It is hot outside. Depending on where you live, possibly dangerously so. What better excuse then to stay inside and watch some great TV? There’s the final season of Amazon’s long-running hit Bosch, the return of the excellent Good Fight to Paramount+, and a wrap on the second season of the highly underrated Mythic Quest on Apple TV+. That, along with the sweet (but never saccharine) Sweet Tooth on Netflix, will keep you busy for awhile, and that’s only our Honorable Mentions list! Check out what topped our list of favorites this week 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: Bosch (Amazon Prime), Sweet Tooth (Netflix), Mythic Quest (Apple TV+), The Good Fight (Paramount+)
Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week: A sweet, under-the-radar delight.
“He’s a famous actor, and you’re a little rat nobody.” It’s a tried-and-true fanfiction scenario, the inverse plot of Notting Hill, and now, the premise of HBO Max’s truly delightful Starstruck. Premiering first on BBC Three in April, the London-based romantic comedy follows Jessie (New Zealander comedian Rose Matafeo) after she has a drunken New Year’s Eve one-night stand with Tom (Nikesh Patel), only to learn the next day that he is a famous actor. Anyone who’s seen a rom-com can probably guess what happens next: a will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation, a disastrous fight, an eventual reconciliation. But while Starstruck riffs off a familiar fantasy, it stays grounded in its approach, playing with genre tropes with great aplomb.
Starstruck is clearly the product of people who unabashedly love rom-coms. Inspired by the genre’s classics, the short six-episode series provides a light-hearted modern update with a protagonist who toys with expectations. I’ll keep it vague, but the season’s final moments are so lovely and understated that the tenderness took my breath away. (And it has been renewed for Season 2). Clocking in right over two hours, Starstruck makes for a quick summer watch that leaves you wanting to linger in the escapist joy for a little longer. Just like a good rom-com should. —Annie Lyons
Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: Sheila is hard to like, and that’s really the point.
Created and executive produced by Annie Weisman, Physical is set in the early 1980s against a sun-drenched San Diego backdrop. It stars Rose Byrne as Sheila Rubin, an unhappy housewife quietly struggling with her self-image and her inability to assert herself in nearly every aspect of her life. This includes her marriage to Danny (Rory Scovel), whose liberal ideals seem to stop at the front door.
Sheila single-handedly runs the Rubin household while raising a 4-year-old daughter (who mostly exists to scream a lot) and also managing Danny’s political campaign. It’s meant to be frustrating to watch, and it succeeds. But Sheila’s story becomes even more complicated once you learn of her deep self-hatred and how that has shaped her self-image for decades. Everything begins to change, though, once Sheila finds a renewed sense of purpose in aerobics, the latest exercise fad sweeping the country. But while Sheila finds strength and confidence through aerobics, and purpose via her burgeoning business venture in the present day, it hasn’t changed much else—yet—with Sheila trading one problem for another.
There are times when Sheila and her selfishness risk toppling the carefully-constructed narrative about women’s empowerment that the show is building. But Physical is also well made, frequently compelling, and features episodes that come in at under 30 minutes. It may even fill some of the void left by the cancellation of Netflix’s GLOW last year. —Kaitlin Thomas
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: Ok things are starting to get scary.
Firstly, it’s been almost two years since Evil premiered, and despite a “Previously On” to kick things off, the replay of events from the chaotic Season 1 finale made me wish I had gone back and watched the full episode beforehand. Being hit immediately with Kristen maybe having committed murder, the revelation that the team believes demons are in control of a fertility clinic and spiritually corrupting the eggs of expectant mothers, and David’s vision of Satan in a field where Kristen is walking, is a lot to take in. While I have always championed Evil’s ambitious, it’s a hell of a place to start.
The primary investigative duo of forensic psychologist Kristen (Katja Herbers) and priest-in-training David (Mike Colter) is also more firmly a trio now, with Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) established as an integral member of the team. He’s also another skeptic, and Evil Season 2 upends Season 1’s spiritual dynamic somewhat by having Kristen and Ben as the ones plagued by visions rather than David (David has his moments, but he’s struggling to hear from God). The core conceit remains: the gang is presented with a mysterious circumstance, they investigate it from every angle, and typically come up with both a spiritual and practical reason for it to have happened.
