Sure, everyone’s talking about the Oscar nominations, but have you seen Hot Hitchcock and Scully? Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fine form, a standout episode of black-ish, Netflix’s buzzy Sex Education, and a Wall Street sitcom starring Don Cheadle and Regina Hall mean this week’s Paste Power Rankings are dominated by comedies—and led by one, too, if you count a certain comedy-of-errors music festival the Internet can’t seem to get enough of. Enough funny business: Check out all 10 of our selections (and a bunch of honorable mentions) on the list below.
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.
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Brexit, Corporate, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place, Good Trouble, Grey’s Anatomy
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
The premise sounds both ridiculous and tired: Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson), a loser good at videogames and bad at life, is mistakenly chosen to save the future of humanity by a pair of time-travelers trying to prevent the development of their dystopian society, caused by the unintended consequences of a cure for herpes. But, as they did with This Is the End, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have made the ridiculous entertaining, writing a crass, over-the-top, well-plotted love letter to the sci-fi canon of the late 20th century. The characters are fleshed out and original, especially Derek Wilson’s Wolf, who got sidetracked from his revolutionary cause in Season One by becoming a love for cooking. In Season Two, we learn that saving the world takes more than one try, but Josh Futterman is the accidental savior we need. —Josh Jackson (Photo: Greg Lewis/Hulu)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
Sometimes great TV can entertain and educate without making viewers feel like they’re sitting through some boring graduate school lecture. Black-ish excels at this tricky form of entertainment. I’ll confess my naiveté and admit I never had given much thought to the fact that members of the Johnson family were varying shades of black. The subject comes to a head when Diane (Marsai Martin) can’t been seen in her class photo because she wasn’t lighted properly. Tensions over the colorism that exists within the Johnson house then come to a head in a heated family argument. Although he won’t explicitly admit it, Dre (Anthony Anderson) thinks lighter skinned black men are weaker. His mom, Ruby (Jenifer Lewis), thinks Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) has had it easier in life because of the light color of her skin. No one in the family really knows what Ruby endured as a child because of her dark skin. Diane’s everyday interactions are filled with back-handed compliments (“You’re so pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”) All of it is discussed with humor and grace. There were no easy answers, but we laughed, we got a little teary, and we learned something. That’s not something you can say often about a network comedy. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC/Ron Tom)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo will convince the most cynical among us that it’s reasonable to derive joy from every single thing in your house, and that anything you’re hanging onto that doesn’t provoke a joy reaction should be seriously held to account. What’s interesting about Tidying Up is that it isn’t especially voyeuristic—and that seems to be what makes it work. Kondo skims the spaces she enters, maintaining a polite distance (she mostly speaks Japanese, which keeps a certain veneer of non-enmeshment between her and her generally English-speaking, Angeleno subjects). Most of the heavy lifting is done when she leaves, in solitude. She has a “method,” but she also has a point: minimizing, paring down, organizing, all the things she calls “tidying,” are about closing the gap between who you want to be and who you are on a given day. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Denise Crew/Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
Doc Brown isn’t the only scientist whose experiments could alter the course of history. In “Twin Cities,” series creator Justin Marks’ script explains just how the dual worlds of his complicated, tightly woven spy drama came to be when the split happened in the 1980s (provided, of course, that James Cromwell’s Yanek is a trustworthy narrator). The backstory—which must have been a continuity nightmare for the production staff, as it involves multiple actors portraying clones on screen at the same time—explains how such an inconsequential catalyst as a fatherly moment with one world’s daughter and not the other’s can lead to germ warfare. That the storyline is perfectly timed to correspond with the flashback’s real-world events, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, makes it extra potent. —Whitney Friedlander (Photo: Starz)
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
Yes, the world needed one more Wall Street comedy. Specifically, one not out to save that world. Because Black Monday isn’t here to point out hypocrisy. It’s here because it thinks trading shares in the 1980s with coke-vacuuming, trading floor-strutting superstar Maurice Monroe (Don Cheadle) is hilarious. The economic destruction coming Mo’s way, along with co-workers Dawn (Regina Hall) and Keith (Paul Scheer) and the meek-yet-volatile Blair (Andrew Rannells), a tech whiz who’s apparently cracked the Wall Street code, is simply the inevitable hangover at the end of the party. Executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who also directed the pilot episode) offer a unique spin on Adam McKay’s move towards upper-crust critique in their comedy, creating an unhinged tempo with handheld cameras and the overlapping jabberings of the cast. Driven by Cheadle’s energy—as unsafe as an experimental vehicle threatening to shake itself apart, with the hilarious Hall and Scheer bouncing one-liners like pebbles off his windshield—the show doesn’t always run well, but it definitely runs hot. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Photo: Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
“The Big Never” veers out of Det. Wayne Hays’ POV quite a bit more than the first two—with scenes focused on a Native American trash-picker (Michael Greyeyes) and Roland West’s (Stephen Dorff) visit to Tom Purcell—but it ultimately revolves around Hays struggling to put the puzzle together. It feels like a losing battle: Hays conveys the impression that he’s a man who never had any intention of being especially introspective and isn’t enjoying the excursion into his own mind. It’s a tenuous balance, and it pervades all his conversations, in all three time periods. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Warrick Page/HBO)
Network: YouTube Premium
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
To get you interested in YouTube’s new original comedy, Wayne, all I really need to say is that it’s basically John Wick meets John Hughes, with Wayne (Sing Street’s Mark McKenna) as a kind of magnetically angsty cross between Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye—you know, if instead of middle-class Chicago affluence and deep wells of self-interest, Ferris and Cameron had grown up in Brockton, Massachusetts with shit luck, no money, and a violent desire to make bad people pay, and if instead of a day playing hooky with cool girl Sloane in Cameron’s dad’s borrowed sports car, they’d helped a no-shit-taking neighbor girl (Del, played with deadpan genius by Ciara Bravo) kidnap herself away from an oppressively scary home situation by whisking her off on the back of a dinky motorcycle to Florida to steal a stolen sports car back. That’s got to be enough to get you excited to watch, but if not: In addition to McKenna and Bravo, Wayne stars Mike O’Malley as a worn-down Massachusetts high school principal just looking for a break, Dean Winters as Del’s alcoholic dad (in the most dangerous version of the dirtbag failure he so often plays), and Timeless’ Abigail Spencer as Del’s charming, opioid-addicted mom. It was produced by some of the dudes behind Deadpool, Zombieland and Ride Along, and boasts some decent behind-the-scenes gender equity, with four episodes each directed and written by women. It is as funny and optimistic as it is violent and melancholic. Its visual language is sharp as a shiv. It kicks literal and narrative ass.
