Robert and Michelle King are dominating the Power Ranking this week, with two of their Paramount+ series featured: The Good Fight and Evil. But while the latter is returning after a mid-season break, the former gave a swan song for its excellent season. Elsewhere, we’re welcoming another old favorite back into the fold after a two year hiatus—and it hasn’t missed a beat. There’s a lot of great TV on right now, so let’s get to it!
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.
Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC), Reservation Dogs (Hulu)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week: Ricky Rabies and Crystal’s boss finisher? We have no choice but to stan.
Created by Loki’s Michael Waldron—with Mike O’Malley serving as showrunner—Heels follows brothers Jack (Stephen Amell) and Ace (Alexander Ludwig) Spade as they navigate their way through the world of local, independent professional wrestling in their small, fictional Georgia hometown of Duffy. The series begins nearly a year after the shocking death of their father, “King” Tom Spade (David James Elliott), a local hero who left behind a legacy and big shoes to fill. He also left behind the family business, the Duffy Wrestling League (DWL). Family man Jack, who plays a heel in DWL and hold the company’s championship belt, takes over the responsibilities of running the promotion (booking wrestlers, writing the storylines, courting sponsors, and everything else he can possibly do to grow the DWL), while devil-may-care Ace—the promotion’s top face—has dreams of making it big in professional wrestling and finally getting out of Duffy the way Wild Bill did.
Heels is a series that sets out to not just push back the metaphorical curtain (as opposed to the literal curtain) on the world of contemporary professional wrestling, but to examine how the lines of reality can be blurred—something professional wrestling takes to another level. That’s especially true when wrestling is literally your family’s whole life, the thing that you hope puts food on the table. Heels asks the questions one would expect a show about professional wrestling to ask: When does kayfabe (the established “fake” world of wrestling) become a shoot (the real world)? When does a shoot become kayfabe? What happens when those worlds co-exist? And in the specific case of Heels, how do these characters balance work and family when both are inextricably linked? It’s territory that Heels has its characters absolutely thrive in from the very moment we meet them. —LaToya Ferguson [Full Review]
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Season 2 picks back up with a silent episode that may be one of the year’s best.
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. Still, 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: Honorable Mention
This Week: An excellent season finale—the show is a validation of the crazy world we are currently living in.
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
Network: Apple TV+
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
This Week: Ted confronts his anxiety, and it really hit home.
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]
Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: The beloved under-the-radar series is back, and may be better than ever.
When last we left The Other Two’s Dubek clan, 14-year-old Chase (Case Walker)—aka viral pop singing sensation ChaseDreams—had just bombed at the VMAs and decided to retire from music altogether to attend college. While that choice might have made it seem like the Dubeks would then no longer be in the public eye, that news was immediately followed by the season-ending reveal that matriarch Pat (Molly Shannon) would be hosting her very own daytime talk show. As a result, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) would continue to remain “The Other Two” of the celebrity family, only in a new, different kind of embarrassing way.
As this season will have a two-episode a week structure, each The Other Two drop will come from a place of both Chase and Pat’s current status. But while Brooke and Cary are still the most obvious “other two,” this second season works in interesting ways to both help them grow and become successes in their own right while also continuing to highlight just how big of a mess they both are.
Plus, the show’s biting humor and wit remain from moment one. The amount of jokes in just the first 30 seconds of the season premiere—even in just onscreen text—is an instant reminder of just how dense and astute of a comedy machine The Other Two is. As the series exists in such a realistic, relatable, and recognizable world, all of those comedic moments where it’s just slightly askew continue to hit hard, especially when it comes to the celebrity culture in which these characters find themselves in. But above all, The Other Two remains proof positive that satire and parody doesn’t need to come from a harsh place to work, even in—again—this climate. —LaToya Ferguson [Full Review]
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