Paste’s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

The best of the TV week that was.

TV Lists Power List
Share Tweet Submit Pin
<i>Paste</i>&#8217;s Power Rankings: The 10 Best Shows on TV Right Now

TV’s split personality is on display in this week’s power list as the fun TV of our adolescent years is juxtaposed with the horrifying remembrance of how those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Nineteen years after it went off the air, the meta-reboot of 90210 had us all talking—specifically about who was and wasn’t allowed to watch in their youth. Strict parents, we know where you are.

On the much more somber end of the spectrum, the second season of The Terror is based on the horrors of Japanese internment camps during World War II. But the AMC drama’s resonance today is all too real.

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 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: Two Sentence Horror Stories (CW), Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (Netflix), Baskets (FX), Lodge 49 (AMC), Derry Girls (Netflix), and Mum (Britbox).

10. Veronica Mars
Network:   Hulu  
Last Week’s Ranking: 7

When your favorite TV show returns 12 years after its series finale and five years after its fan-fueled movie, you worry. Will our plucky heroine still be the beloved character we met all those years ago? Will her reformed, former bad-boy boyfriend still deliver the sardonic one-liners with aplomb? Can the show possibly live up to the anticipated hype?

Well my little marshmallows I’m delighted to inform you that the answer to all three questions is “yes.” The fourth season of Veronica Mars is fantastic. In this age of revival-palooza, much has been lost. In the quest for a quick money grab, revivals often leave their characters in a state of perpetual arrested development.

More than with any other revival, Veronica Mars’ creator and executive producer Rob Thomas has clearly thought about where these characters would be as adults. So my “yes the show is still awesome” comes with an asterisk. Gone is the happy-go-lucky breeziness of the Kickstarter video. Gone is the assurance the movie provided that almost everyone is living their best life. The result, which is an exceedingly honest look at adulthood, might not be the Veronica Mars we thought we wanted, but it is the Veronica Mars that we need.—Amy Amatangelo

9. No Good Nick
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention

I… love?? No Good Nick?? I mean, don’t get me wrong, nothing about it should make sense. Sitcoms do not work this way, none of its weirdly random pieces—a live studio audience! A corrupt foster care system! Wacky sitcom family shenanigans! Serialized storytelling! Mob violence!—should fit together at all, let alone combine to make something coherent. But while Part One of Netflix’s bizarre-meets-bleak con artist family sitcom managed to overcome every odd to end up “a ripping low-stakes binge,” the recently released Part Two goes way beyond that. And Part Two is great.

Once you get past the (very real) disorientation of watching a young teen girl be existentially misused by every adult in her life while a live studio audience laughs at the tropey sitcom shenanigans she gets up to to pay off the mob, it turns out that No Good Nick is, in fact, excellent. It’s maybe not Russian Doll excellent, but also, on a weird level, it’s not… not? I know, I know. But truly!

So turn on Netflix and queue up the next installment of Teen Girl Con Artist Covers Dad’s Mob Debts While Taking Revenge on Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin to see for yourself just how smoothly this show pulls off each of its increasingly ridiculous tricks.—Alexis Gunderson

8. Pose
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention

pose-season-2-main.jpg

Forgive me Pray Tell (Billy Porter) for I fell way behind on the second season of Pose. But now I am caught up and the category is: Summer’s Best Shows. In its second season, the FX drama, set against the backdrop of Madonna’s “Vogue,” dives deeper and more tragically into the reality of the trans community in the early 90s. It’s an unflinching look at the ongoing fight and struggle for acceptance and equal rights. Yet there’s still so much joy in the series. From the delight of a dance audition to Elektra’s (Dominque Jackson) ever-fabulous put-downs, to the weekly ballroom competitions, the series never fails to delight. Special shout out to MJ Rodriquez, whose Blanca is the true heart of the series. More than anything, Pose reminds us that family is often the one you make, not the one you are born into, and that there’s nothing like having the support of the ones you love.—Amy Amatangelo

7. Chasing the Cure
Network: TNT
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

chasing-the-cure.jpg

Ann Curry hosts this fascinating and engrossing live show that investigates the mysterious illnesses of its weekly guests. The series has an interactive component as well where viewers can call, text, or write-in with their experiences and suggestions about what a path to healing might be for these patients, which are evaluated by a panel of doctors (in addition to further testing by specialists). Yes each story is heartbreaking, but Chasing the Cure seeks to be educational and not exploitative by having its doctors explain common misconceptions, or why the viewer suggestions are plausible but don’t fit the bill here. It’s very careful to not provide all of the details for treatment lest viewers at home try and substitute it for their own healthcare, and yet one thing that becomes abundantly clear is how broken the American healthcare system is. Several of the mysteries so far though are due to the patients not being able to afford the specialists and testing they need. Perhaps we’ll all eventually end up on this series looking for answers and hope … —Allison Keene

6. Legion
Network: FX
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked

FX’s Legion has never been what you might call an easy watch. Wrestling with ideas of loss and love, time and reality, this is a show that pretty much never spells anything out for its audience. Instead, Legion leaves its viewers on their own to navigate the strange world of its story, which is full of unreliable narrators, offbeat fantasy interludes, bizarre voiceovers from Jon Hamm, and dozens of musical numbers.

