Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from Rebel to Wynonna Earp

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<i>Paste</i> Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from <i>Rebel</i> to <i>Wynonna Earp</i>

Spring has sprung! Well, -ish. Buds and blossoms are starting to appear, and so too is new TV. This week saw the advent of the CW’s remake of Kung Fu, which (this time) is actually focused on Asian American stories. Katey Sagal has returned to the small screen in Rebel, as a kind of Gemma-lite from Sons of Anarchy (she’s on the right side of the law this go-round). And Netflix has given us a new crime docuseries to obsess over in In This a Robbery that, for once, doesn’t involved murder! (At least, not primarily).

The changing season also means saying goodbye to some things, such as Showtime’s long-running drama Shameless. It wasn’t perfect, but its legacy in TV canon is secure. Wynonna Earp also took its final bow (for now, anyway), and you’ll see that its joyous finale rewarded in the ranking below.

The rules for the Power Rankings are simple: Any current 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 (ending Sunday) —or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous four weeks. The voting panel is composed of Paste Editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes.

Honorable Mention: The Great Pottery Throw Down (HBO Max), Invincible (Amazon), The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney+), Kung Fu (The CW), The Moodys (FOX)

5. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Network: Disney+
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week: The only reason this show still ranks is because of Zemo and Ayo. Wakanda Forever!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier may kick off with a brutal, cinematic-quality action sequence, but that’s not really what sets the tone for the MCU’s latest superhero TV show—or at least, it shouldn’t.

More interesting is that, for Sam/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), their time with the Avengers has been a kind of extended military tour of duty. Now, Sam is trying to reconnect with his widowed sister and her sons, and save his family’s fishing business. When they go to apply for a loan, there’s a cheeky reference to “how do [the Avengers] make money?” with no good answer. “Isn’t there some kind of Hero’s Fund?” the loan officer asks. This and the general hesitation for the loan to be approved feels like a not-so-coded reference to very real issues and biases faced by veterans, especially BIPOC veterans. Meanwhile, Bucky’s issues are largely internal. He isn’t in financial trouble, but he has no friends or family. When his therapist tells him that he’s free now, he answers “to do what?” He’s 106 years old, has no history and no life, and finds the modern world overwhelming and alienating.

Whereas Wanda Maximoff was ensconced in her own world, TFATWS is very firmly in our own. (It also presupposes a much deeper knowledge of the Marvel movies than Wanda did, with lots of casual references to them and a lack of introduction for anyone else.) Tonally it’s along the lines of The Winter Soldier and the start of Civil War, at least regarding political jockeying and America-centric military issues. That’s both good and bad. On the one hand, the series could delve into some very worthy considerations of what it means to serve, to come home, to feel unmoored by a world that has moved past you; it could even reach Wanda-levels of introspection and emotional resonance regarding consequence. On the other, it could devolve into more of how this first episode starts: Call of Duty-esque mumbo jumbo, murder, explosions. That vibe has its place (like, say, innumerable blockbusters and more than a handful of network TV shows). But six episodes is not a lot of time to spend time doing both, at least not well. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will need to pick a side: for America’s sake, I hope it’s the right one. —Allison Keene


4. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Thumbnail image for zoeys-extraordinary-playlist-boty.JPG

Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: The show hits its 100th song!

There’s nothing on TV quite like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Where else can you find exuberant musical numbers, razor sharp satire of the tech world, snappy, pop-culture infused dialogue (“You look like a sad Emma Stone Halloween costume”), groundbreaking choreography, and an eloquently honest portrayal of grief? Nowhere else, that’s where. Zoey represents all the potential network TV has to take big, creative swings and hit the mark.

In its second season, Zoey (deftly portrayed by Jane Levy)—who hears other characters inner most thoughts through song—is still reeling from the death of her father (Peter Gallagher) and faced with a daunting promotion at work while trying to decide between her two suitors Max (Skyar Astin) and Simon (John Clarence Stewart). There are some big changes (Lauren Graham is out, Harvey Guillén is in—at least for awhile), but it all works perfectly to create the kind of joyful, cathartic series we need right now. —Amy Amatangelo


3. Rebel

Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Katey Sagal slays this highly entertaining premiere.

