This week’s Power Rankings are, no surprise, creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky—you might even call the list altogether ooky. We’ve got your Halloween needs covered with witches, spiders, haunted houses, and the sort of indescribable Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. And if you’re counter-programming that neighborhood costume party, well, we have options for you there, too, from a Simon & Garfunkel-inspired ode to pretzels to Amber Ruffin trolling Megyn Kelly. Whatever your feelings about the holiday, the following 10 titles are perfect to watch with a bowl of candy in your lap.
The rules for this 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 comprised 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, as much good TV is available right now.
black-ish, Charmed, The Goldbergs, Maniac, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
The second season of Netflix’s animated sex-ed comedy is more unwieldy than the first, losing the element of surprise and adding way, way too much of that gross-out nincompoop, Coach Steve. Still, Big Mouth, from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, might be the flat-out funniest comedy on TV, pulling off a one-liner/sight gag hit rate to rival BoJack Horseman (without the despair) and The Good Place (without the profound philosophical questions). Highlights include a Planned Parenthood explainer episode in the form of a pop culture-inspired anthology—replete with an ingenious, contraception-themed Bachelor spoof—a ribald two-parter set at a school sleepover, and the addition of David Thewlis as the nefarious Shame Wizard, though the series’ MVP remains (of course) Maya Rudolph as the Hormone Monstress, offering a multi-episode master class in voice acting. (The way she pronounces “pharmacy” should be in the MoMA.) “I’m horny all the time,” Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney) laments at one point, summing up Big Mouth’s laugh riot, ‘and I’m makin’ bad choices.” Let’s hope there are still many more to come. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Netflix)
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
Even as scattershot an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as “I’m on My Own Path”—in which Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) waffles over returning to the law, Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) desperately tries to keep her focus on a tough client/guest star Nia Vardalos, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) tries dating again, and Heather (Vella Lovell) and Hector (Erick Lopez) tie the knot—has more than enough going for it. Such as: a New Jack Swing-inspired musical number in which “lawyer” is rhymed with “soul-destroyer,” or a Simon & Garfunkel tribute with singing pretzels. Or the recurring gag in which Josh’s dates bail by saying an Uber they never ordered is calling. Or the terrific Clark Moore as Rebecca’s incredulous Pretzel Central co-worker. Or—most especially—more “narc” puns than you never knew you always wanted. Take that, Narc Zuckerberg! —Matt Brennan (Photo: John P. Fleenor/The CW)
Network: BBC America
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
If eight-legged creatures are even remotely upsetting to you, “Arachnids in the UK” is nightmare material (as well as perfect Halloween programming) I jumped, as intended, at the first flash of a spider’s silhouette under a bed; I practically retched at that sound effect of a spider chewing away on the other side of a hotel wall; I recoiled at the stampede of spiders that chases Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) down a corridor. And though guest star Chris Noth’s very Trump-like real estate mogul, Jack Robertson, is a distraction—albeit an intermittently entertaining one—the episode is still a potent example of the Doctor’s enduring need for companionship, which Jodie Whittaker sells with such fervor she can’t be dismissed. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Simon Ridgway/BBC America)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell dropped on Netflix earlier this month, but unless you, too, have spent some time recently slogging through the trenches of new content to find the best of the streamer’s Halloween-y originals, it is likely that you overlooked it. A six-part Frankensteinian hybrid of Martha Stewart, Pee-Wee Herman, The Munsters, and Labyrinth—it was produced in partnership with Henson Studios, and features a trio of janky Henson monster muppets—The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is basically an arty little goth girl’s dream of what an ideal adulthood might look like, with star Christine McConnell shifting from sculpting hairy werewolf paw donuts with realistically sharp almond claws, to sewing blood-red date night gowns in front of a mirror haunted by the ghost of Dita Von Teese, to sharing a meal with a handsome possible serial killer she met while spending the afternoon with her grandmother’s grave-bound corpse, all while looking, as I put it in my comprehensive guide to Halloween specials, like some kind of dark sylph. You won’t have the time or energy to try for yourself almost anything Christine makes look so easy (although the first episode’s peanut butter pretzel bones don’t seem impossible), but if you’re looking for some GBBO-level Halloween content to queue up before tomorrow is over, this short series’ gently horrifying story, B-movie comedic dialogue, gorgeously sinister masterpieces, and bloody cliffhanger of an ending will be just the thing. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
Is whiplash covered under the WGA’s health insurance policy? Surely the members of the Late Night writing staff must have it, because it probably took less than 15 seconds to go from watching journalist Megyn Kelly’s morning show segment—in which she asked a bunch of white people what constitutes racist behavior in 2018—to looking at colleague Amber Ruffin. One of the breakout stars of the Seth Meyers-fronted program, thanks to her pointed takes on just such topics, Ruffin’s evisceration of Kelly last week was like watching a PhD candidate successfully defend her thesis: All her years of researching and honing her craft have been building to this moment. In the three-minute-plus takedown, Ruffin not only delivers some context about our country’s problematic history of blackface, but also reminds us that Kelly (and other white people) don’t get to say whether it’s offensive. “For someone with a morning show, Megyn Kelly, you sure are late as hell,” she dunked at the end. —Whitney Friedlander
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
The aesthetic of The Haunting of Hill House makes it work not only as horror TV, but also as a deft adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel. The monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump on the wall are off-screen, barely shown, or obscured by shadow. The series even goes back to some of the first film adaptation’s decisions, in terms of camera movement and shot design, in order to develop uneasiness and inconsistency. Well, maybe “inconsistency” is the wrong word. The only thing that feels truly inconsistent while watching it is your mind: You’re constantly wary of being tricked, but the construction of its scenes often gets you anyway. By embracing the squirm—and the time necessary to get us to squirm rather than jump—The Haunting of Hill House is great at creating troubling scenarios, and even better about letting us marinate in them. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Steve Dietl/Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
The Good Place was MIA for the past couple weeks, Team Cockroach spinning its wheels on Earth in a pair of episodes that would have shot any other show straight to the top of the list, but which for a show of The Good Place’s exquisite caliber were only great. With “The Ballad of Donkey Doug,” though, the wild ride that is Mike Schur high on moral philosophy and sick Florida burns is back with a vengeance. Now renamed the Soul Squad, our heroes spend this episode on opposite sides of the globe—Eleanor, Chidi and Janet in Australia, helping Chidi figure out how to cut ties with Simone to ensure he never slips up and dooms her to the Bad Place by telling her about the Bad Place, and Tahani, Michael and Jason in Jacksonville, on a mission to save Jason’s dad’s soul.
