Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from The White Lotus to I Think You Should Leave
While our last Power Ranking was quiet in terms of premieres, this past week was full of reboots and revivals… not all of which were good. Maybe none of which were good, actually. First there was the introduction of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl (which might be too woke for its own good), as well Leverage: Redemption (which has much to make amends for). Capcom also tried its hand at a Resident Evil TV series on Netflix, Infinite Darkness, which was … well, just not good. One bright spot might be We the People, which is not exactly a Schoolhouse Rock revival, but is certainly its spiritual successor. The lesson? Enough with the reboots and revivals already!
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.
Kevin Can F Himself (AMC), Wellington Paranormal (The CW / HBO Max), Physical (Apple TV+), Unforgotten (PBS)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: A gorgeous setting, a fantastic cast, an excellent score … we’re in for a great ride.
The White Lotus, from Enlightened creator Mike White, tracks the intertwined relationships between groups of wealthy vacationers at the titular Hawaiian resort. With spectacular production design and a magnificent ensemble cast, The White Lotus is a pleasure to watch—even as the miniseries gets progressively darker as the weeks go on and seemingly idyllic vacations begin falling apart. Also attempting to cultivate a conversation on class and privilege, The White Lotus explores the often horrific ways ultra-rich patrons treat the working-class staff members they so deeply rely on. —Kristen Reid
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: “E Is for Elevator” was excellent horror, mixing in urban legends and devastating truths for our team.
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
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week: All hail the show calling out need to go after clickbait sites in the name of journalism.
Five seasons into its run, The Good Fight isn’t showing any signs of slowing down or being less audacious of a series in terms of tackling topics of the day. That’s true even in how it handles the exit of two integral characters, Delroy Lindo’s Adrian Boseman and Cush Jumbo’s Quinn. In the premiere episode “Previously On,” it uses that story point as a catch-up device to brilliantly tell an imaginary season’s worth of stories to explain why and how they’ve exited the narrative. What’s left are Diane Lockhart and her husband Kurt (Gary Cole) navigating a marriage after his possible insurrection involvement on January 6th, Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald) mulling over making the firm one with all Black partners again, Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) suffering long-haul COVID and seeing visions of Frederick Douglas, and Marissa (Sarah Steele) attempting law school while also helping in Mandy Patinkin’s faux court experiment that’s attempting to rectify the broken justice system. Plus, the Cases of the Week. It’s brilliant madness already, but we’re entirely here for it. —Tara Bennett
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week: Richard E. Grant. Alligator Loki. This episode was legendary.
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
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: “At this point, as a physical being, I am 60% water and 40% I Think You Should Leave. Can’t endorse Season 2 strongly enough.” –Paste Music Editor Scott Russell
It’s tough out there for a follow-up. The “sophomore slump” is real, but even more real is how people seem almost giddy to dislike something they were previously into. Even before watching its second season I was worried that I Think You Should Leave was primed for that kind of reaction—it seems like just the kind of thing that would fall prey to the boom-and-bust cycle of pop culture in the internet age. Although critics and comedy deep divers were on board with Tim Robinson years before I Think You Should Leave, the surprise success of that first season was, for many, accompanied by the sense that it was something secret and obscure they had personally discovered. Its growth in popularity was spread through word of mouth and social media, eventually becoming one of the most memed TV shows of the last few years.
In the new set of episodes, which might start off a little slowly for some (though still contain gems), Robinson has the same fascination with embarrassment and the failure to read social cues that drove the first season. Once again a typical sketch revolves around a character—often played by Robinson, occasionally by a guest star like Tim Heidecker or Patti Harrison or Bob Odenkirk—who does something inappropriate, embarrassing, or simply weird in public, and then doubles down on it, refusing to acknowledge any weirdness or wrong-doing no matter how much pressure or criticism they get from others. It’s a pattern that still works, and the show veers away from it just enough to keep it fresh throughout the second season.
Robinson and his co-writers (which include the show’s co-creator Zach Kanin and MacGruber co-writer John Solomon) make comedy that’s very specific and focused, and yet whose basic ideas can be applied to an almost endless spectrum of concepts and situations. I don’t see any reason I Think You Should Leave couldn’t continue on for several seasons to come, as long as the show is able to avoid the backlash and online criticism that seems to be the fate of anything that gains any modicum of success these days. If you’re worried I Think You Should Leave’s second season will disappoint you, don’t: it’s still tremendous. —Garrett Martin
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