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

Week of 4/16/2018

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<i>Paste</i>'s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

Sometimes TV throws you a curveball. And sometimes it throws you two: Despite a trio of sterling series from FX alone, the usual deluge of Netflix releases, the terrific Killing Eve, and the sublime Jane the Virgin—which is finishing its fourth season with what may be its strongest ever run of episodes—this week’s Power Rankings are topped by a pair of out-of-left-field selections. Well, sort of: If there’s anything to be counted on besides death and taxes, it’s that politics and Beyoncé are surefire draws. Can you blame us?

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:

Bosch, The Expanse, The Good Fight, Howards End, Jessica Jones, Lost in Space, On My Block

10. A Series of Unfortunate Events

Network: Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: 5

You probably don’t have to be a bookworm, or a kid, to appreciate this adaptation of a series of ironic, lachrymose, self-parodying children’s stories, because the series is just so damn funny, not to mention seamlessly styled, well-cast and well-acted. It does also happen to be an adaptation that should delight fans of the books because it generally knows exactly how much or how little to deviate from its source material to adapt to the constraints (and liberations) of episodic television. It retains the slightly steampunk, highly absurdist, semi-Gothic and delightfully wordsmithy sensibility of its source material and adheres remarkably well to character and plot. My suggestion? Don’t binge watch this show! Let it breathe. Like a fine wine. Because it’s kind of a masterpiece. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Photo: Eike Schroter/Netflix)

9. Silicon Valley

Network: HBO
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked

Mike Judge and Alec Berg’s skewering of the Northern California tech world is never better than when it points out the community’s stubborn devotion to its own causes. In Sunday’s episode, “Tech Evangelist,” the setup seems obvious: Richard (Thomas Middleditch) needs the head of a hardcore gaming site to sign on to be a part of his “new Internet.” But that means the gamer has to play ball with the others already involved, including the cherubic gay Christian guy with big plans for his dating site. The punch line seems so obvious that my husband actually uttered the words, “He’s going to be a homophobe, isn’t he?” Nope. Those in liberal Silicon Valley embrace all in the LGBTQ community. But a disciple of Jesus Christ? Hard pass. It seems appropriate that Josh Lieb, who wrote the episode, is a Daily Show alum who also executive produced Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s similar takedown of communities that irrationally insist that they are right and you are wrong, Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO)

8. Jane the Virgin

Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last we left Jane the Virgin, Miami’s figurative skies were looking, if not sunny, then at least not full of rumbling thunderheads. But as both the Latin Lover narrator (Anthony Mendez) and superstar Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil) kept reminding the audience and River Fields (Brooke Shields) in last Friday’s “Chapter Eighty”—which, not incidentally, was this season’s penultimate episode—Jane the Virgin is a telenovela: Rumbling thunderheads are always on the horizon. Cue all the schisms, ludicrous to core-shaking, of “Chapter Eighty,” which saw River out-diva Rogelio, Petra (Yael Grobglas) and her lawyer-turned-lover Jane Ramos (Rosario Dawson) face their first major fight (over trust), Rafael (Justin Baldoni) and Alba (Ivonne Coll) face their first major fight (over parenting authority), and Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) face down the demons of cancer’s dispassionate cruelty as chemo kicked her ass, her single cancer buddy (guest star Amy Brenneman) had a sudden relapse and died, and all her illusions about cancer having some kind of finish line well and truly burst. The episode ended delightfully with an extremely high River Fields learning, in real-time juxtaposition with Jane and Raf’s adorably evolving relationship arc, to love telenovelas, but it might as well have ended on the devastating scene ten minutes earlier between a chemo-wrecked Xiomara and an emotionally wrecked Rogelio at the diner Xo used to eat at with Amy Brenneman, Navedo and Camil turning in their best work to date as they wept at and with each other while broaching for the first time the possibility that Xiomara might not actually beat her cancer after all. It was a rough and beautiful realist take on what is normally a clichéd telenovela mainstay—just what Jane the Virgin does best. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Tyler Golden/The CW)

7. Saturday Night Live

Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

I cannot tell a lie: I really enjoyed that episode of SNL! John Mulaney brought his formidable talents to bear as host, giving us some of the most inspired writing and performances we’ve seen in a very long time. Almost across the board, the night’s sketches were interestingly premised and sharply written, with consistently effective punchlines and jokes that escalated to (usually) natural conclusions. It felt like an episode out of another era, and if the frequency with which Pete Davidson breaks character is any barometer, I’d wager the cast felt it, too. —Seth Simons (Photo: Will Heath/NBC)

6. Killing Eve

Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Look, it shouldn’t be a big deal in 2018 that a show, written and executive produced by a woman, stars two women in roles typically assigned to men. But it is. Thankfully, Killing Eve, which has already been picked up for a second season, has a lot more going for it than a compelling back story. Sandra Oh stars as Eve Polastri, an MI5 security officer who knows she can do more than sit behind a desk. She’s figured out that there’s a highly skilled female assassin, Jodie Comer’s Villanelle, carrying out stealth, untraceable killings all over the world. Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and based on the novellas by Luke Jennings, this is a very different series than Waller-Bridge’s beloved Amazon series, Fleabag. Yet what the series does have in common with Fleabag is Eve, a fully realized and fully flawed character who is smart but still makes mistakes, is kind yet can still be cruel, is loyal yet still not completely trustworthy. Eve doesn’t act like your typical heroine, and Villanelle isn’t your typical villain. For one thing, I really appreciated how sexy Villanelle could be while remaining fully clothed. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Nick Briggs, BBC America)