Then, in case all that still isn’t enough to get you to just get that Premium trial subscription already, there’s the sixth episode (“Who Even Are We Now?,” directed by Stephanie Laing), in which Wayne dresses up in a powder pink tux a size too small, does a wild solo dance in the middle of a crowd of strangers to sacrifice his comfort for Del’s, and then wins those strangers over so strongly that they all stream out to the parking lot to just WAIL on Del’s dad to the soundtrack of… well, I won’t spoil it here. I’ll just say that when it all came together, I shrieked with glee. And reader? I want that for you, too. WATCH WAYNE. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: YouTube Premium)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
You’re an insecure, bright, sensitive teenage boy Asa Butterfield) with a wildly uninhibited sex-guru mother (Gillian Anderson), an absentee dad (the epically hilarious James Purefoy), a chronically foot-in-mouth bully-magnet best friend, a limited social life and a clinically interesting fear of your own penis. You have a stealth crush on your school’s official Way Too Precocious girl, who’s hard up for money. So, naturally, you open a sex clinic for high-school students in an out-of-service school lavatory, right?
Of course you do.
Netflix’s Sex Education is a decidedly raunchy and thoroughly adorable coming-of-age dramedy. While it’s not exactly afraid of well-worn tropes, it also doesn’t rely on them to a detrimental degree… and it has Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist, which would be enough for a lot of us even if nothing else about the show worked. Luckily, that isn’t the case: A testament to the power of character development, the series is riveting. None of its superbly crafted characters waste a single frame. —Amy Glynn (Photo: Sam Taylor/Netflix)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
An entire episode of everyone’s favorite cop comedy devoted to investigating the wet’n’wild vice cop glory days of precinct schlubs Scully and Hitchcock? I believe it was a young Jake Peralta who said, “I believe it was a young Barack Obama who said, uh-yes we can.”
Look, I’ve marveled at the casting of eerily perfect young versions of characters before, but Juel Bestrop, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s casting director, fully outdid herself in snagging Alan Ritchson and Wyatt Nash to play the younger, hotter, deeply cooler versions of Joel McKinnon Miller’s Scully and Dirk Blocker’s Hitchcock. They are INCREDIBLE, and while I’m positive that Season Six will be bursting with reasons to be thankful NBC swooped in a rescued the 9-9 from cancellation, just seeing this single casting coup, in this single glorious episode that takes the two detectives most deservedly at the butt of the series’ dumbest jokes and makes their real (if hidden) detective skills and moral compasses the narrative fulcrum to both Holt’s (Andre Braugher) internal revolt against the regressive new commissioner and Jake (Andy Samberg) and Boyle’s (Joe Lo Truglio) always-evolving friendship, proves that NBC knew what it was doing when it bet on Brooklyn Nine-Nine having plenty of comedic ground yet to mine. That we also get backstory for Wing Slutz, a racially coded battle between Terry’s Upstairs People and Amy’s Downstairs People back at the overly crowded precinct, and a not-sex van called the Beaver Trap that very possibly had a scarf in it that I also own (brb, finally turning on Marie Kondo to see if that should or should not spark joy) is just icing on the 9-9 cake. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Vivian Zink/NBC)
Networks: Hulu / Netflix
Last Week’s Ranking: Ineligible
If you hadn’t heard of Fyre Festival before this week, the news that Hulu’s Fyre Fraud scooped Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened in a dueling-movies throwdown for the millennial set gave you ample opportunity to catch up. (For those still out of the loop, Fyre Festival became a scammer sensation in the spring of 2017 when the “luxury” event, which had been promoted by the likes of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, turned out to be a glorified camping trip to the Bahamas; it is now the subject of multiple civil lawsuits.) The former boasts an exclusive, often damning interview with organizer Billy McFarland—one that is nonetheless profoundly unethical, since McFarland was paid to appear. The latter features a wealth of schadenfreude-heavy footage from the festival attendees—and also stumbles into ethical questions, since it was produced in partnership with festival promoters Jerry Media. Though neither received rave reviews, the pair’s near-simultaneous appearance spawned countless comparison pieces and Twitter conversations. And that, in the end, may be more interesting than either of the documentaries themselves: Not once but twice, Fyre Festival captured the web’s diffuse attention, a proxy for much bigger questions about generational identity, modern markers of class status, and the yearning for social media “fame.” Let us never speak of it again. —Matt Brennan (Photo: The Cinemart/Hulu)