Now on Paramount+ and freed from the constraints of CBS, Evil maintains its intriguing pull. It’s still very stylish, with its well-dressed leads and warmly-lit institutional corridors. Each episode also starts off with a new chapter from “The Pop-Up Book of Terrifying Things MMXXI,” which corresponds to episode titles: “A Is for Angel,” “F Is for Fire” (and no, they don’t go in alphabetical order). But sometimes these flourishes edge too far into self awareness for a show whose characters, rightfully, take things very seriously. But Colter, Herbers, and Mandvi continue to make for a great team, full of natural rapport, and the Cases of the Week are creepy and interesting. Where it’s going is uncertain, but regarding the pull of the secular and the divine… the show will eventually need to pick a side. —Allison Keene
2. Kevin Can F—k Himself
Network: AMC / AMC+
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: Hello, I’m ready to kill Kevin myself.
The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane once wrote, “the most volatile compound known to man is that of decorum and despair.” This proves ever-true in Kevin Can F—k Himself, AMC’s strange, emotionally-resonate hybrid series. In it, we follow the travails of Allison (Annie Murphy), a long-suffering wife whose husband’s world is a low-brow sitcom. When Kevin (Eric Petersen) is on screen, their lives are illuminated by stage lights and augmented by a laugh track—almost always at Allison’s expense. The fictional audience guffaws over Kevin’s infantile interests and behaviors, as Allison tries to find anything positive about the marriage she has felt trapped in for 10 years. Humiliated, ignored, and gaslighted throughout, Allison tries to keep up a good face while inwardly falling apart. Then as soon as Kevin leaves the room, the studio goes with him; Allison is left alone in the quiet of a drab house, feeling the full weight of her crippling frustration as the laughter fades away.
But desperate times lead to desperate measures, and after a particularly stinging bit of news, Allison hatches a plan to take back her life—by taking her husband’s. Kevin Can F—k Himself (which hits its sitcom beats almost too well) is ambitious and experimental, and it’s far more than satire. It’s also the kind of show that doesn’t feel like it could run forever, or even possibly past this season. There’s a growing “Too Many Cooks” meta-chaos that is building in each episode, and eventually Allison will have to find a way out, whatever that looks like. Here’s hoping the show takes a cue from its leading lady and makes some bold moves on the road to freedom. —Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: We love Sylvie.
Of all of the Marvel TV series on Disney+ so far, Loki has been the most highly anticipated. An OG associate of the Avengers universe, Loki remains the brightest spot of any movie he’s in. Tom Hiddleston has made the character iconic, and his portrayal—be it in Thor movies or Avengers get-togethers—is off-the-charts charming. It’s also the reason Loki has been the only truly successful Marvel villain to date, one who not only has a fully-realized backstory and emotional connection to the heroes, but who just keeps gloriously popping up (as the God of Mischief is wont to do). He’s not a one-off rushed through 120 minutes of storytelling, he’s a dynamic presence who has earned his own fandom.
And now, at last, he has his own show. In Loki, our Asgardian prince starts off in 2012 where he deviates from the “sacred timeline” of events by snatching the Tesseract and zipping away from imprisonment. He’s quickly apprehended by agents of the TVA (Time Variant Authority), who are charged with keeping the multiverse down to just one stream of approved reality. This Loki, now a “variant,” is essentially marked for extermination, until an agent named Mobius (Owen Wilson) advocates for him to help the TVA investigate a series of crimes suited to his unique skill set.
From there, Loki turns into a kind of buddy-cop procedural. Sure it takes a lot of convincing to get Loki on board, and no you can never tell whether or not he’s lying or what his ultimate game is, but that’s all part of the fun (and when the show is at its best). The key to Loki—both the character and the show—is always Tom Hiddleston. He is the king of arrogant grandstanding, withering looks, and the ability to turn on a dime and make you feel overwhelming pathos for him.
All of this to say: If you like Loki, the character, you’ll probably like Loki, the show. It’s not as groundbreakingly bonkers as WandaVision, but it’s also not as dourly macho as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. One perhaps wishes for more when it comes to Loki. Then again, he’s known for not living up to his own expectations at times. “For a guy born to rule, you sure do lose a lot,” Mobius notes. But by Odin he sure is a charmer. —Allison Keene
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