Its story is deeply complicated, frequently doubling back on itself to alter our perceptions of events or characters we thought we understood. Heroes turn out to be monsters. Villains become something like friends. Perceptions about what is and is not real change from week to week. As viewers, we’re often left unsure about whether to trust the story we’re seeing, and how to feel about the characters telling it. The series finale is no different.

Legion’s ending somehow seems both extremely final and completely wide open. Yes, we’re saying goodbye to these characters we came to care about over the past three seasons. At least as we knew them, anyway. But as Switch says just before the series concludes, nothing good is ever lost. Though their stories will inevitably turn out differently in this unseen, unwritten future we will never experience, there is hope that some part of this glittering, painful, beautiful reality will still be with them. Legion wasn’t ever going to be a show with a traditional happy ending. But maybe this is as close as it gets.—Lacy Baugher

5. A Black Lady Sketch Show
Network:   HBO  
Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Created by Robin Thede, A Black Lady Sketch Show boasts Thede, Quinta Brunson, Ashley Nicole Black, and Gabrielle Dennis as its stars. It’s the first-ever sketch comedy television series to exclusively star, be written by (with Lauren Ashley Smith serving as head writer as she did on The Rundown with Robin Thede), and directed by black women (Dime Davis). The series isn’t just breaking ground because it’s a black sketch show airing at the same time as another black sketch show (the aforementioned Sherman’s Showcase: This type of thing just hasn’t been done).

A Black Lady Sketch Show is very familiar for a contemporary sketch comedy series. Think Key & Peele or Portlandia: Each episode has its sketches that sometimes feature recurring characters or bits but, for the most part, are all separate from each other. That is, save for a running segment throughout the series featuring the foursome as heightened versions of themselves, dishing about everything from the (mostly true) fact that all Glee versions of songs are better than the original to what their bizarre turn-ons are to their hair regiments (which is quite important for a black woman, whether you’re a character in a sketch show or not). These segments are ground zero for the show, providing much-needed breaks from the sketches themselves, while also telling an interesting story. They also provide a mission statement for the type of humor and thinking that this series aspires to.—LaToya Ferguson

4. BH90210
Network: Fox
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

I’m going to be honest. I’m not exactly sure what I was watching in the first two episodes Fox made available for review (like in a legit WTF is happening kind of way) but I kind of loved how wonderful and weird it was. Just as the original 90210 broke the mold and set the foundation for all teen dramas to follow, this six-episode series breaks the mold on reboots and may very well inform all that follow.

Tori Spelling, Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering,
Gabrielle Carteris, and Brian Austin Green all return to play heighten versions of themselves. They gather for the 30th anniversary of the show (technically it’s been 29 years since the show premiered by why quibble?) in Las Vegas. Tori has six children (instead of the five she has in real life) and is married to Nate (Ivan Sergei who co-starred with Spelling in the 1996 the Lifetime movie Mother, May I Sleep with Danger a.k.a. the greatest made-for-TV movie ever made). Like the real Tori, TV series Tori has big financial problems and a loving, supportive husband who just doesn’t seem to understand their monetary issues. Jennie Garth is on her third marriage and has a daughter who wants to be an actress. As in real life, Tori and Jennie are best friends and, just like in the series, it was their idea to get the gang back together.

But, like I said, it’s weird. Not as weird as the time Brandon and Dylan went to a sweat lodge or Kelly joined a cult, but close. You’re not watching them be Donna and David and Kelly and Brandon which, in many ways, is very nice. Those characters can live on as we remember them. Things start to get really bizarre, though, when the series merges this meta version of their real lives with the soap opera antics of the show’s heyday. It’s kind of genius. There’s not just the throwback music (I ,for one, appreciated hearing Color Me Badd one more time) but there are obsessive fans, devious writers, extramarital affairs and who knows what else the show has cooked up. “We’re not going to be here forever but we made something that will be,” Tori says in the premiere. Damn straight you did, Tori. Damn straight. —Amy Amatangelo

3. Glow
Network:   Netflix  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

The third season of Netflix’s GLOW kicks off with a very bizarre choice. Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Ruth (Alison Brie) are being interviewed in character as Liberty Bell and Zoya the Destroyer by a local TV station in Las Vegas (where their now nightly show is taking place). It’s launch day for the space shuttle Challenger, and the two characters play up their U.S. vs U.S.S.R. rivalry by making encouraging and disparaging remarks about the shuttle in turn. Everything they say, positively or negatively, is exceptionally cringe-worthy because we know—as is revealed moments later—that the Challenger would explode, killing everyone on board. It’s GLOW!

