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The Power Rankings! Hello, Chaos. A New No. 1 and Five Shows Drop Out

Flux is in fashion as Southland ends its run and four others get booted out

Power Rankings

Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending March 20. Looks like Wednesdays are the default posting days, since I can't possibly seem to get it done any earlier. Perhaps it's the vast greatness that overwhelms me? Or the worry that I'm missing something (no, not that show). Whatever the reason, I'll blame our good friend flux. How's this for regime change - one show ended its run and four others we're dropped off the list. Holy shake-up, Batman. 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 last Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. In the meantime, let's rank those players who weren't afraid to suit up.



Lights Out


These last episodes are rich and I'm enjoying them quite a bit. Sometimes you just have to take the fight to the street. Forget pay-per-view. You throw and take a few punches, then tumble through a plate glass window. That's old school. I'm not sure Lights would be so blase about what goes in his body, needle-wise, but that can be overlooked. But at the rate he's popping those pills, who knows what's going on in that head of his? For viewers who have embraced this series, the final rounds are a just reward. Welcome to the top slot, champ.




An otherwise solid episode - who doesn't like knuckleheads with guns and really bad plans? Plus, it featured maybe the funniest/saddest chase in TV history. Old men with oxygen tanks are not the speediest threats, apparently. (Oh, and there was a great Jaws reference.) And Raylan, for the faintest of seconds, at least entertained the notion of a lot of little Raylan's running around. A happy life with a beautiful wife and refuge from Kentucky nut-cases? Who wouldn't jump? But Raylan loves his job. (Who also doesn't love Natalie Zea, by the way? But I doubt her character would be dumb enough to do what she did in this episode. That was a stretch - even though her character admits it's a dumb mistake.) Still, Justified probably would have held the No. 1 spot another week - but I watched Lights Out after it.


Parks and Recreation


Welcome back to our good friends from Pawnee! This episode had everything. The Harvest Festival pulled off with only a few flaws - mostly Jerry's fault. Damn Jerry. A small horse. Ron Swanson actually happy about a small horse. There was even some "awesome sauce." Plus - more vindictive reporting from the local news (never not funny); fun poked at politicians and ignorant people and more than one joke about the difficulty of a corn maze. Man, this show is sweet! You're watching, right?




Nice leap up for Shameless, as it continued its relentlessly dark assault on families. This one was all kinds of wrong, of course, and I'm not talking about the gratuitous Diet Coke product placement. No, later. You know, the statutory rape thing. More than a little hinky there. But it's hard to call foul in this series where there's been no fear of any topic. A bigger (and bolder) episode for William H. Macy but also very consistent work all around by the cast. Shameless lives up to its title and still manages to convey humor, heartfelt emotion and audacity.


Raising Hope


Not only is this the funniest freshman comedy on television, but it's providing serious and sustained competition to the sitcoms that have recently been up for enshrinement as the next Hall of Fame class in waiting. Both Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt had better be on the Emmy ballot this year. They work in opposite directions with Plimpton absolutely fearless about everything and Dillahunt having honed the loveably odd (damaged?) dad to such perfection it's a joy to watch him work each week. He sells out fully for dumb. And he's found a kind of reserved genius in it (playing it way over the top would be too easy; and it would also be what most sitcoms would have asked for). If you're not watching Raising Hope or Parks and Recreation, well, whatever. Some people can't be told.




And a big round of applause for the return of Community. What did we learn this week? Well, be glad Senor Chang is not your dad. Or anyone's dad (yet). And that Abed has a security camera, which is mainly used as a documentary device to catch him editing dailies. Don't you just love how explaining plots in Community really makes no sense and is almost never a useful tool in bringing in new converts? But it almost doesn't matter. These characters are finely written. They seem, unlike so many others, to grow each week. Like you know them. I'm told that was a pretty lucrative formula for Friends. Hasn't worked out quite as well at Community, but again - some people can't be told. The show has achieved greatness. If you can't be bothered to make the effort, well, there's always CBS.




Seriously, if someone who had never watched Fringe tuned in for the first time last week, well, that would be bad. Oh, it was a fun and fine episode (and more proof that Paula Malcomson should continue getting work), but newbies would have laughed their asses off while simultaneously being very confused. Let's just say that having Anna Torv do a sustained impression of Leonard Nimoy is more than just risky -- it's ludicrous. And yet, it was kind of interesting to see in a surreal way. Oh, and new character alert? Hmmm. Anyway, as noted in prior Power Rankings!, Fringe is always entertaining. It's never a wasted hour. And that's a welcome gift on Fridays.


How I Met Your Mother


Hey, somebody answered the door! HIMYM has been knocking on it for weeks (and has appeared in the Power Rankings! before, just not in the THR version). So don't think this is a new awakening. There has always been laughs here (primarily because the characters are so well drawn). But the show makes the ranks this week - and knocks out another show -- in the strangest of manners. Normally, when a sitcom starts leaning on drama it scares me away. That's not why I tune in. Already we've had Marshall's father die. Now Barney meets his dad after 30 years? (It's John Lithgow, who nailed it.) And it ends on a dramatic note? Normally I would have beaten the TV with a shoe. But Neil Patrick Harris was excellent, the writers handled the tone effectively and there were still plenty of laughs. So, well done. But here's a warning: Cut back not the heart-strings stuff. That's enough for this season.




Forget the drop. It's flux. Flux happens. The important thing to note here is I have almost no resistance left to this show. It comes on and I laugh. They start talking and I laugh. I've even been - gasp! -- multitasking, and laughed even without focusing. I am Archer's bitch. Sad, but true.


30 Rock


All hail the return of -- hey, what is this? OK, so the faux Bravo reality show thing may have been an acquired taste. The over-the-top nature of going for it was simultaneously funny and then not. Though it was note perfect in sending up reality trash, the effort seemed a little too manic, too obvious. Plenty of laughs, especially "powerless bald" and the Gay Jack stuff -- mostly visuals rather than one-liners. I thought I'd like it more than I did, but kept pushing it down the ranks the more I thought about other shows. You don't often see 30 Rock out of the Top 5, but there you go. A new reality. At least for a week.


Bob's Burgers


What the what? Please welcome a new challenger in the game, Bob's Burgers. Barely holding on at No. 11 is certainly better than not being on the list - just ask four of the shows that didn't make it this week but did last week. Now, a caveat. One, I shouldn't have laughed so much at all the "anus" and "ass" stuff. But it wore me down. Two, it's documented that I'm a sucker for pretty much anything H. Jon Benjamin says (See: Archer). Same goes for Kristen Schaal. Early on I was going to pass on Bob's Burgers. My main complaint is that the show seems to always take the easy route with jokes, relying on juvenile interests (possibly on purpose, given its place on the schedule) but too often not living up to its potential. I still wish this show would try harder, but laughter is laughter. I ended up loving the episode. Let's see if the show can hang on next week.

In Peril: How I Met Your Mother and Bob's Burgers are new and -- since they haven't been on in recent weeks -- are certainly vulnerable. Getting three comedies back from Rerunville helped dump Chicago Code, Mad Love, Traffic Light and Mr. Sunshine. Even stiffer competition from big name dramas is ahead. This could get really ugly and fast.

In the Mix: The Good Wife, Mr. Sunshine, Traffic Light, Chicago Code, Mad Love.

Out: Southland finished its season (and was renewed). That opened a slot. Still MIA are Parenthood, The Middle, Modern Family and The Office. But they're back soon. The brutality rises to the top.