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Paste's TV Power Rankings

Week of 10/30/2017

TV Lists Power Rankings
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Stranger Things debuts this week at No. 3 on Paste’s TV power ranking, as Netflix’s sci-fi/horror blockbuster returns for Season Two. It leaps ahead of a few stalwarts (Better Things, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and several newcomers, but it couldn’t quite edge out the leading pair: The strongest cable drama of the fall season, and the wittiest network sitcom of the year.

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:
  Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Mindhunter, Mr. Robot, Nathan For You, Queen Sugar, Transparent, Vice Principals

10. American Vandal
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked


It’d be a shame if Netflix’s “thorny “true crime satire becomes ineligible next week—didn’t squeeze out a spot on our list at least once: It’s the tongue-in-cheek antidote to the often heavy-handed conventions of Serial and Making a Murderer, a “prestige docuseries” on the subject of dick-drawing, set on dismantling the form from within. Still, American Vandal is at its most hilarious, and at times its most poignant, when it’s dismantling the tropes of another genre: the stoners, the jocks, the mean girls, and the nerds of the high-school melodrama. Here’s to Season TwoMatt Brennan (Photo: Netflix)

9. Great News
Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked


Welcome to the Paste TV Power Rankings, Great News! If you’ve slept on this NBC show thus far, it’s time to wake up. The sitcom, about a fledgling cable news show (The Breakdown) and its scatterbrained crew is chock full of clever commentary on living in this strange time, particularly from the eyes of overly enthusiastic (but certainly underpaid) producer Katie (Briga Heelan). Last week’s episode guest-starred SNL favorite Cecily Strong as Katie’s frenemy from back home. Together they sparred in an epic battle of Instagram, forever trying to outdo each other in a way we surely all can relate. Thankfully for Katie, The Breakdown anchor/resident #famous girl Portia (Nicole Richie) comes to her rescue. —Annie Black (Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC)

8. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention


The third season of Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s one-of-a-kind musical comedy continues to push boundaries, both in its balanced-on-a-knife’s-edge depiction of the jilted Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) and in its willingness to take on nearly every genre of music under the sun. This week’s highlight? Heather (Vella Lovell) delivering “an inspirational musical theatre song” in her sighing, eye-rolling deadpan. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Tyler Golden/The CW)

7. Broad City
Network: Comedy Central
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked


“Witches,” Broad City’s tribute to growing older gracefully—and to Ilana (Ilana Glazer) getting her orgasm on in the age of Trump—jumps onto the list this week in large part thanks to the legendary Jane Curtin, who turns up as Abbi’s (Abbi Jacobson) wise alter-ego, down to the puffy blue jacket and thermos of soup. As with Peri Gilpin, RuPaul, Sandra Bernhard and Wanda Sykes, she extends this season’s run of terrific guest stars. Broad City, pushing up against maturity, still has comic legs. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Comedy Central)

6. Big Mouth
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable mention


Netflix’s new animated series, from creators Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, follows four friends through the earliest stages of puberty: Andrew (John Mulaney) sports inconvenient erections; Nick (Nick Kroll) awaits his first pubic hairs; Jessi (Jessi Klein) begins menstruating at the Statue of Liberty; Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) conceives rococo ways to get off with his pillow. It’s wickedly bawdy—one episode’s end credits roll over an extended description of Andrew’s dad’s testicles—and devilishly funny—another uses a note-perfect Seinfeld send-up to explain the blowjob “head push” and the term “mons pubis”—but as implied by its theme song, Charles Bradley’s “Changes,” the series is sweeter than it appears at first blush. Its goal is to cut through the humiliations of sex, to break through the shame shellacked atop our “gross little dirtbag” selves to reveal the perfectly normal yearning underneath: for pleasure, for touch, for emotional connection; for approval, confidence, intimacy, love. By admitting, as Andrew does in the series premiere, that “everything is so embarrassing”—and not only for teens—Big Mouth squares a space in which there’s no question that can’t be asked, and no answer that applies the same way to everyone. It’s the streaming version of your sex-ed teacher’s anonymous slips of paper, except the laughs aren’t sniggers—they’re hard-won, empathic guffaws. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

