The Olympics have come to a close and the Paralympics are on the way, and the scripted TV cycle this week is much the same. We’re saying goodbye to a few series we’ve enjoyed this summer, but before we get to some much-anticipated hits (Reservation Dogs! Nine Perfect Strangers!) there’s a bit of a lull. Or in bingewatching terms, the perfect time to get caught up on some our recommendations 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.
Physical (Apple TV+), Naomi Osaka (Netflix), McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Hulu), The Good Fight (Paramount+)
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: The show’s last week of eligibility, and we wanted to remind you to watch!
Never Have I Ever centers on Indian-American high-schooler Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) as she navigates the drama of friends, boys, and grief after the loss of her father. Series creator Mindy Kaling loosely based the show on her own upbringing as a second-generation Indian without significant ties to her heritage, while also tapping into the feelings of loss she felt as an adult after her mother’s death. Never Have I Ever was a watershed moment for representation in Hollywood—not just because the main character had brown skin, but also because she was allowed to be impulsive and selfish and, at times, genuinely unlikeable.
Everything that made Never Have I Ever special in the first season is back and even better in Season 2. Yes, Devi is still a messy character, the type who makes you slap your forehead after everything she does, but watching her grief manifest in vulnerable ways still makes her worth rooting for. John McEnroe continues to be a great narrator for Devi’s inner dialogue, and the parallels between their hotheadedness become even more apparent. And the Vishwakumar family dynamics are still true to life, especially for immigrant families everywhere. Never Have I Ever doesn’t skip a beat in its return, and remains entertaining, challenging, and a joy to spend time with. —Radhika Menon [Full Review ]
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Compelling both for UFOlogists and newbies.
For hardcore enthusiasts of UFOlogy, the last decade in particular has churned out a plethora of fascinating docuseries, from History’s Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation to Discovery’s UFO Witness, along with documentaries like Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers (2018), all of which are hyper-focused on seriously dissecting seminal cases and first-person accounts for their legitimacy. Further, all of this recent output has been bolstered by the December 2017 New York Times exposé on the U.S. government’s secret UFO program that confirmed what both armchair researchers and professional journalists had already surmised.
Because of the deluge of information already out there (and freely available for a YouTube rabbit hole binge), Showtime’s four-part documentary series UFO is in the unenviable position of having to work twice as hard to prove why it should exist. Does it try to cater to everyone with a UFO 101 approach, or to those in the know? Surprisingly, it manages to acquit itself well to both the noobs and those who keep up with daily UFO Reddit threads.
Hugely in its favor is that the series’ producers and directors, Mark Monroe (Icarus) and Paul Crowder (Riding Giants), approach the topic with the utmost respect and gravitas, and engage expert talking heads like journalists Leslie Keane and George Knapp, University of North Carolina research professor Diana Pasulka, former Arizona Governor Fife Symington, and The Black Vault founder John Greenewald, Jr. The docuseries is also up-to-date, featuring the January 2021 Congressional mandate to release a full UFO report by this summer in the opening episode. And by the end of Episode 2, the series even drops a whopper of a cliffhanger involving a well-respected former member of the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the secret Pentagon UFO study carried out from 2008 to 2012. It’s a bold move that will get attention from even the most jaded UFOlogists, and ultimately left me wanting to more of its smart and insightful investigations, and makes a strong case for further exploration. —Tara Bennett [Full Review]
Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week: Kristen Chenoweth finally got her Broadway barnstormer with “Tribulation and Strife.“
In this six episode series from executive producer Lorne Michaels, Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) are two New York doctors who embark on a camping trip designed to bring them closer together. They get lost along the way and find themselves stranded in the town of Schmigadoon! Despite their continued efforts, they are unable to leave until they find true love. Turns out, that means that Melissa and Josh aren’t as in love as they (particularly Melissa) thought they were.
The series manages to be simultaneously an adoring homage to the genre and a spot-on satire of it; every trope is lovingly upended, every plot difficulty laid bare. (Let’s be honest, women didn’t fare too well in the classic musicals. I mean there is a “what can you do but love him?” song about an abusive husband in Carousel.) Melissa explains the reproductive system in a little ditty that’s very similar to “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. “Why are they laughing? Nothing even remotely funny just happened?” Josh wonders at the end of one number. There’s references to “color-blind casting” and at the start of a dream ballet, Melissa exclaims, “We’re not having a dream ballet. They’re annoying and stupid and slow everything down.” Will you enjoy the show if you’ve never seen a musical and have no context for what’s being spoofed? Maybe. But this truly is a series for Broadway fans. —Amy Amatangelo [Full Review ]
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: Jennifer Coolidge is a magical person.
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 [Full Review]
Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week: Sam’s activist moment and Jamie’s “we’re teammates; we’ve got to wear the same kit” bit in solidarity was top notch.
The success of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, with its emphasis on kindness, positivity, and respect, probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. A comedy about an American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) who takes a job as the manager of a struggling English Premier League team was the perfect escape from the global pandemic that had forced us inside, fostered uncertainty, and fed our collective anxiety. But it also slipped into the TV space that had previously been occupied by heartwarming shows like Schitt’s Creek and Parks and Recreation, two comedies that similarly dealt in overwhelming kindness and left lasting impressions on viewers who’d grown weary of the darkness of the antihero age, or who needed a break from everyday life.
In Season 2, the series has doubled down on what works—Ted’s ability to lead, Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) strength, Keeley’s (Juno Temple) PR acumen, and Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) keen insight into the team—while also finding new and fun ways to explore characters like Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Jamie (Phil Dunster). Basically, Ted Lasso as a whole remains a delightful and quirky comedy that highlights the best of humanity, revealing how kindness and humility can be a conduit to happiness and success. It’s still the show we all needed last year, but it’s also the show that we need today. Because if there’s one thing the show has taught us, it’s that there is no bad time for Ted Lasso. —Kaitlin Thomas [Full Review]
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