1:33pm PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! Comedies Rise, Dramas Dominate! It's Too Quiet!
Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending March 4. Why is it so quiet out there? Is it too quiet? When will winter (or war) come? Where are all the mad men who could take down Justified? What we have here, people, is dominance. It adds stability to the top, but it might be nice to have a harder rush against the castle, yes? Stay tuned. In the meantime, we've got flux below and that helps. Also, we stick to the Top 10 this week and that made for some very difficult cuts. On to it, then. 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.
Even when Raylan is living above a bar, abandoned by Winona (and the baby) and left to piss off Tim in the office, you have to understand one thing: No, he's not for sale. He's not in anyone's pocket (a great bit of humor and anger there) and he won't be taken down by the FBI. Or any other show, apparently. Dude's too damned strong.
I'm really loving this series - sorry to disappoint those who fell off the saddle. Luck is really evolving as a character study and there's something about horses and the dreams of schemers. And yet this was a strange episode about disappointment. Joey's suicide attempt (and temporary stammer-fixer) was a visual off-track detour for this show but ended up working. Poor Rosie's whip mistake on Getting'up Morning looks to be a dream crusher (as is Walter's attempt to keep the horse low-profile). And now someone from his past wants to claim the horse. What does Ace want besides revenge on Mike? Well, Claire. But that's an odd attraction where something doesn't seem right. Happiness looks like a long-shot to almost everyone here. (By the way, special praise for former jockey turned actor Gary Stevens for his fine work in this series).
I'll admit that I was a little skeptical about Lucy Liu on this series, but she's proven herself through the weeks and no more boldly than this episode. While all the other issues with the cast/squad seemed minor distractions/ongoing concerns, this very bad day for Tang raised the stakes considerably. Fallout, indeed. Another strong episode from Southland.
The Walking Dead
I've said it before -- I think people who try to piss all over The Walking Dead are either too hung up on the graphic novels or only want non-stop zombie madness. In "Judge, Jury, Executioner," The Walking Dead proved what it can do right by going at its own pace. The shifting alpha dog story now encompasses Daryl (who doesn't trust the prisoner Randall -- as no one should, despite his pleas of innocence). And Dale, the sometimes-annoying conscience of the group has an excellent platform to stand up and make the case for not killing a man and losing the last vestiges the group has on the moral fabric of society. And then - over. Taking out a prime character on any series is a big deal. But this was handled particularly deftly because it focused the lens on the warped post-apocayptic mind of a child. We need to talk about Carl. See what a lone zombie can do? You don't need a horde of them. And lastly, the mercy kill coming down to Daryl spoke volumes about roles in the group. Excellent work, Walking Dead.
How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Pammy? Another great season for Archer keeps cracking all the right funny bones. And all you had to do was say, "Archer and Pam hook up" to get the ferociously eager "I'm in!" response. This should only get better.
Parks and Recreation
"Campaign Shake-up" was yet another great episode from P&R -- and it barely had to use Jerry or even Ron to achieve that. When in doubt, use Perd. He's never not funny. I die every time he states the obvious, which is always. Kathryn Hahn was also fantastic here, providing most of the laughs. But the joke that killed in this episode - and I mean was so funny it hurt -- was a visual one: How the people of Pawnee put their whole mouths over the spout on water fountains. Whoever came up with this should get a million dollar bonus. Tremendous. One of the most hilarious visuals on any show this year.
Life's Too Short
Speaking of visuals, it took the water fountain joke on Parks and Recreation to upstage Warwick Davis replaced by a trash can with a face painted on it because Helena Bonham Carter couldn't look at him (standing in for a child actor). Davis is fearless in this role and probably no more so than here (so far) when he reaches this depth of humiliation (at least until next week). Also, the writing here is spot-on, as expected.
A return to form this week as the ridiculous "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky" cleared the palate of the swing and miss that was "Leap Day." So much excellence here both with the verbal knives and the visuals. Plus Pete singing. And Kenneth as Susan. And, in the middle of an already funny joke, this snippet which kept me laughing days after the episode: "Both my sons are magicians." Welcome back to awesomeness, 30 Rock.
Forget the Leap Day jokes. It was the "monsterating" riff on the cycle tearing through the Dunphy home that worked best (culminating in the PSA tear-fest). Even though it doesn't always work, Modern Family will hit on a lot of subjects (some overly familiar, some dancing close to bad taste) and add its particularly likable spin. That's a gift. And maybe the credit when that happens should go to the actors, who upsell the jokes.
Forget all the talk about where Awake may or may not be going or whether it has the gas to get there. The pilot was great. Period.
Out: Well, Raising Hope had the week off. But otherwise these shows were strong enough to fend off the competition and stayed alive.
In peril: As alluded to at the top, peril is coming in the form of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. But until then, I sense a stranglehold at the top, with flux likely below.
In the mix: House of Lies, Shameless, Suburgatory, The Middle, Smash.