3:47pm PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! Body Blows and Quitters, but No Knockouts
Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending Feb. 26. This week, the Elite Eleven gives way to the more traditional Top 10, but fighting is still fierce. However, we're not that far away from the possibility of major shake-ups. Sometimes, there's calm before the storm. Or if you like your cliches a little more alarmist -- it's quiet out there. Too quiet. 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.
When the guns come out, indeed. Lots of blood in this one and I get the sense there's going to be a lot more to come. Nobody stepped up this week in any way to challenge Justified, which just keeps rolling. The worry here is the Winona storyline will be doled out in small slices and, really, there has to be more to it than her not wanting Raylan's lifestyle to rain down on the baby. This part bears watching. The rest of it you can't take your eyes off, so no problem there.
Luck moves up after Downton Abbey ends, but maybe more attention should be paid to this evolving gem -- in the sense that it's not inconceivable that it could move up even higher. Seriously, the layers are unfolding and the series is getting richer. I would suspect that those who have kept with it are rolling with the horse and track lingo a little more comfortably and we're beginning to see the full picture evolving. It's a short season for Luck, but don't count it out when it comes to moving up the ranks. In the homestretch, it could be a closer.
Another critic I respect recently posted on Twitter that Michael Cudlitz is the best actor on television. Now that's a bold statement I'm not going to fully agree with, but the point he's making can't be ignored -- Cudlitz is great and there are other amazing performances on Southland that continue to grow the series. The acting, in fact, has kept Southland in the top tier of the Power Rankings! even in episodes where the plotting might lean to the broadcast television end of ambition. (To be clear, normally the writing here is very strong, but the acting is so good it can save any dip in quality.) So, taking this all into consideration, the question is why are you not watching?
The Walking Dead
For those of you who've pined for a brawl between Shane and Rick, you've finally seen it. And, well, they didn't pull many punches. Plus: Lots of zombies. The best thing about the fight is that it didn't really fix anything. Shane isn't wrong in his belief that he's been protecting the group better than Rick, who is still playing by the rules of the pre-zombie world. That is, he's too nice. It's clear that even if Shane understands better where Rick is drawing the line on their friendship, he does't have to like it or even accept it. It's a little disconcerting that Lori is so retro in her beliefs - let the men kill the zombies while we do the dishes. But hell, it's a storyline. The Walking Dead could do a better job of keeping myriad storylines afloat each episode rather than make an hour out of one or two. Still, it's one of the few shows that makes me eager to watch each week.
It's understandable that in a world where everyone is juggling multiple television series, that maybe you're thinking twice about coming late to the party on a show like Southland. But come on, you definitely need to be on the Raising Hope bandwagon. Its consistency is amazing and the performances are hilarious (and even sweet - and I don't usually like sweet getting into my comedy) each week. Easily one of the top sitcoms on television. Watch, already.
Big jump up the ranking for Modern Family, but that's not surprising. This hit always delivers and it's only when the characters do things we expect them to do all the time that my attention wanes a tad. But hell, it's so well written and the actors nail their lines with alarming efficiency, so Mod Fam always going to bounce around on this list. It would take something truly awful for it to fall off.
Parks and Recreation
Last week I had two apologies. Perhaps another is due here. Parks and Recreation has been one of my favorite comedies since the start of Season 2 -- one of the best turnaround seasons of any series -- and leaving it off last week was extremely difficult. And yes, I feel guilty about it. But we had 11 amazing series last week, all of them clicking with strong episodes. The call had to be made. Nobody said this was easy. But Parks and Rec is back, even in a shorter field. The world is put to right.
Archer was just renewed for a fourth season. Do you know why? Because it's brilliant. And the smart folks at FX were reminded by Unsupervised that doing animation well is really difficult and if you find a gem, you pay to keep it. Translation: Archer kicks ass. Of course it was going to get renewed.
Life's Too Short
Slight drop here, but it has nothing to do with the quality. The Johnny Depp stuff might have been a little forced or trying too hard to be odd, but it worked more often than it didn't. And besides, that's not the issue. The issue here is that Warwick had to be an Ewok again, only he didn't bring his suit, so they took the stuffing out of a dirty, maligned bear and he had to wear that. Ewoks are not bears! Still, crazy funny.
A big drop, here. Not the funniest episode by a long shot, but points for taking the Leap Day concept and making it as absurd as possible. But ultimately it was too gimmicky and didn't try hard enough. 30 Rock is best when it makes jokes and moves on quickly, less so when it plays on a single subject the entire show. Can't quibble with No. 10, though. Alive to fight another week.
Out: Downton Abbey and The Life & Times of Tim ended their runs, so that was natural. Nobody dropped for sucking this week.
In peril: Well, everybody should be. You have to keep your head on a swivel in the Power Rankings! But nothing is too imminent. March is unlikely to cause major flux -- until Mad Men comes in and potentially blows the whole thing apart. And after that? Game of Thrones. It's about to get real up in here.
In the mix: House of Lies, Shameless, Suburgatory, The Middle, The Good Wife, Awake, Smash.