It’s a new day in America for this week’s Power Ranking, although we’re still very much in the throes of pandemic production mode. What that has meant lately is that a lot of weird, niche series are getting their chance to shine. From the insane events of Attack on Titan and the heist-y pleasures of Lupin, to the mind-bending realities of WandaVision and the incredibly grounded warmth of Everyone Is Doing Great, TV is still delivering, just on a smaller scale. You may need to work a little harder to seek some of these gems out, but it’s worth 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.
Honorable Mention: Losing Alice (Apple TV+), All Creatures Great and Small (PBS), Attack on Titan (Crunchyroll), Cobra Kai (Netflix), Dickinson (Apple TV+)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked
This Week: Who doesn’t love a Louvre heist?
Arsène Lupin was a gentleman thief, a sort of anti-Sherlock Holmes created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905. French TV show Lupin stars Omar Sy as a the son of a Senegalese immigrant who may have been framed by his wealthy boss for stealing a valuable necklace. He’s left alone with a Lupin novel and a desire for clear his father’s name. The short series is great heist-y fun with with a heaping helping of revenge served cold. — Josh Jackson
Network: Amazon Prime
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: Dominique Tipper put in an incredible, harrowing, nearly silent one-hander performance with her character having been abandoned on a booby-trapped ship with no comms, water, or extra oxygen. WOW.
All the pieces The Expanse fans love are still in play in Season 5, from Amos (Wes Chatham) dispassionately busting skulls to Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) glaring rail-daggers through anyone who crosses her, to Avasarala cursing her way into the highest (like, to-the-Moon highest) halls of power while dressed to the jewel-toned nines. But where fans might be expecting to see Amos bust those skulls with Holden, Naomi (Dominique Tipper), and Alex (Cas Anvar) around to keep him grounded, or Drummer glare those rail-daggers while working to help the Belters achieve peaceful stability, or Avasarala doing her power-sweeping through the halls of the UN, loving husband and/or Bobbie just a call away, this season finds them all scattered across the solar system, thrown into settings and character combinations we’ve never seen.
Now, how well this will work for you will absolutely vary. Having its core characters so dramatically isolated means that the action in Season 5 is, by necessity, much slower than a lot of fans will be used to—and The Expanse already had the capacity to be a pretty slow show. (A generous description would be meditative, but an honest one might allow for ponderous.)
That said, when it comes to The Expanse, it is still a deeply satisfying, multisensory experience, and for all that the interpersonal stories are smaller this season, it is still as beautiful to look at as ever. —Alexis Gunderson
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: This great show about friendship deserves more love.
Funded by an Indiegogo campaign, the humble, self-aware, and charming Everyone Is Doing Great was created, written, and directed by former One Tree Hill stars James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti. The two play actors coasting on the success of their teen drama (in this case, a vampire series called “Eternal”) which ended five years earlier. Colletti’s Seth Stewart is a motivated go-getter who can’t get casting directors to consider him for better, more serious roles, while Lafferty’s Jeremy Davis is a sweet idiot who is completely adrift. Simple vignettes explore how the two men are dealing—or rather, not dealing—with the reality of their lives now. Seth is doing all he can and Jeremy is doing next to nothing, but both are floundering in the abyss of a scathingly portrayed L.A. scene.
The subgenre of series that focus on minor celebrities playing fictionalized versions of themselves in ways that expose the truths of the Hollywood machine is a rich one indeed, and it’s clear that a lot of Everyone Is Doing Great is inspired by real experiences. A cinéma vérité style with improv elements augments this, clearly taking some cues (including musical ones) from series like Curb Your Enthusiasm and even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But whereas those shows are often caustic in their humor, Everyone Is Doing Great is much milder, with an earnest energy. It’s a refreshing change.
That warmth and quiet affability permeates the eight half-hour episodes, which focus on friendship, romance, and figuring yourself out. Jeremy and Seth are doofuses, but they realize that. They grow, or try to. They’re lost boys, but not quite forgotten by the industry they grew up in and are holding on to. Not yet, anyway. —Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week: Fabulous—and extra points for “It’s a Hard Knock Life”
There’s nothing on TV quite like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.
Where else can you find exuberant musical numbers, razor sharp satire of the tech world, snappy, pop-culture infused dialogue (“You look like a sad Emma Stone Halloween costume”), groundbreaking choreography, and an eloquently honest portrayal of grief? Nowhere else, that’s where. Zoey represents all the potential network TV has to take big, creative swings and hit the mark.
Kicking off its second season, Zoey (deftly portrayed by Jane Levy)—who hears other characters inner most thoughts through song—is still reeling from the death of her father (Peter Gallagher) and faced with a daunting promotion at work while trying to decide between her two suitors Max (Skyar Astin) and Simon (John Clarence Stewart). There are some big changes (Lauren Graham is out, Harvey Guillén is in), but it all works perfectly to create the kind of joyful, cathartic series we need right now. —Amy Amatangelo
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: A loving homage to shows of the era (while still calling out their inherent sexism) that is accessible even to those not deep into MCU lore.
In the Marvel comics, Wanda Maximoff is a reality-bending enchantress known as Scarlet Witch. Her power set is immense, and we have never seen the full scope of it within the movie universe—it’s too big, really, when you compare the fact that she and an actual god (Thor), and a wizard (Doctor Strange), are equals on a team with a Russian spy (Black Widow) carrying a gun, and an archer (Hawkeye). There are limits.
Not, however, when it comes to WandaVision itself, which is where we finally get to see the Marvel machine slightly unleashed. Marvel’s forays into television have not been altogether fantastic. But these new Disney+ series expand the story of characters we know from the movies in way that the movies simple did not have time to do. It also allows WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman to put a uniquely stylized and deeply emotional spin on a story that would have (had this been a movie) otherwise been shackled by the mandated aesthetics of the overall MCU.
As such, in WandaVision, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) is also unleashed. She has used her immense power to create an insular world where she and her lost love, Vision (Paul Bettany), get to live happily ever after in classic sitcoms based on the likes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and I Love Lucy. For fans of classic television, this is no satire; despite a few over-the-top ham moments, it is a loving homage to these series.
But of course, it’s not real. Throughout these half-hour episodes (both the ones we experience and the ones Wanda and Vision are living through), the world outside of this coping fantasy begins to creep in. First with bursts of color, then occasional off-script moments. Wanda stops these right away by rewinding and reliving the situation without the disruption. A clean story, nothing to disturb them. Just a husband and wife living a normal life in perfect suburbia (with the occasional advertisement for a Hydra watch or a Stark Industries toaster, of course).
Soon, however, Wanda is spinning out of control. Reality is closer than ever, and the teases we get to the world outside of Wanda’s creation, one where Vision is gone, get increasingly overt. She will have to come to terms with the truth soon, but it will hurt. And yet, I don’t really want reality to impede on Wanda’s created life at all. WandaVision’s core conceit—that sometimes you just want to escape into television, into fantasy, into a daydream—couldn’t be more meta. Let’s stay here in this happiness just a little while longer. The world outside is so dark. —Allison Keene
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