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MAY
25
3 YEARS

The Power Rankings! Returns a King to His Throne. Plus, Crying at Endings

Heavyweights at the top while contenders fight the flux to finish season strong

Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending May 22, fresh from our forced bye week (thanks, stupid upfronts). Now that we know what's not coming back next year, and we've had a tiny glimpse of what could be making this list next season, let's take care of business here as the broadcast season ended. (By the way, our working motto is that if we can't field an Elite Eleven, we don't pad -- we shrink the list. That won't be a problem this week, but it could next week.) Alright, onward. 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.

RANK  SHOW  PREVIOUS  TREND  COMMENT
1

Game of Thrones

2

Returning to its familiar position at No. 1, Game of Thrones has, after six episodes, solidly backed the hype about its quality from the start. This episode was one of the finest, and not because of the gold crown fitted so snugly for that whiny Viserys (good riddance), but because the stakes have been upped dramatically. There's war on everyone's lips, and the House of Stark is more than just a tiny bit pissed about the House of Lannister. There are secrets about to spill as well. But most important is that after six episodes, there hasn't been a lag in the high-end quality of this series. The writing has been fantastic and the acting as well. The genre might be holding back some viewers, but if that's the case, they've made a terrible mistake in judgment. Game of Thrones shows no sign of weakness.

2

Treme

3

Is it time to quit toying with others of less quality and perhaps make a bigger stink about Treme being "the best show you're not watching"? Seriously, the attention to detail here is amazing as the series essentially re-creates recent, painfully fresh memories and does it with taste, grace and dramatic flair. Tell a friend. The bandwagon has room.

3

The Killing

4

With Justified over (and last week washed out because of the upfront), most series are moving up a notch, and The Killing, despite an increasingly vocal chorus of discontent, is no different. Listen, the down side to the recap-crazed fever of many TV sites and TV critics is that there's less room for the complete story to be considered first. By that, I mean The Killing is a murder mystery that's unfinished. When the season is in the books, and we've got Rosie's killer, a thoughtful analysis of how this U.S. remake fares creatively is called for. But why are some people so cranky and rushing to judgment before the end? For the record, the major complaints are that it moves too slow (an argument that we've dismissed before as not credible for critical analysis) and that there are too many red herrings at the expense of better character development. On that score, yes, it's pretty hard to ignore, and The Killing will have to rally hard to establish an ending that justifies the hype (and hope) of the first few episodes. The Bennet story line was, indeed, too much of a red herring and one that wasn't all that believable in the first place (the killer's going to be the only major black character in the cast? Not bloody likely). And yes, it dragged on too long. But there is still plenty of meat here and plenty to like. Can all of that be overturned by an artless ending? Hell yes it can. The Killing will need to turn things around quickly as it comes to an end.

4

Friday Night Lights

5

Another strong episode that is putting the first three episodes further into the rearview mirror. And the increase in quality is another reason why The Killing might want to tighten up. I skipped watching the DirecTV season, but those who saw it almost all agree that FNL gets stronger as it goes. So far, so true. And nothing that should be overly surprising to longtime fans.

5

The Borgias

7

Showtime renewed this series and well it should have. When people were expecting guilty-pleasure suds from this historical costume drama, what they got instead was real quality, strong drama and an excess of burgeoning shorelines. Maybe all of our expectations were down, but The Borgias could easily qualify as Most Surprising Show of the Season (so far). And it went out on a high note, as Rome and the Borgia pope used cunning -- and the fear of God -- to protect it from the storming army of the French king. Well done. A bit of a short season, by the way, but well done.

6

Raising Hope

11 (tie)

Not to pound this idea relentlessly, but Raising Hope was, almost without a real challenge, the funniest freshman comedy on television. At once boldly over the top and subtle, there was a sweetness that never had to work extra-hard to win anyone over (neither was it showy nor bent on teaching lessons). It just was. Quirky, laugh-out-loud funny and fully developed in its comedic sensibility from pilot to season finale. Great work.

