May 12, 2011 10:42am PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! Crowns A New King As Ranks Get a Shaking
Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending May 8.
Yes, they're late, but that's because Fox and everybody else started leaking their upfront news before the upfronts next week. That's supposed to be when we find out what's new and, more importantly, what they've canceled. So, yeah, a kink in the plans. And I might have been watching a lot of Giants baseball and Sharks hockey, so there's that. But never you mind -- The Power Rankings! cannot be stopped, and late is better than never. Here they are, with a new No. 1. 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 an incredible Season 2 for Justified, which all but dominated The Power Rankings! for most of its run and returns with the season finale to the top slot. I've already written about how the series leaped from very good to great this year -- a creative step that's harder than anyone can imagine and one that stops a lot of series cold. The finale had everything that makes Justified special -- pathos, humor, incredible writing, a strong story line and a seasonlong guest appearance by Margo Martindale that is one for the ages. Better yet, the show didn't have to have Raylan be Rambo. The gun play was elsewhere. And the writers had confidence to leave at least two major story lines dangling for next year without resorting to a cheesy cliffhanger. Wonderful stuff. All hail Justified.
Game of Thrones
The ratings are rising week-to-week, which means new people are discovering just how incredible and intriguing this series is. The strong point this week was, well, everything. But mostly the writers took some of the massively complicated backstory and presented it to viewers without pandering or in dull rambling. Watching this series is like going down a hole that never seems to have a bottom. Dense is good, people, so long as it's interesting. Thrones always is.
For everybody who thought Treme was always going to be second lines and crazily addictive beats, this was the episode that reminded you that David Simon is in charge. He never takes his eye off the hard truths.
There comes a point when people who don't like a show but can't stop talking about it need to move on, respectfully. Yes, The Killing moves slow. Yes, it rains a lot in the already noirish visual presentation of the series. We get your points and remind you that there are plenty of other series that move briskly, have saturated colors and resolve issues quickly (The Borgias, for example). For those who want to stick with The Killing and realize it takes place one day at a time -- which means grief lingers, Linden lingers, the rain lingers, etc. -- there's always something to find here. What I liked about this episode was the continued underappreciated humor of Holder, how Linden doesn't like to admit she may have cold feet (not from the rain) and how Rosie's father Stanley is the one trying to move on from two things simultaneously -- the death of his beloved daughter and his past thug life. Revenge is complicated. And that scene with the kite, where his boys want to know what really happened to Rosie? Painful and poignant.
Friday Night Lights
From off the rankings altogether to back into the top five. With three not-very-good episodes out of the way, the real FNL returned. This is the show we remember. We can now exhale.
Now that's a big jump. But then again, this is a show that's fearlessly original, even when referencing its past. The finale looks to take aim at an equally high ranking. "A Fistful of Paintballs" is so perfectly Community, it's like a litmus test on whether you're in or out on the series. Verdict: All in.
I feel like I've spent all season apologizing for liking this series. It may not have the gravitas of Game of Thrones, but it's stubbornly strong just when I want to say it's perfectly fine to like fluff. It could be that The Tudors’ rampant twisting of history in pursuit of sexualizing an old fat king-turned-slender stud via Showtime has somehow poisoned the well on The Borgias. Maybe you should take another look. It's a lot better than people are giving it credit for, which makes you wonder if they're even watching.
Forget the drop, it's a byproduct of other dramatic series rising. Plus, it just respawns, and you can't stop its genius. I have two things to say about what I love about this show: rum and Ritalin. And Scotch in the shower. And wool. And Spanish for older women. God, I love this show.
Parks and Recreation
Ditto on the drop. Ditto on the greatness. And love.
See No. 7, subtract some of the surprising depth, add in more swords. There's nothing wrong with being entertained for an hour. It's not like I need to see Meryl Streep to fulfill a need for dramatic heft. And the strange thing is, despite Merlin's over-the-top hysteria, this show is actually getting better. Welcome back to the Elite Eleven.
Tie: Raising Hope and Fringe
|10 and 7||↓||
Ties are rare in The Power Rankings! but it couldn't be helped this week. First, Raising Hope is coming back for a Season 2 on Fox, which is justified given that it's the best freshman comedy on TV, despite ratings that need some juice. Secondly, it's always funny and leaving it off would be a shame. So I couldn't. As for Fringe, well, this may take some explaining. I didn't like the finale. It was insanely all over the map and too convenient by half. It also gave me a headache trying to figure out what the hell Walter was going to do to save the plot line, er, future. Not this show's finest hour. And yet, I really like Fringe, and it had an adventurous and daring season, which should be rewarded (especially since parts of that season were left off this list -- mostly when Olivia channeled Spock, of course). In any case, I like Fringe. It may be going strange places next season. I just want the writers to get there more eloquently and without me needing Advil to overcome the plot weaknesses.
In Peril: I've officially given up on United States of Tara. I can't. I just can't. The Office is not here, nor may it ever be again. We shall see. Glee is crazy erratic, but I'm sticking with it. The cancellation of The Chicago Code and Traffic Light goes beyond annoying -- it means I'll stop watching entirely.
In the Mix: By rights, Modern Family should have made the cut this week, but nobody said this wasn't easy or bloody. Bob's Burgers and The Good Wife remain in the mix, as do one or two others. A new surge of candidates is on the way, by the way.
Out: Justified and Fringe have ended. Others are having their finales this week. The blood-in-the-streets metaphor will have to take a break until, say, mid-June.