June 29, 2011 2:40am PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! A New No. 1, Debatable Flux, Expansion and Sweetness!
Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending June 26. Having come to terms with Game of Thrones being over and not yet done, apparently, with all the anger I still have at The Killing, I'm happy to look forward with a substantial and impressive Great Eight featuring a good mix of dramas and comedies. I'll admit that I've fallen down on some of the new BBC America offerings, so if there's anything in there other than the InBetweeners that's spectacular, apologies. As I drifted down the list of offerings, it became clear once again that making this list shouldn't get any easier just because it's summer. So, thanks to a couple of newbies, I've added one rank, thus moving past The Magnificent Seven and into The Great Eight. Feels right. No padding. Alright, let's do this. 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. Free ponies and beer for those who like and follow.
Every vacuum must be filled when it comes to quality. And that's one of the things I love most about The Power Rankings! that gurgled up in whatever flawed stew I dreamt it up in and created for it years ago: the ability for a truly great series to sit in the third or fourth or fifth slot, waiting to rise up. There are rarely huge qualitative gaps between any of the shows in the Top 5, so moving up Treme was an easy decision (well, relatively easy). As a critic, what I like about Treme deep into its second season (the finale is this Sunday) is that I'm still thinking about it. More to the point, I'm thinking about what I actually think of it from week to week. Here's a show that has, I think, one of the least definable set of strengths that can be weighed against one another at any time. It's not like the story is great every week -- sometimes it's the music, sometimes it's the direction or the acting. Sometimes it's just -- and I'm already hating the fact that I continue to use this word about Treme -- the vibe. Eric Overmyer and David Simon clearly know what they're doing. But I think in the end, it's the fact that they can do whatever they want -- not sticking to any rules, precedent or expectation and then see what comes of it. That creates interesting, sometimes difficult television. In this episode, with its overwhelming sadness, I watched Lucia Micarelli as Annie continue her incredibly impressive voyage as an emerging actress. And I especially watched Khandi Alexander -- again -- and wondered (out loud this time) when the hell she's going to get her long-overdue Emmy. And then it pissed me off, and I watched a comedy (after finishing the episode, of course). All hail the new No. 1.
Men of a Certain Age
Sometimes I get so hung up in wondering whether Men of a Certain Age will get canceled, I forget to enjoy it. Or don't focus on that enjoyment -- which seems very MOACA of me. Now I'm wondering whether the series is looking to find that perfectly bittersweet ending to it all. (See, here we go again -- but hang in there, a point is about to emerge). Mike Royce and Ray Romano know the business well, and they are too smart to let this vastly underappreciated but excellent series wither out in some manner that's not in their control. I think they made this series because they could, because they wanted to -- not to re-create the success of Everybody Loves Raymond but to take the kind of value that goes beyond its success (you know, like the money) and use the power and freedom it gave them to create something special. Sooooo, did they dream up an ending that works as both a season and series closer -- in case of a worst-case scenario? I think so. Which makes me excited to watch the remaining episodes! See what I did there? But moving forward, I'm just embracing the goodness and hoping TNT does the right thing.
Friday Night Lights
If you were shouting "Don't go!" at the screen and not intending the emotion solely for Coach, I feel your pain at the impending loss. Pick an episode in this emotional final season (OK, maybe not the first three), and you'll realize why it has a special place. You know, up in the No. 1 slot, I was talking (or at least trying to explain) the difficulty of all the beauty in Treme and what the over-riding purpose and descriptive element might be. Not so tough with FNL. This is a show about moments. Always has been. Creating drama to set up a defining moment. And then shooting and acting the hell out of it. That's what made the episode special, and that's what made the series great. A real knack for the moment.
They cannot make episodes fast enough for me to devour my new favorite series. They just can't. That there's so, so much more meat on the bone here than just a guy in a crappy dog suit is, as a critic, really reassuring. But more on that in future episodes. Right now, it's the main hook -- a troubled guy sees a man in a dog suit while everyone around him sees a dog, period -- that is so deeply set inside me. I can't get enough of the simple stuff, like Wilfred circling around a few times before sitting on the couch. Or the asides about dog breath. Or Wilfred's foul mouth. So, make more. Lots more. And hurry, FX.
I watched this so long ago (in my short-attention-span world) that it's easy to forget. Except that I believe the show does take steps in revealing a bigger picture while never straying from the in-the-dark-about-what's-going-on element and the characters just trying to stay alive. Mechs, skitters, cameo appearances -- hell yes. I'm all in. Not only is Falling Skies pure entertainment, but it continues to surprise on many levels. You had me at post-apocalyptic, but still. I appreciate you stretching. Now, let's blow something up.
Louie isn't for everyone but should be. I came up with that and will allow FX to use it as it pleases. Because it's true, even if you have to hold people down and force them to watch while wallowing in their uncomfortableness. Oh, and it's funny. That I love Wilfred more doesn't mean I don't love you as well, just differently. Wink.
When a show like this can count Nick Offerman as a recurring guest and then -- and then! -- add Thomas Lennon like it's no big deal, well you've got perhaps the best playground ever for comic actors. Lennon pretty much steals and/or improves anything he's in, so he's welcome anywhere if you ask me. And you didn't, but you should have.
Well, let's be clear and fair here. The downward arrow -- the one ranking drop -- in no way has anything to do with the episode or quality. We just went from The Magnificent Seven to The Great Eight. So deal with it, because I'm tired of talking about love. And feelings. And being all nice. Then again, I suppose that's actually the nature of these rankings. I spread my anger and bile on shows that have no possible chance of getting here, then show my sweet side here. Um, InBetweeners is a lot of things -- great, even -- but I'm not sure sweet is one of its main traits. Familiar, yes. Cross cultural in its ability to express the outrageousness, wonder and stupidity of coming of age, yes. But not so much sweet. Let's keep it that way, yeah? (I wanted to end with a sentence that was both declarative and asked a question, which I find one of the oddest tics of our fine cousins across the pond.)
In Peril: We are a small band, we eight. Not many to drop out of disappointment. On the other hand, next week is the finale of Treme. So that sucks in technicolor.
In the Mix: I should really get to those other Brit shows. My bad. Oh, and shhhhhhh with all this chatter about the "blue sky" shows that are everywhere. As I mentioned more than once in past weeks -- ain't gonna happen.
Out: Game of Thrones and The Killing both ended their runs. And that's all I'm saying at this point. No need to pile on.