April 25, 2012 3:46pm PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! Men vs. Girls! Popes vs. Sorcerers! Sitcom Fight Club! Flux!
Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending April 22. And if you think the bloodshed ends here, you're as insane as King Joffrey. Look, last week might have been the most competitive version of The Power Rankings! ever, and while we lost Justified to its season finale, one great sitcom retuned and the makings of another great one premiered. So, yeah, if you want blood, you've got it. Television is pretty competitively great right now. On my command, unleash hell!
FYI: The Power Rankings! are where television series are ranked on a weekly basis according to their most recent episodes and the ever-changing-moods of yours truly. If you want to learn how The Power Rankings! started and the methodology behind them, check out the link to the Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. Also: The Bastard Machine is on Facebook. And Twitter.
What a rousing return to form for Mad Men. The series has dipped the last couple of weeks after starting strong, but this week was emphatic proof that there is so much depth, so many tools to work with -- the writing, the acting, the directing -- that it will be incredibly difficult to keep it down the ranks (or maybe topple it again). Welcome back to No. 1.
This fantastic series gets better with each episode (which is saying something), so a lot of viewers probably thought "Vagina Panic" was an upgrade over the pilot. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is that you watch. And for some of you, that will require a broadening of the mind or at least some willingness to look at a subculture you might not normally be drawn to. Everybody else, continue basking in the audacity and originality.
Game of Thrones
The night may be dark and full of terrors, but the birthing process can also be a little scary. Especially when we all find out what the hell Big Red pushed out! Love this series so much, the week between goes too slow.
Unless my math's off, that's three HBO series in the Top 5. Any questions on which channel is on the biggest creative roll? Veep is hilarious and spot-on, and like creator Armando Iannucci's classic British series, The Thick of It, he proves a master at anger and swearing. But beyond that, even in the first episode, you get an immediate sense that government and all of its malfunctioning elements will be wonderful, ongoing fodder for the writers. Welcome to the Top 5, Veep!
Another series that gets better each episode is Magic City, which is unspooling its themes and tone a bit at a time and is still a show you should track down if you can (meaning, if you have Starz). What's wrong with a tux, some sex and Miami in 1959? Until there's a detour, we stay on this road.
As I said in the review of this series, Neil Jordan's newfound ability to structure a television series for maximum impact has really upped the game on The Borgias. Historical dramas are a gem when they stay filled with quality. Let's hope that continues.
So far, so good. Take that for what you will.
Parks and Recreation
Who doesn't love "amenities"? Plus, any episode that features Perd is a winner: "I don't know the answer to that, but your tone makes me think, yes." Welcome back, beloved P&R.
If Liz Lemon really is going to have a baby, it will be, in Jack's comforting words, better than the crap NBC is currently turning out. The question, of course, is whether a baby helps or hinders the show (if she really does opt in) and if there will be comedy gold to be found there. Of course there will. Because 30 Rock can make pretty much anything hilarious. And if the baby thing happens and it's not working out, they can just forget that the little snapper even existed, just like Murphy Brown.
Every time I watch Community, I keep thinking the same thing: Come on, NBC, take better care of it. This comedy is something truly special (which I also think NBC will realize too late, as will many comedy fans -- though they can just rent or buy the DVDs). In the meantime, you will most likely find it right here in the rankings.
Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23
You could look at this as a small tumble, but I actually think the second episode was better than the pilot. I've also seen the fourth episode, which is one of the best (the characters are rounding out), and I can tell you that this comedy is a keeper. Despite the title. But at least it's not called Cougar Town. (Come to think of it, ABC treats that show about as lovingly as NBC treats Community.) Don't take the funny for granted, dearest entertainment presidents. But I digress. If you haven't caught Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23 yet, track down the episodes and give it a chance.
Out: Justified ended, and that's sad. And I feel compelled to reiterate how much I adore Raising Hope, but the last couple of season-ending episodes weren't quite enough to get back into The Power Rankings! where it's been for much of its run. Here's to next season on that (and please, play catch up on that show if you haven't -- you'll thank me later). A number of other quality series failed to crack the rankings this week, but that's because the Elite Eleven is not something you walk into. You fight your way in.
In peril: I repeat: Everything (though there's not an influx of shows to be feared in the next week or so; it's just that the 11 here don't seem to be going anywhere in a hurry).
In the mix: Certainly Modern Family, which fell off this week. Probably Bob's Burgers. Maybe a dark horse. The thing is, take a look at that 11 above. Tough crowd to overthrow. And that's good for all viewers.