Did you hear that HBO’s Euphoria featured 30 penises in one shot last week? The Power List certainly did and it propelled the HBO drama—which is putting fear into the hearts of parents of teenagers everywhere—right on to our list.
The rules for the power 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 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.
Pose, The Handmaid’s Tale, Good Trouble, City on a Hill, Years and Years and Los Espookys.
Network: TV Land
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
We here at Paste TV have decided we need to make sure the Power List always includes the shows that bring us joy, and the sixth season of Younger continues to delight. Now that Liza (Sutton Foster) and Charles’ (Peter Hermann) romance is out in the open, the swooning over their steamy, sex-can-still-be-hot-after-40 relationship can commence in full. With Kelsey (Hilary Duff) now the publisher, the charming comedy can also explore a young woman navigating her position of power and how Liza’s romance with Charles affects her career. All that plus we get Miriam Shor’s fabulous Diana with her even more fabulous zingers. Bonus points if the show manages to figure out a way to have Foster, Duff and Shor sing another number a la the season premiere’s “9 to 5.” Younger remains an outright blast. —Amy Amatangelo
9. Good Omens
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Neil Gaiman’s passionate fans can safely dive into this adaptation of Good Omens; since the author served as showrunner and handle the script himself, his vision comes through very much intact. The six-part series follows the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) as they team up to avert the apocalypse. It has sensibilities that recall the work of Terry Gilliam and the films of Powell and Pressburger. It’s funny, eccentric (sometimes downright hammy) and quite poignant, and it’s got a totally delightful script and a mostly amazing cast, including Frances McDormand as the voice of God and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Satan. But for all its virtues the standout feature of Good Omens is the incredible chemistry between Tennant and Sheen, who make sparks fly every time they appear onscreen together. Happily for us, that’s most of the show.—Amy Glynn
Last Week: 5
In its long awaited second season, Fleabag, which unfolds in six delightfully perfect installments, remains as sharp and as witty as ever. Our heroine, still reeling from the death of her best friend and her culpability in what happened, is still struggling. “I want someone to tell me how to live my life because I think I’ve been doing it wrong,” she wails in the fourth episode. But living your life is difficult when you have a sister who blames you for all her problems (“We’re not friends. We are sisters. Get your own friends,” Claire tells her) and a father who gives you a therapy session as a birthday gift (which leads to a delightful cameo from Fiona Shaw). Fleabag cuts to the core of the female experience. Whether it’s Fleabag rightly explaining that how your hair looks can be the difference between a good day and a bad day or guest star Kristen Scott-Thomas, whose character receives a women in business award in the third episode, only to rightly decry it as the “fucking children’s tables of awards,” explaining menopause as “it’s horrendous and then it’s magnificent.”
Over these six episodes there are, among other things, miscarriages, a return of an iconic object from the first season, and an obsessed stepson whose mantra is “Where’s Claire?” The series succeeds because it never has distain for its characters and their tragic dysfunction. It never mocks them. It merely lays them bare for everyone to see. Martin’s stifling cruelty. Claire’s overwhelming unhappiness. Their dad’s desperation not to be lonely. The godmother’s narcissism as a cover for her acute insecurity. I don’t want to say too much about the relationship between Fleabag and the priest because the way it unfolds is so perfect and surprising and, in the end, redeeming. But I will say that Andrew Scott, who wears a priest’s robe very well, creates a priest that is fully realized. A real person who swears and makes mistakes but is still devoted to his faith. Their love story is one of salvation.—Amy Amatangelo
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
FX’s wonderfully weird comedy series stars Zach Galifianakis as Chip Baskets. a Parisian-trained clown (or “cloon”) who must return to his hometown of Bakersfield, California. The series utilizes Chip’s clowning pursuits as a way to include now rarely-scene physical humor into the series, but Baskets is really at its best when it leans into its sweeter side. That’s especially true when it comes to Chip’s mother, Christine, played without a shadow of irony by Louie Anderson. As the Baskets’ fortunes rise and fall (and fall and fall, and rise a little again), the series—which features a beautiful visual aesthetic thanks to co-creator and director Jonathan Krisel—becomes a mesmerizingly strange and surprisingly emotional exploration of a very unusual “ordinary” suburban family. —Allison Keene
6. Perpetual Grace, LTD
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
In Perpetual Grace, creators Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris have crafted a visually distinct world full of moral quandaries, exploring the fluctuating nature of what defines a person’s character. That exists alongside scenes like Sir Ben Kingsley calmly telling the guard at a Mexican prison that he is “the pale horse of death,” just before being loaded into an ice cream truck for transportation to a Super Max facility.
The series builds out its own world in a vaguely modern southwest setting, where James (Jimmi Simpson) gets embroiled in a scheme to rob a couple running a scam church. Their son, Paul Allen Brown (Damon Herriman), repeats several times that “they’re just two old people,” but Byron (Kingsley) and Lillian (Jacki Weaver) are forces to be reckoned with—starting with the fact that James has to get hooked on methadone first to go through their detox as part of the heist. “That’s intense,” he says thoughtfully. Perpetual Grace has a weird, wry humor to it, but even more importantly it’s rooted in exceptional character work.
It’s a fascinating journey to begin, with no sense yet of how things might resolve, if they ever do. There’s no hurry to get there, though—spending time in this strange world is full of curiosities will likely keep us perpetually sustained.—Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked
HBO’s Euphoria is bleak and deliberately provocative, saturated with drugs and sex and maladaptive decadence and rendered in beautifully lurid colors. Our tour guide through this dystopian high school landscape is Rue (Zendaya), a 17-year-old addict with… a nihilist streak? Her diffident attitude toward, like, being alive is understandable in context: she literally doesn’t know anyone who isn’t a drug-snorting, porn-swilling, lying, violent, self-harming glassy-eyed zombie. That’d get to anyone after a while, even if they didn’t have an anxiety disorder.
