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The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now: Little America, Seven Worlds, One Planet, and More

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Sometimes we need a news cycle that has no dire impact on our daily lives. There’s the impeachment trial and the election and global warming and all sorts of awful things happening all around us.

Perhaps that’s why we all went nuts over Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston having a moment at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards Sunday night. He stopped everything to watch her acceptance speech! He held her hand! The looked happy together! Speculating about whether this couple who divorced 15 years ago may reunite is kind of the news we could all use right now.

Television provides us with the same kind of escape. And this week’s picks have quite a few delightful flights of fancy, while a new BBC America series keeps us (beautifully) grounded.

The rules for the Power Rankings 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 four weeks.

The voting panel is composed 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. So much good TV is available right now.

Honorable Mentions: Evil (CBS), Howards End (Starz), The Circle (Netflix), This is Us (NBC), Sex Education (Netflix), AJ and the Queen (Netflix), and The Good Place (NBC).

10. 9-1-1: Lonestar
Network: Fox
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

Like its predecessor, 9-1-1: Lonestar is a bombastic blast. The emergencies are over the top. In one scene, mercury-laced sandwiches (the delivery guy was mad that he never got tipped) cause victims to claw at themselves and jump out of windows. The series knows its star Rob Lowe, who plays Captain Owen Strand, and I could write volumes on just how the series treats Strand’s skincare, health and hair regime. Strand is called to Austin when a disastrous rescue leads to the death of almost the entire station, and the show doesn’t shy away from the long-term effects of grief. Lonestar stands out for its diverse cast including a firefighter who is a devout Muslim and one who is transgender. But what’s great is that the show’s “agenda” (as some might think of it) in no way impacts its fantastic ridiculousness. The more TV series can have diverse casts without the diversity being the point of the series, the better. Lonestar is the kind of escapism TV we all need.—Amy Amatangelo

9. Doctor Who
Network:   BBC America  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked

When Doctor Who kicks off its second season with Jodie Whittaker, only the fate of the universe is at stake. The two-part Bond-inspired “Spyfall” begins with Earth’s top spies getting taken out by a mysterious new threat involving a nasty trifecta: a new extra-dimensional alien race, a nefarious tech company stomping all over our privacy and one of the Doctor’s biggest nemeses. It’s a lot for the Doctor to handle, even with the help of her three trusty companions and a couple of bonus historical figures (Ada Lovelace for the win). Don’t panic; the Doctor is back. —Josh Jackson

8. Giri/Haji
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: 6

BBC Two’s Giri / Haji, available in the U.S. via Netflix, is already one of the year’s best surprises. The international thriller starts when a Tokyo detective, Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira), is tasked by a prominent Yakuza crime family—in conjunction with the police force—to secretly go to London in search of his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka ), who he thought died a year ago. The hope is that bringing Yuto back will stop a sprawling war that he helped kickstart among the Yakuza factions. But like Kenzo’s investigation into Yuto’s disappearance and faked death, Giri /Haji is full of unexpected twists, not just in its narrative but in its form. It’s dark and violent at times, but also funny and full of heart. At the center of the story is the tale of two brothers, yet it’s also about forged family and discovering the truth about one’s self. The gang war is the framework for the story, which plays out in many ways like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (as far as a variety of different crime bosses all marching towards one another); and yet, one of its most moving scenes takes place during a quiet, makeshift Yom Kippur dinner regarding atonement.

The series is just frankly stunning. And, crucially, funny. Though it would be wonderful to spend more time in this world with a second season, there is a palpable and beautiful sense of healing that has ended this one.—Allison Keene

7. Anne with an E
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Netflix’s excellent Anne with an E may have had a bit of a shaky start as an Anne of Green Gables adaptation, but the show has gotten better which each new season and truly come into its own. Tragically, this one (Season 3) is set to be its last. That’s a shame for a number of reasons, the foremost among them is that this is a show that understands teenagers so, so well, not just as the TV-trope of agents of camp and chaos, but as having heart and passion to set the world to rights. Each season of Anne has been increasingly triumphant as this core group of Canadian teens at the turn of the 20th century battle societal issues like racism, freedom of speech, and consent while navigating changing friendships, budding crushes, and studying for their college entrance exams. Anne is not always subtle—in fact, it almost never is—but it manages to meaningfully includes the stories of people of color, LGBT narratives, and native peoples in a way that naturally extends the scope of its source material. At its core, Anne is a wonderfully optimistic and unique series that makes you feel better for having watched it, and we could certainly do what more of that. —Allison Keene

6. Cheer
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Watch Cheer, Netflix’s new and extremely popular documentary about a nationally ranked college cheer squad centered in a small Texas town, because you were a cheerleader and/or because you want the sport to be validated. Watch it to hate on it because you have a grudge against some cheerleaders who were mean to you in high school. Or watch it because you simply want to marvel at head coach Monica Aldama’s boot collection. But, whatever brings you to the six-part series, just keep in mind that these people are very much athletes and deserve as much news stories about both championships and concussions that the football players they’re cheering on receive. Because, as they tell you multiple times in the show, this is not the movie Bring It On.—Whitney Friedlander