5. Flint
Network: Lifetime
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible


From the start, Flint, based on Time reporter Josh Sanburn’s “The Toxic Tap,” acknowledges its particular perspective, which screenwriter Barbara Stepansky and director Bruce Beresford turn into an asset: Though the film’s setting—Flint, Mich.—suggests Show Me a Hero, and its premise—the ongoing water crisis there—suggests Erin Brockovich, the disaster movie is in its bones. The forces that turn its disparate main characters into a band of survivors, for instance, reminded me most of the genre’s 1970s classics, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, or perhaps Airport and Earthquake. It positions Nayyirah, a longtime activist; LeeAnne Walters (Betsy Brandt), a stay-at-home mom; Melissa Mays (Marin Ireland), a radio DJ; and mother-daughter duo Iza and Adina Banks (Queen Latifah and Lyndie Greenwood) as passing strangers—Nayyirah and LeeAnne nod to each other at an intersection in the early stages, then (literally) go their separate ways—only to throw them together in the midst of catastrophe. In the troubled waters of a humanitarian disaster, they must sink alone or swim together. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Rafy Photography/Lifetime)

4. Better Things
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: 1


Take everything that was already great about Better Things and give it even more humor, pathos, daring, charm. That’s Season Two—a marvel. Even “Blackout,” one of the most baldly funny episodes of the series to date: Though it’s not as innovative or as moving as last week “Eulogy,” it features a climactic sequence so excruciating that I refuse to give it away. All I’ll say is, “No!” —Matt Brennan (Photo: Bonnie Osborne/FX)

3. Stranger Things
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible


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

2. The Deuce
Network:   HBO  
Last Week’s Ranking: 2


As in its strong finale, “My Name Is Ruby,” Season One of The Deuce transforms American “decline” itself into its tacit subject; it holds our understanding of the Seventies up to the light, trying to unravel its mysteries. Almost Socratic in its patience, the series begins with the familiar—an attempted mugging, kids copping speed, hookers and pimps and johns and made men—only to dismantle, by degrees, the dominant narrative: It might be described as liner notes for Curtis Mayfield’s theme, ”(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” easing into the space between the verses into an attempt to pry it apart. As with The Wire, Treme and Show Me a Hero, The Deuce marshals so much of the fabric of its place and time that there’s no ironing out the wrinkles, and the result, shadowed by Vietnam, Cesar Chavez, the women’s movement and the Stonewall riots, not to mention the Knapp Commission, Mayor Lindsay, massage parlors and obscenity laws, is a wildly ambitious reinterpretation of sex and the Seventies, always casting a skeptical eye on “decline” and its many seductions. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

1. The Good Place
Network: NBC
Last Week’s Ranking: 4


Ted Danson is a comedic treasure. This we know. How can we not love Sam Malone? But with The Good Place he’s somehow become even more beloved, even more of a television mainstay we can’t live without. As Michael, the architect of the afterlife formerly known as the Good Place, Danson has begun to gradually evolve his recently revealed to be evil character. In “Janet and Michael,” an episode that will (hopefully) secure an Emmy nomination for Danson, Michael slowly realizes he has true feelings for Janet, even though she’s not human. They’re friends. After all, she is the genius who realized the true evil of frozen yogurt. Matching Danson’s deft performance is D’Arcy Carden as Janet, whose 800 plus reboots has allowed her to feel a well-known human emotion—jealously. Carden was hilarious and heart-breaking while still being utterly believable as a robot. That’s a tricky line to walk and Carden does it with aplomb. Add in the sight gags (Chidi with needles!), a cameo from the delightful bad Janet, and an advice-giving Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and this was the best episode of an already stellar season. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

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