Euphoria is a confusing show in some ways. It seems like a total provocation, an endless barrage of existential misery and trauma softcore and shock for shock’s sake. It’s massively voyeuristic, a seeming peek into the veiled world of teen misdeed that’s not really intended for a teen audience; this show is for adults, and it’s designed to freak them the hell out, presenting a relentless universe of violation and self-destruction. It’s got a stochastic, vignette-oriented feel with relatively little in the way of plot deployment, which neatly—and I will add artfully— underscores the feeling of suffocating dread it offers with its misty, neon-light-in-fog tones and mumbling, voyeuristically screen-gazing characters. It’s not the first or the only TV show to have a very dark take on what teenagers are really up to and the layer of gauzy, bleary unreality it conveys is at once compelling and a little gross. It’s admirably unflinching in its exploration of our darker impulses. It’s got a dreary, miserable beauty to it. —Amy Glynn
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked
In the Vida Season Two finale, Lyn (Melissa Barrera) stands on the steps of the suddenly thriving bar and attempts to reason with the vigilantes protesting it. “What did we do wrong?” she asks, detailing how long the bar has been there, how her grandfather built that very building and how her family has had roots in the neighborhood for five decades. She adds that every single person hired at Vida is Latinx, as are all of the musical acts they book. “What more do you want?” she cries out before she’s doused in detergent.
Creator Tanya Saracho has always grounded Vida’s story in one of identity, as sisters Emma (Mishel Prada) and Lyn (Melissa Barrera) came to terms in the first season with their late mother’s queerness and what it meant for their own lives. Emma, who was punished for her interest in girls, cannot forgive her mother’s hypocrisy, and is also at constant odds with Vida’s wife Eddy (Ser Anzoategui). The legacy of the bar (now officially called Vida) has also been a bone of contention between Emma and Eddy, and the catalyst (in this new season) for Lyn to come into her own. But the series also continues to investigate bigger issues like what it means to even be Latinx, or queer, and who gets to be a gatekeeper (for what good it does).
Though its season finale felt more like a pause than an end (and there will be a third season), perhaps that’s the perfect way to conclude a season of Vida—with the acknowledgement that we’re all in an ongoing process of change. —Allison Keene
3.When They See Us
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Antron McCray. Kevin Richardson. Yusef Salaam. Raymond Santana. Korey Wise.
I will admit that up until When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s searing four-part miniseries, I knew these men as only the “Central Park Five.” That they were, to me, first the perpetrators of a horrific crime and later exonerated victims of a racist and rigged legal system. But you cannot look away from When They See Us or shelter yourself from the blinding truth. The harrowing episodes will leave you devastated yet in awe of how McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise came out on the other side of what happened to them to lead happy, productive lives today. The story itself is overwhelmingly powerful. But there are several key decisions DuVernay makes that turns When They See Us into one of the year’s, if not the decade’s, best programs. One is the casting of five relatively unknown actors to play the boys. The “Central Park Five” were 14-16 years old in 1989 and Marquis Rodriguez, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, Asante Blackk and Caleel Harris not only look young but portray the absolutely vulnerability and fear that their real-life counterparts must have felt. The devastating fourth episode is a tour-de-force performance for Jerome, the only actor to play both the younger and older version of his character. In this traumatic hour, Jerome is nothing short of phenomenal. When They See Us is exceedingly difficult to watch; it cut me to my very core. When you see it, I’m sure it will do the same to you. —Amy Amatangelo
2. Big Little Lies
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Season Two of the HBO series, written by David E. Kelly and author Liane Moriarty and directed by Andrea Arnold, picks up about a year after the Emmy-winning first season as it investigates the fallout from both Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgard) death and the lie the women shared about its circumstances. Though Arnold follows the dreamy, fractured visual style that director Jean-Marc Vallée established in the first season, the tone is very different this time around. Season Two is about consequences, and though the series doesn’t lose its edge or satirical style (particularly when it comes to Renata), it’s far more meditative and melancholic than before.
Big Little Lies is at its best when it’s primarily a character exploration, and the caliber of its cast cannot be overstated. Though the series always has been a strange blend of trauma and satire, Season Two leans into the former much more so than the latter, focusing (perhaps rightly) far more on the dynamic Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and their interior lives. If the first season was about the women coming together, then so far this is about them falling away. That’s not an unnatural result given their shared trauma and the lie that will surely come out, but it does leave the narrative feeling unbalanced and fractured.
While it may lack some of the bite and urgency of its first season thus far, Big Little Lies is still an absolutely gorgeous series with a lot to unpack in terms of its complex women, the legacy of abuse, the makeshift families we form, and protecting one’s friends. There are several conversations in these early episodes about people who “want,” and women who “want” in particular. Each of the Monterey Five want for different things, but in this moment—in their lives that are full of convoluted lies and devastating consequences—most of all they want to know who they really are.—Allison Keene
1.The Spanish Princess
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
If you love historical fiction, then The Spanish Princess is the show for you. Instead of a typical Tudor story about Henry VIII, after he decides he wants to dump Catherine of Aragon for Anne Boleyn, this show shares Catherine of Aragon’s triumph. A story rarely told, The Spanish Princess details her happy years which, you may not know, were 24 years of marriage before her union was annulled. What makes this story particularly compelling is its intentional choice to use a diverse cast which is also rooted in history. While some might define the use of people of color in a historical fiction drama progressive, it is simply accurate. Chances are you have never seen this story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon on screen, and it is well worth the watch. It’s season finale has set up a fascinating Part 2 that will further investigate the reign of Henry and Catherine, with all of the lies, romance, and beheadings that come with it. —Keri Lumm