5. Crisis on Infinite Earths
Network: CW
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked

To say there was a lot of buildup to Crisis on Infinite Earths, The CW’s massive Arrowverse crossover event, would be an understatement the size of one of Mar Novu’s (LaMonica Garrett) quantum towers. The crisis itself was first teased with the series premiere of The Flash in 2014, if you want to be technical about it. But the ramp-up properly began with last year’s crossover, Elseworlds, in which Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) made some sort of mysterious deal with Garrett’s godlike figure to save the lives of Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) and Kara Danvers/Supergirl (the invaluable Melissa Benoist, giving one of TV’s most underrated performances week in and week out) by, it seemed, sacrificing his own. But gods are often tricksters, and crises keep coming. The first three installments pulled off some Thanos-snapping-level dramatic events, incorporated both promised and surprise cameos, and gave us the gift of both a big focus on Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz) and not one but two Brandon Rouths. The first, the always welcome Ray Palmer/The Atom (like Sara Lance, of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), was as delightful as ever. The second involved a return to the blue tights for the onetime Superman, here donning the Kingdom Come super-suit and introducing us to a grieving, graying, but somehow still hopeful Clark Kent. It’s one of the year’s best superhero performances, a terrific element in a “television event” that somehow, impossibly, lived up to the hype through all five parts.— Allison Shoemaker

4. The Magicians
Network: Syfy
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

Last season, The Magicians made a bold choice to kill off the oft-presumed main character of this fantasy journey. Grief may have changed some viewers’ relationship to the show, but it hasn’t changed The Magicians. The show is still snappy fun in between magical crisis after magical crisis. The Magicians has always been about trauma, grief, and pain, and Season 4 continues that journey in a cathartic and touching way as characters process that death. Whether an individual viewer will want to watch will likely depend on how they have come to feel about his death. As Julia says in Season 3, “When things happen they leave a mark. Figuring out how to deal with it takes time.”

Characters keep trying, trying, trying to make themselves feel better when they just won’t. Margo and Eliot interact with an actual brick wall in Fillory, but they and the other characters also hit a metaphorical one. They must decide to either crash into their grief or let it go and run the other way. When something does go right and a character comes back unharmed, it felt like such a relief I could have laughed. When another decides to remember the truth instead of lying or ignoring the pain, it was a revelation.

Because it’s The Magicians, I’m sure the relief will be short lived. These bits of grace are a good reminder that life goes on, and the show must, too.—Rae Nudson

3. Seven Worlds, One Planet
Network:   BBC America  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

The producers of Planet Earth and Blue Planet are at it again, bringing us stunning nature documentary footage from across the globe. This time, the series is broken up into seven parts to represent seven continents, with a programming shift that has put the Australia episode first (so we can see what, exactly, is currently being lost in that country’s fire crisis). Though similar to other recent documentaries in some ways, and narrated once more by the legendary David Attenborough, Seven Worlds, One Planet stands out by framing its exploration of each continent’s flora and fauna with animations of how the landmasses formed and changed from Pangea onwards. Australia’s isolation has, accordingly, left it with some incredibly strange and wondrous creatures, which the documentary team examines with cutting-edge technology—including the use of drones. Prepare to be stunned by the incredible footage, and then remember to heed the calls of conservation so that these documentaries don’t become about our history rather than our present. —Allison Keene

2. Schitt’s Creek
Network: Pop TV
Last Week’s Ranking: 2

“After an award-worthy trilogy of decades together,” Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) tells her daughter early in the final season of the exemplary Schitt’s Creek, “your father and I still astonish each other.” Of the many things Pop TV’s deeply empathetic comedy gets right—and make no mistake, Schitt’s Creek gets pretty much everything right—the rarest is that exact quality: astonishment. The denizens of this far-from-bustling town quietly astonish each other with great frequency; like most people, they are almost always more than they seem.

What’s most, yes, astonishing about that fact is that in its return, Dan Levy’s series remains as funny—sometimes acidly, sometimes daffily, never cheaply—as ever. It’s tempting to fold Schitt’s Creek in with excellent shows like Parks and Recreation or the rebooted One Day at a Time, warm-hearted stories about good people taking care of each other. Schitt’s is, at its heart, a story about care, and it is every bit as good as those two series. But it’s tender rather than warm, a gentle thing, as a fragile yet resilient as two beautiful wings pushing mightily to emerge from a chrysalis. Four wounded people were forced to set up camp in Schitt’s Creek, though perhaps none of them truly acknowledged their hurts. To say life in a small town healed them would be to turn Levy’s marvelous series into something much smaller and more shallow; the Rose’s found, stabilized, and even healed their wounds individually, as a family, and with the help of the people who crossed their paths. Of course, those people had wounds, too, which is something—sometimes the only thing—they all shared. —Allison Shoemaker

1. Little America
Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

Boasting a robustly talented set of executive producers, including Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, Apple TV+’s anthology series Little America may be its best to date. Over the course of eight half-hour episodes, Little America explores immigrant stories inspired by real events that are unique and full of heart. Though each story is incredibly different in terms of time and place, the series is united by a gorgeous, cinematic style and a theme of finding one’s home—often through unconventional means. The experiences are awkward, bittersweet, funny, raw, and triumphant, as each lead character follows their heart to create a new life in a new world. Some episodes feature recognizable actors, others do not; all will basically make you cry from their wonderful storytelling.

With each episode telling a complete vignette, Little America is worth savoring instead of bingeing (even though all episodes are available now). The segments end with a picture and a micro epilogue regarding the real person at the heart of the story, putting a point on the fact that these experiences are happening all around us every day. There’s no agenda beyond a hopeful note for a country deeply divided and fueled by vitriol to be reminded of these very grounded, human stories— ones that should unite us in the varied and often beautiful tapestry of American life. —Allison Keene



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