Rebellious women with causes are Krista Vernoff’s area of expertise. As the showrunner of two of ABC’s most high-profile dramas, her juicy characters’ ends always justify their means. Now, the showrunner turns her eye to Annie “Rebel” Bello (Katey Sagal), a feisty and fiery crusader against corporate greed and injustice. Rebel, which joins ABC’s successful Thursday line-up, represents the first time Vernoff—who has years of writing and producing other people’s shows—has launched her own series. 

Based on Erin Brockovich, Rebel is Vernoff’s favorite type of female character: a complex heroine juggling an extremely messy personal life. Rebel has “three different kids with three different husbands,” and is about to celebrate her tenth anniversary with Grady (John Corbett, winning over viewers with his trademark lackadaisical charm). Rebel has all the ingredients to make a terrific show. A strong ensemble. Quick witted dialogue. Interesting cases. Romantic entanglements. Interpersonal strife. A force to be reckoned with lead. She’s a rebel with a cause and she’s a delight to watch. —Amy Amatangelo


2. This Is a Robbery

Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: The first episode of this docuseries is its best, a fascinating and almost spooky intro to an infamous Boston crime.

Oftentimes true crime series have such heavy, soul-crushing topics. Though fascinating, they can be difficult to watch all in one sitting. A select few true crime series can have both an enticing storyline and not be incredibly sad or traumatizing; thankfully, Netflix’s new This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist fits the bill. Similar to Sandi Tan’s documentary Shirkers about missing strips of film, or perhaps even the recent McMillions on HBO, This Is a Robbery is a lost and (sort of) found caper that’s actually quite fun to watch. Instead of the McDonald’s Monopoly game prize or a student film, the missing items here are paintings. Huge museum paintings, to be exact.

This Is a Robbery explores the mystery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a gorgeous spot that’s well-known to most Boston locals but fairly off-the-map for those new to the city. Right away, the first episode does exactly what it’s meant to do: pique your interest. A museum robbery sounds like something straight out of a James Bond film, and This Is a Robbery treats the topic as such. The music growls as talking heads recreate the night of the crime from memory; the dramatization throws us into the museum to witness the paintings being torn from the walls. Was the security guard in on the job? Maybe the ghost of Isabella Stewart Gardner herself? Or perhaps a Boston mob was involved? The mystery of the museum is enough to hook one’s interest, and the mystery starts strong. —Fletcher Peters


1. Wynonna Earp finale

Network: Syfy
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked
This Week: loud gay screaming

It made total sense that, to close Wynonna Earp’s (probably) final fourth season out, creator / showrunner Emily Andras and her team dispatched with its last Big Bad supernatural arc in its penultimate episode, and left the finale wide open for the most joyous shit-show of a blow-out Purgatory wedding Earp fans could possibly have dreamed of, surprise pandemic or not. There was cake. There was a prairie flower pergola. There was a cursed wedding dress soaked in the blood of a dozen doomed wedding parties. And there was, ultimately, a happy ending—or rather, a series of them.

Of course, with a fandom as ferociously passionate as Wynonna Earp’s has proven itself to be, it’d be foolish to bet everything on the certainty that this really is the end. But while official reports suggest that Andras and crew have been actively been searching for a new home for the series, the fact that they had the foresight to film a mini behind-the-scenes documentary of Friday’s big wedding finale, that Syfy aired as a kind of celebratory retrospective immediately after the final scene rolled, suggests that they’ve all made their peace with saying goodbye to Wynonna and the rest of her Purgatory family. More than that, they’ve given Earpers the gift of the permission to make their own peace with saying goodbye, too.

To which I say: Thank you, Wynonna Earp, and goodbye. There truly will never be another glorious, deliriously love-filled shit-show like you. —Alexis Gunderson



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