5. The Americans

Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 2

“Urban Transport Planning” unleashes a fleet of seemingly impossible conflicts—conflicts poised to determine the remainder of the series’ run—that, like the Cold War itself, might well be soluble in the right circumstances. Stan (Noah Emmerich) and Oleg (Costa Ronin) can become (wary) allies. Sofia (Darya Ekamasova) can decide (reluctantly) to play along with the FBI’s ploy, despite her frustration with Gennadi (Yuri Kolokolnikov). Elizabeth (Keri Russell) can learn to confide in an Orthodox priest, or admit that the disastrous operation with the American general was, in part, her fault. Philip (Matthew Rhys) can placate his wife with a forkful of zharkoye, if not the assurance that Russia has changed. (Renee can’t become an FBI agent, admittedly—she doesn’t meet the age requirement—but also, WTF?!) The real drama of The Americans, perhaps clearer now than ever before, isn’t the unbridgeable chasm, the great divide: It’s the unwillingness to negotiate, the suspense of hard lines. —Matt Brennan (Patrick Harbron/FX)

4. Atlanta

Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Director Amy Seimetz and star Zazie Beetz hit the same emotional specificity as in their first collaboration (who hasn’t hidden in a bathroom to get away from someone at a party?), constructing feelings through shots, the set, and Beetz’s performance. Van becomes trapped and isolated, cautious yet mischievously curious—all through the act of moving through the mansion and how she reacts to it. Some of the funniest stuff in the episode is Van doing the most extra version of rifling through a date’s medicine cabinet. That and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield, sporting the coolest blazer I’ve ever seen) convincing Van’s stoned friend that she’s a Sim. And how does everyone know one of Drake’s random employees? Nevertheless, his pool-bound scene is incredible to look at. The water, the light, the darkness. It’s all so ethereal that we can almost believe Darius’ claim that a higher intelligence is controlling us. At least, for Atlanta, Seimetz is controlling it. She constructs some gorgeous shots that watch people watching other people—because yes, this is what parties are—on top of luxuriating in the architecture. So, as far as meaningless simulations go, this one is pretty good. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX)

3. Legion

Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Fresh off its Peabody Awards nomination, Legion has fully hit its stride in Season Two, offering one of the most visually stunning, trippiest, reality-warping episodes yet, and anyone who’s watched Noah Hawley’s FX series knows that’s saying a lot. Since this is a comic-book world filled with super-powered mutants and fantastical technologies, Noah Hawley can populate it with characters who wear baskets on their heads or feminine androids with thick, black mustaches. And because both the protagonist and villain can reshape reality, interactions can take the form of a dance-off (last week) and a wrestling match that escalates from samurai swordsman to tank to tornado (this week). Characters can have internal dialogues that manifest externally, switch bodies, drop through solid floors or get stuck with a third arm protruding from their chest. Hawley and co-writer Nathaniel Halpern are clearly having fun piling one crazy idea atop another and the result is delightful. It’s a show that celebrates, above all else, imagination. —Josh Jackson (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX)

T1. #Beychella

Network: YouTube/Coachella LIVE
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible

Beychella Getty Main.jpg
The number of times in the last half dozen years that all of American Twitter has been up in the middle of the goddamn night collectively losing their shit can be counted on one hand. Ban politics from the equation, and by my recollection, that total comes down to two: Once on August 6, 2012, when the Curiosity Rover landed safely on Mars at 1:17 a.m. ET, and now once again this past Sunday, April 15, at 2:05 a.m. ET, when Beyoncé’s history-making Coachella set—streamed free on YouTube for everyone not sweating into their designer tropical bohemian wear in the middle of the desert to watch from home—opened with an exuberant, HBCU-soaked bang. #Beychella, as DJ Khaled branded the show halfway through, supplanted all of Coachella’s whitest, faux-hippiest vibes with Bey’s funkiest, blackest own from the moment she appeared in all her Nefertiti-by-Balmain glamour (for a crystalline take on what Bey’s performance meant for black expression and “turning black womanhood into a grand narrative,” read Doreen St. Félix), but nearly as impressive was the way in which, through Bey’s and YouTube’s powers combined, the inherent physical exclusivity of a live music festival in the Californian desert became instead a celebration of virtual inclusivity. From monitor to monitor, phone screen to phone screen, at 12, 1, 2, 3, 4 in the Bey-blessed dark of Sunday morning, we were all experiencing the specific magic of a world in which even a live festival concert can be slickly produced streaming television, together. In Bey’s own bemused words about her personal history-making as the first black woman ever to headline Coachella: Ain’t that a bitch? —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella)

T1. 20/20

Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked

It’s as an almost perfect mirror image of #Beychella—and not simply as the pièce de résistance of the self-aggrandizing self-effacement of the headline-making promotional tour for his new book, A Higher Loyalty—that James Comey’s interview with George Stephanopoulos joins pop culture’s reigning queen atop this list. If #Beychella was a beacon from the future of television—digital, radical, unpredictable—ABC News’ “exclusive event” was a blast from its past—analog, conservative, unsurprising—albeit a bracing one. It may be a reminder of the now-distant days when an hour-long sit-down still mattered, but for the former FBI director to go on national television in front of an audience of 9 million (no Stormy Daniels, but still) and pronounce the president of the United States “morally unfit” to serve is unquestionably powerful. This is “TV” in 2018: It contains multitudes. —Matt Brennan (Photo: ABC/ Ralph Alswang)

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