Tim Goodman's TV Power Rankings Make A Triumphant - If Late - Return

The best shows currently on the air, battling to the death. Or to be the greatest.
Prashant Gupta/FX

Welcome to return of The Power Rankings! Yes, it's been a while. But hell, if the networks can pull shows off for weeks on end and the cable channels can let a year (or more, in Mad Men's case) go by without much comment, so too can I. A lot of great series have come and gone -- and a lot of crappy series have come and stayed -- but we're living in a 52 week television season, so we'll have plenty of time to root out brilliance in the coming weeks and months. So, welcome back and let's move on to The Power Rankings! for the week ending Feb. 5. 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.





Season 2 of FX's Justified solidified the series as a top tier offering and the beginning of Season 3 hasn't missed a beat. As so manny bad movies will attest, it's hard to get Elmore Leonard just right, but Leonard himself loves this series. As do we. And it's strong enough to fend off some serious competition for the No. 1 spot. Any series seeking to topple it better step up.


Downton Abbey


Downton Abbey on PBS has to be the most intelligent bubble of soap anyone has seen in ages. It doesn't shy away from elements that are coming very close to absurd, but then coats them in great dialog, excellent acting and the very backbone of the series -- characters people can't get enough of. And since I can't stop saying "Lady Mary" out loud to just about anyone, that also must mean the series has set the hook deeply.




We do not abide anyone calling this HBO series difficult. Enough of that. Listen, learn, hang in there and let it unfold. It's beautiful to look at and the subculture is just beginning to come into sharper focus.


Parks and Recreation


Best comedy on television right now. It has a fully-developed worldview (well, Pawnee) and it knows how to manipulate its characters without distorting their true personalities (unlike NBC's other sitcom, The Office, which just seems to write the jokes first without worrying about who's going to say them). In any case, why Ron Swanson isn't a legend in America is beyond me.


30 Rock


The Power Rankings! don't look at ratings. This is qualitative only. And yet, we shed a tear for how many people are NOT watching this series on NBC, which still nails it on so many different levels. Love the dismissive banter from Jack, the veiled self-loathing of Liz and all the visual jokes. Plus, who can resist Liz and Jack in a "Jack-off" negotiation battle.


House Of Lies


It's not for everybody and that's their problem. Don Cheadle -- Emmy. Emmy -- Don Cheadle. Any more questions? And by the way, if you just sampled the first few episodes of business and personal debauchery, the Showtime series is now expanding its horizons on a more emotional level.




This TNT series proves once again that the cop genre, done so brilliantly by The Wire and The Shield, need not be dead. Just when you thought it was pointless to even try, another season of Southland starts and it impresses.




FX's Archer is pretty much always going to be on this list. It just is.


Life & Times Of Tim


See: Archer. And here's the other thing about these two shows: they define what animation can do brilliantly, with both visuals and voice. Above and beyond the so-called "animation domination" on another channel. I wish HBO had hyped this more, but glad it came back for Season 3.




Nobody said this Showtime series was easy to watch. There's a bleakness and depression about it, but there's also hope. And so far Shameless is building on the difficult steps it took in the first season to create a richer reward. And Emmy Rossum still rules.

In peril: Well, Downton Abbey is ending soon. And there's always the chance that one or three on this list will fall off when series currently taking a break return.

In the mix: Modern Family and Suburgatory will return among others. And that's going to create problems for some shows on this list.

Out: The first week back is always blessedly free of bloodshed. That'll change next week for sure.

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