packet of letters out of your husband’s trunk, you’ve crossed one dangerous line, and once you’ve gone Gilead on your child-bride for touching your stuff, you’ve created the conditions for other problems when she’s tired of being treated like a pointless piece of furniture. Once you’ve told the batsy Handmaid she can say goodbye to the baby she gave birth to, you’ve opened a certain door. Once you’ve let your Wife draw up your paperwork for you, she’s going to start remembering she has a mind of her own, and she might use it. Once you’ve whipped your wife in front of the Handmaid, you’ve enforced order at the expense of trust, which is a bad trade for most men, though for all of recorded history they’ve been weirdly slow to notice it. Once you’ve done that, you’ve identified yourself as someone who feels entitled to violence against women. Which probably means you’d beat a child, too, if they “deserved” it. —Amy Glynn (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

7. The Fosters
Network: Freeform
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

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After five seasons and 104 episodes, The Fosters signed off with a three-night series finale. Yes, much of the finale, set at the Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos, seemed like an ad for the luxurious vacation destination. But strip away the bungalow suites and all-inclusive cocktails and what made the series so special was still there as the family gathered for Brandon’s (David Lambert) wedding. Premiering in 2013, the series about Stef (Teri Polo), her wife, Lena (Sherri Saum), Stef’s biological son, Brandon, and the couple’s four adopted children—twins Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Jesus (Noah Centineo), Jude (Hayden Byerly) and his half-sister, Callie (Maia Mitchell), checked all the social progressive boxes. Over the years, this show about a gay couple raising ethnically diverse teens took on took on immigration, the foster care system, adoption, abortion, eating disorders, gun control, and LGBTQ rights. (And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head.) Jude realized he was gay and embarked on several romances that were treated the same as the show’s other teen romances. The series regularly featured transgender characters, one of whom (Aaron, played by Elliot Fletcher) became Callie’s boyfriend. The show did all this while always being an entertaining, well-executed family drama that educated viewers without being pedantic. The series finale aged everyone up so viewers could see the Foster siblings as young adults and set up the spin-off centered around Callie and Mariana. The lives of this loving, ground-breaking family will continue, and thankfully we will be able to see some of them again. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Freeform)

6. The Expanse
Network: Syfy
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

One of the most interesting pieces of world building The Expanse has pulled off since the pilot is the utterly credible cultural density of the Belters, whose geospatial place in the solar system and psychosocial place in the hierarchy of humanity has resulted in extreme physical, linguistic, and ideological differences between them and the “Inners”—much greater difference, across the board, than anything between the people of Earth and Mars, whose very real differences led to the humanity-wide Civil War that dominated the front half of this season. That con-hearted conflict is over now, and, with humanity’s psychic energy turned to the mysterious, gargantuan ring the protomolecule set up at the edge of the solar system moments after the war ended, the Belters—whose eleventh-hour intervention stopped the war, and in whose backyard this new threat hangs—are finally positioned to be taken seriously as a legitimate authority. Or at least, they ought to be. But Belter culture is too innately punk rock to wear that mantle of rule-abiding authority easily, and Earth and Mars are ever on their smug bullshit, and between them and the suffocating uncertainty of the protomolecule ring tying them all together, the tension in the back half of this season has been crackling. That tension broke beautifully in “Intransigence,” when Naomi (Dominique Tipper), who had left the Roci to crew up with the Mormon-generation-ship-cum-battlecruiser captained by Drummer (Cara Gee), realized that she had changed allegiances for the wrong reasons and made the decision to defect back. Her decision manifested as the comfortable Belter brogue she’d (re-) established as a part of that community faded away, as she had to explain herself to Drummer. When a show is able to use details that small to give shape to both the personal and political facets of its story, you know it is doing something great. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Rafy/Syfy)

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 401 Main.jpeg
Kimmy’s greatest asset has always been its ability to cram an innumerable amount of jokes and pop culture references into a neon-hued 30-odd minute show that is really about a grown woman (played by Ellie Kemper) who is stunted with an unimaginable level of PTSD. After all, her childhood was spent in a bunker, as a victim of kidnapping and serial rape. Those gags were certainly on point for the first half of Season Four, which hit Netflix on May 30 (the other half will be released later). I’m still laughing about Tituss Burgess’ character, Titus Andromedon, saying, “OK, you know how Al Gore invented the Internet? Well, he also invented a rhythm for it. It’s called the al-gore-ithm. It learns about you and picks things it knows you like,” when he teaches Kimmy how to binge watch. Or Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) quipping, “Tourists are too savvy now. I blame NBC’s Smash” when she can’t sell tickets to a school play in Times Square.