7

Parks & Recreation

9

Almost despite NBC (back-to-back episodes the final two weeks of the season, really?), this series continued its creative excellence in Season 3 that was first hinted at in the Season 2 opener. What Parks and Rec fans knew last season, others found out in this one. It was, in the word-of-the-year from Rob Lowe, "lit-er-ally" funny every week. And the finale's hints about what's to come in Season 4 look promising as fodder for this strange and magnificent cast.

8

Modern Family

N/A

Even if Season 2 of the wonderful Modern Family was not up to the heights of Season 1, there were laughs aplenty nonetheless. Even when the writers seemed to forget what had come before for some of these characters, ultimately the series still managed more laughs than most and, darn it all, some sweetness as well. It might be worrisome that, in just two short season, the writers have gone to the same well a lot, but come on, MacGyver is funny even if you see it coming. There is one more episode left.

9

Bob's Burgers

N/A

If you watch television at all, this plethora of sitcoms shouldn't surprise you. There are now enough good comedies on television to fill the entire list were they to be run at the same time. With Community and 30 Rock having already finished their excellent seasons, we are no doubt in a renaissance (which could be upended next season based on some of those upfront clips, but why think forward?). Fox developed a flesh-and-blood comedy in Raising Hope and, a little more in its wheelhouse, struck some gold in the animated department again with Bob's Burgers. This series improved throughout the season and luckily got away from (but didn't altogether abandon) some of the more stupid and juvenile of the earlier jokes. While Bob's Burgers is not fully developed yet, it was a welcome addition and has grand potential.

10

The Middle

N/A

Say farewell to another comedy, this one quite underrated, as it closed out its sophomore season in fine style. The hipsters might not like such family comedies as Modern Family or The Middle, but there's some exceptional writing in both -- and they each prove that kids on television don't have to be painfully annoying. The Middle is less joke-joke-gag heavy than stablemate Modern Family, but there's something about the lower-middle-class struggles of the Hecks that resonates and finds the truisms in the laughter. Catch up any way you can before fall.

11

Tie: Glee and The Office

N/A

Yes, the astute among you will remember that two weeks ago there was also a tie in this last slot of the Elite Eleven. And while ties are almost always a cop out, linking these two shows was necessary. First, Glee never made the rankings at all this season. Were there episodes that deserved mention? Sure, but they seemed to pop up when the competition was especially fierce. The Office made it here periodically, mostly when the show got Michael's exit just right (or close enough). But both series are at a crossroads, and that deserves a quick note. First, the aggressive tonal shifts of Glee should be applauded (but not always rewarded). The show clearly will not change the formula. So when it tries to go heavy on the emotion -- as it did with "Funeral," there are big risks involved. I'm not sure the death of Sue's sister is what you want your only truly funny character to experience, but Glee opened up this avenue when she was introduced, so there's no going back. It was syrupy and emotional and, you'd have to say, effective despite it all. But in the future, let's leave Sue to be the cardboard cutout of over-the-top meanness we know and love. She doesn't need a soft side. As for The Office, it lands here because the writers made an event out of star cameos in the wake of Steve Carell's departure (and speculation that one of them might get the job). So people watched. What they saw, however, was a series that should have ended with Michael's departure. Maybe a new boss can breathe new life into the show, but odds are it retains that hanging-around-too-long feel to it, no matter who they get. So, farewell to The Office. How awkward that you're coming back next year. Truth is, we may not see you at all when that happens, but especially not here.

In Peril: Camelot picked a bad time to have a truly bad episode. And I've already noted that I've given up on United States of Tara and Nurse Jackie. Perhaps fewer ranks next week.

In the Mix: Well, we know that Camelot has more episodes and Glee has its finale. And Modern Family seems to have an extra episode hanging around. But look for some additional cable series to make a push for the Elite Eleven.

Out: Yikes, just look at those who have ended their run: Borgias, Raising Hope, Parks and Recreation, Bob's Burgers, The Office (plus Community and 30 Rock earlier). We might be down to the Great Eight by next week.