To try and explain anything that happens between Jason and his dad (guest star Mitch Narito), who is the Donkey Doug of so many horrifying past stories, would be to try and trap moonbeams, but to say that this episode is the writers working at full steam would not be a lie. Jason’s origins are everything you’d want and more, and the success of their mission is equally full of laughs and grace as this show has primed us to expect—plus, in addition to Eleanor making a move on virtual Simone and Janet making her own bings as she sidles in to respond to the humans’ needs, the Australia half features a brief Flula cameo. Oh dip, Flula! Oh dip, Donkey Doug! Oh dip, Janet’s forced corporeality! If this episode is any indication, the rest of the season is going to be a heart-mending trip. — Alexis Gunderson (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
Imagine all the camp and circumstance of creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s other series, The CW’s Riverdale, but with more blood and without the stringent Standards and Practices limitations that network TV requires. Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka stars as the titular half-witch in this horror series based on Aguirre-Sacasa’s own comics. Someone much more in line with Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger than the bubbly and bright version of the character that Melissa Joan Hart played on the sitcom, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, this Sabrina is a juvenile conjurer for the woke generation. She stumps for inclusivity, takes on bullies and is defiant of elders who tell her to slow down and learn the basics of magic before jumping ahead to the advanced stuff. (In this version, sadly, her cat doesn’t talk. Sorry to bum you out, Salem GIF lovers). Why should she sign her name in the Book of the Beast and let Satan—some guy she’s never even met—have jurisdiction over her body?
While Sabrina grapples with whether to embrace her destiny and align herself with the Dark Lord’s sinister plot, she has to jockey for screen time with some other scene-stealing characters. Homeland’s Miranda Otto and Shaun of the Dead’s Lucy Davis deliciously portray the bickering aunts entrusted to look over Sabrina and her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) with sound bite-worthy precision. Gavin Leatherwood’s warlock Nicholas Scratch puts a modern-day spin on the trope of the bad boy with supernatural powers. But the real breakout stars are a trio of sorceresses known as the Weird Sisters, played by The 100’s Tati Gabrielle, Stranger Things’ Abigail F. Cowen, and newcomer Adeline Rudolph. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Thanks to co-creator George Pelecanos’ script, “Nobody Has to Get Hurt” is amiable and funny enough that its hedging is tense without feeling crushing—as is a scene in which Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a publicly terrible pimp and full-blown pioneer in the world of interracial porn, fights “coon-ass shit” in his dialogue. But the way director Tanya Hamilton puts these scenes together, with dread mounting again and again after the cold open pistol-whips us with a mobster mentality, means we’re always a little on edge. Until the moment a screwdriver through the heart ends C.C. (Gary Carr), that is, who The Deuce and Lori (Emily Meade) both outgrew: When Black Frankie (Thaddeus Street) stumbles in with a “Damn. Y’all murdered the shit out that motherfucker,” we finally have permission to exhale. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
In Jed Mercurio’s exquisite actioner, there are no rooftop chases, no ticking clocks, no fisticuffs with the villain’s henchmen. Instead, the six-part series finds suspense in watchful camerawork and careful pacing, and it’s this thorough control that makes Bodyguard worthy of your next TV obsession: It refuses shortcuts, rejects ellipses, until it approaches the effect of real time. Rather than treat this as a gimmick, though, Mercurio, star Richard Madden, and directors Thomas Vincent and John Strickland use the technique to create potent echoes of protagonist David Budd’s torturous vigilance, and indeed the nation’s. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, David receives an assignment to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), a rising political star with her eye on 10 Downing Street—and a reputation as a national security hardliner. The result is an ingenious layering of form atop function, all within the context of a taut political thriller: The series is less of 24 or House of Cards than Homeland at its most momentous, stripped of all but its hero’s ability to see what others miss. —Matt Brennan (Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/World Productions/Netflix)