But the season’s pièce de résistance is clearly the third episode, “Party Monster: Scratching the Surface.” A parody of the true-crime drama trend for which Netflix only has itself to blame, the episode gives voice to Kimmy’s now imprisoned captor, Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm)—a little too much voice, actually. The fake reverend leads a naïve documentarian right into his clutches and turns an innocent never-meet-your-idols moment into a petition for his release through fabricated evidence and MRA tactics. It’s topical, scary and (somehow) funny. Luckily, none of this will completely falter our heroine, who spends the remaining part of the season accepting that she can use her experience to stop young boys from growing up to be perverts and assholes.

Will it work? The sixth episode ends with spies seemingly running surveillance outside her apartment. Given the show’s propensity for stunt casting, we really hope this is nothing dire and just some big joke about Philip and Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans coming back for one more gig. (Hey, Kimmy’s new season did premiere on the same day as the FX series’ finale). —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix)

4. Younger
Network: TV Land
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Though Younger has always had its finger on the cultural pulse—among its many charms are its brilliant takedowns of literary figures from Karl Ove Knausgård to Marie Kondo—its tackling of #MeToo might be the series’ most head-on treatment of the zeitgeist yet. In the season premiere, ”#LizaToo,” protagonist Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) finds herself in a difficult position with the lecherous Edward L.L. Moore (Richard Masur), a cash cow for the publisher who’s been accused of making “lewd and inappropriate comments” to women. To Younger’s credit, the episode works through a range of responses to the allegations—Liza, afraid to rock the boat, describes Moore as a flirty old man; Charles and Diana (Miriam Shor) arrange a training seminar; unscrupulous up-and comer Zane Anders (Charles Michael Davis) waves off the accusation as part of a smear campaign from a rival publisher—before landing on one more of its devilish cliffhangers, reflecting the halting progress we’ve made in naming, much less addressing, sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. —Matt Brennan (Photo: TV Land)

3. Vida
Network: Starz
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

Vida Power Rankings Main.jpeg
Even though Sunday’s season finale ended with a violent (and unfortunately all-too-real) cliffhanger that left a LGBTQ character on death’s door just as her grown stepdaughters have come to accept her, it is rather kismet that one of the most queer-positive new shows on TV concluded its first season run the same weekend that so many in the community were also celebrating Pride. As we’ve argued before, creator Tanya Saracho’s Starz dramedy is the anti-Roseanne: an inclusive production that also boasts a fully Latinx writers room—a necessity given that the story centers on the Latinx community in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights and deals with the same wariness of outsiders, fluidity of identity and nettlesome family dynamics as many Americans, no matter their heritage or sexuality. And now that the series has been renewed for a second season, we can not only learn if Ser Anzoategui’s Eddy survives that coma, but also see if Vida can help more viewers wake up and learn something. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Starz)

2. Westworld
Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: 9

“Kiksuya,” a Lakota word for “to remember, recall, recollect, or call to mind” serves as the title of Westworld’s best episode so far this season, and one that threads the tricky needle of being both a self-contained episode of TV and one that adds depth to the show’s mythos and plot as a whole. That’s because this is the first time the Ghost Nation is given real significance, and because of the phenomenal Zahn McClarnon: He’s romantic, fierce, curious—selling the ups and downs of a derailed love story (told almost entirely in Lakota) with his soft voice, sad eyes, and wry, thin grin unveiled from layers of face paint. —Jacob Oller (Photo: HBO)

1. The 72nd Annual Tony Awards
Network: CBS
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

the tonys power rankings.jpg
Will there be a more meaningful, moving and beautiful live TV moment this year than the drama students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School singing “Seasons of Love”? Poised well beyond their years and sounding pretty damn good, the students brought depth and meaning to the lyric, “How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?” That stunning moment was just one of many in an awards show that brings together Broadway’s best to celebrate live theater. Bruce Springsteen performed, Rachel Bloom provided fan-infused backstage commentary, and Robert De Niro said what so many of us were thinking. There were Mean Girls, Spongebob and Anna and Elsa. We all realized we need to buy tickets to A Band’s Visit. Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles were delightful hosts who are clearly Broadway fans (as well as Broadway stars). From their opening number about losing to their tongue-in-cheek banter, they were clearly having a good time, and that kind of hosting is infectious: If the hosts are having fun, so will you. Tell all the gang on 42nd street, this was the best Tony Awards in years. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: CBS)

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