This juxtaposition is a jarring way to start the season, but it does ultimately capture a theme that runs through the remaining nine episodes. GLOW can be and often is bubbly fun. But beneath that exterior is a more complicated truth, something that these women handle and fight through both inside and outside of the ring.

GLOW will always be a show that understands femininity in a way few others do, and is often a pop-filled good time. But Season Three seems like it also wants to dive into some deeper issues in order to stand up and fight for the rights of all women. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling gathered for the shuttle launch looking for hope and found a disaster. We come to this series looking for comfort and find, instead, a rallying cry. Sometimes it’s messy, but that’s what GLOW is all about. The women try, and fail, and try again. They weather the sadness and the chaos. Choices are made, mistakes happen. And they try again.—Allison Keene

2. The Terror: Infamy
Network: AMC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

There is no shame, in good times or bad, in craving light, escapist fare. If you need less Chernobyl and more Holey Moley in your life, that’s fine. And if that is you, then there’s good news and bad news with regard to Infamy, the evocative, chilling second season of AMC’s anthology series, The Terror. So here’s the good news: Showrunner Alexander Woo and his team have crafted a hell of a ghost story (or, more accurately, a kaidan), continuing the first season’s knack for mixing together mythology, ambiguity, genre, and striking imagery to chill the bones. If you want a good scare, you’re in great shape. The bad news—and it’s only bad news if you don’t have it in you to confront the horrors of the real world—is that no ghost could be more unsettling than the historical and depressingly everyday nightmares that The Terror has in store. In this case, the historical event being explored is an American (and sadly timely) one: the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during the Second World War.

If the body horror or creeping dead don’t turn your stomach sour, the reminder of the ugliness of the past (and the present) surely will. But if you’re ready and willing to experience it, the rewards are considerable. It’s captivating, provoking and complex, as eager to earn your stunned silence as it is to send you pushing back from the television in revulsion. Most importantly, it never sacrifices story and especially character in pursuit of those reactions. The Terror might use terror (and its cousin, dread) to unlock doors in your stomach and psyche, but it’s not a parlor trick. There are horrors of worlds beyond ours, and horrors of our own making. By confronting its characters with both, Woo and AMC make the latter much, much harder to ignore.—Allison Shoemaker

1. Succession
Network:   HBO  
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible

HBO’s Succession, from creator Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It) is dressed up as a prestige drama, but it’s actually one of TV’s most acid comedies. Once you embrace that, Succession unlocks as a never-ending battle of power and prestige with medieval royal overtones that is also wonderfully aware of how absurd that kind of story is. As one observer of the Roy family comments, “watching you people melt down is the most deeply satisfying activity on planet Earth.”

In Season Two, Logan (Brian Cox) is back in full health and full power, having survived and subverted Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) late-season attempts at a coup—incidentally, one of TV’s most horrifically sad sequences of events. It left Kendall completely broken, a dead-eyed robot who now lives in service to his father’s wishes. But all of the spoiled siblings are cowed (except for Connor (Alan Ruck), still deludedly considering a Presidential bid) with Logan’s return. He’s a bully, frightening even his oldest friends, yet knows exactly how to emotionally manipulate everyone back into his thrall. They may complain and privately plot against him, but no one dares speak a word to disfavor them in his presence.

Succession is not made to be binge watched. It’s engrossing, as a world that’s easy to immerse oneself in, but there is a kind of shadowy, icky feeling that follows you when you’ve consumed too much. That’s not the show’s fault; it’s easy to laugh at Tom (Matthew Macfayden) getting upset that he’s “not in the right panic room!” when he discovers Shiv (Sarah Snook) is in a more posh stronghold, but seeing Waystar encourage a dotcom to not unionize before gutting them, or how even a supposedly ethical organization might well sell out to partisan interests when there’s enough money is just depressingly real. Succession is a combination of Tom’s exclamation “what a weird family!” and Logan’s “Money wins. Here’s to us.” And it has us fully in its thrall.—Allison Keene

Recently in TV