TV Power Rankings! Tim Goodman's Shows to Watch Now (April Edition)

2:44 PM 4/12/2018

by Tim Goodman

THR’s chief TV critic ranks the must-see dramas of the month — including some that have recently ended but that you may not have gotten around to finishing yet (ahem, ‘The Leftovers’).

'The Americans,' 'Barry,' 'Killing Eve'
'The Americans,' 'Barry,' 'Killing Eve'

This round of the Power Rankings! was supposed to go to comedies but that just wasn't possible. Why? Because dramas, as they are wont to do, got on a very big roll with some very strong premieres, plus there's the continued magnetic engagement of those shows already out there in the ether.

So, we stay with what's hot.

What I'm liking about the current iteration of the Power Rankings!, for which every drama that has aired within a year of the latest list is eligible (because, you know, Peak TV), is that it combines a kind of hybrid formula that serves two purposes rather well. First and foremost, it's a tally (in order, as all good lists should be) of the best dramas currently out there in the endlessly vast and streamable TV universe. But secondly, the new nature of the list and the world we live in allows for interest-based fluctuations. And that seems as realistic as anything we do here. Meaning, while the upper echelons of the rankings hew very sternly to the notions that A) these are the best shows on television, no matter when they came out and B) the top five positions are particularly bloody, there's also room in the rankings to let series rise and fall (and even drop off) based on how much interest they can maintain over a year; how they are affected by the vagaries of mood and moment (and even weather — some shows are clearly of the snuggle-up-and-deep-dive variety).

I really have come to embrace this element and it's particularly clear in this current iteration, as several series dropped off for no other reason than I've been more interested in revisiting something else instead. In a world where series are available to stream on the major platforms of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, plus on their origin sites, there's never a need to wait and thus mood is a major player. If I'm constantly referring friends and strangers alike to something like Counterpart on Starz, because it's the best show currently on television, then that's its own driver. But if I'm also constantly trying to get people to discover The A Word or Detectorists or Get Shorty — series most people haven't seen but need to — that's a testament to their value.

In a few instances, some of my favorite series — Fargo, for example — fell off the list because they haven't been top of mind, or feel like something that's passed or merely shows that fall victim to the whims of touting shiny new things (like the new season of Legion, for example). It doesn't make them less great. It makes the Power Rankings! more reflective, to some degree, of how people actually choose to watch series (mood of the moment, constant touting/badgering, availability, etc.).

OK, let's do this. A quick reminder: It's impossible to watch every show every week, and there will be some that I just haven't gotten around to watching yet (for example: Top of the Lake: China Girl, The Alienist, The Crown Season 2, etc.) Of course, lots of dramas won't appear here that I have watched because they're not good enough to crack the list yet, which is the point of the whole thing in the first place.

All hail the series that can hold the No. 1 ranking the longest. Below, you'll see two numbers. The number on the left is the current ranking, the one on the right was its previous ranking.

  • 1/1. Counterpart (Starz)

    Nicole Wilder/Starz

    What's it going to take to dislodge Counterpart from No. 1, which it has held, impressively, since the last rankings in March? A lot, I'd say. It's getting a very hard push from The Americans, which came out of the gate strong, and a few more stunning episodes could certainly dislodge J.K. Simmons and company. Beyond that Americans surge, I don't see it. Counterpart has been nothing short of a stunning revelation. You should track this down at all costs.

  • 2/0. The Americans (FX)

    Courtesy of Patrick Harbron/FX

    The first three episodes were flat out brilliant. That's not always easy to do when you take the first steps into the series finale season. But The Americans has been so dominant as one of the greatest shows on television it's less a surprise than a warm confirmation. I look forward to no other series as much as this one right now.

  • 3/2. The A Word (SundanceTV)

    Photofest

    I got one of those "oh my God this is so great/what took us so long" texts the other day from a good friend and his wife. They finally decided to watch The A Word (smartly starting in Season 1). Wearing down the world, one person at a time. Who's next?

  • 4/0. Killing Eve (BBC America)

    Sophie Mutevelian

    Well, this is an unexpected ton of fun. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has constructed a thrilling and entertaining cat-and-mouse game between a female assassin (Jodie Comer, who is brilliant) and a female MI5 agent (Sandra Oh, also amazing). It checks a lot of boxes and it makes you want to binge it, even though that's not what BBC America does. Still, the impulse is there and that says something. Go enjoy this.

  • 5/0. Barry (HBO)

    Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

    Sure, technically you could call this a comedy. And it's very, very funny, particularly in the early going. But, yeah, I've seen the whole season. It's a drama. And it's going to get a lot darker.

  • 6/13. Legion (FX)

    Prashant Gupta/FX

    The early episodes are even more freaktastic than Season 1 and I could watch the visual interpretation of madness and mad powers all day long. Super stylish and displaying creativity without boundaries. But don't kid yourself — you need to have seen Season 1 (which you should, since it made the previous Power Rankings! based on that).

  • 7/5. Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    Still crushing it all these weeks later. This might be the poster series for what I mean when I talk about mood influencing the rankings. I truly love Halt and Catch Fire, as just one example to choose from, but I'm always going to cue up Game of Thrones first. There's nothing like GoT on television and that still counts for something.

  • 8/3. The Leftovers (HBO)

    HBO

    Even though this drops a handful of spots, it didn't go into a free-fall, which is an easy place to find yourself after a long-completed season and tons of shiny new things out there for consumption. But The Leftovers is still a master class in intriguing, weird, compellingly complicated storytelling.

  • 9/0. The Looming Tower (Hulu)

    JoJo Whilden/Hulu

    There's a lot of great acting on display here. The subject matter is familiar but no less frustrating as it illustrates the institutional failures that lead to disaster. A history class and a history lesson, well-told.

  • 10/0 Collateral (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Now here's a little gem. Not only can you get your Anglophile on, David Hare has crafted a digestible limited series that's a solid mystery with commentary on a worldwide crisis and, just because, there's a fantastic performance from Carey Mulligan sitting right on top like a cherry.

  • 11/4. The Detectorists (Acorn/Netflix)

    Courtesy of BBC

    Well, you didn't think I'd give up on this, did you? If you're feeling harried, if you're uncentered and stressed out, please go watch the first two short seasons on Netflix and then this little masterpiece of a final season on Acorn. Slow-played loveliness.

  • 12/0. The Terror (AMC)

    Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

    One of the elements that is becoming increasingly important in the Peak TV era is to be different, to stand out. Look, I can take another British detective series like Collateral because it's short, it's timely and it's got Carey Mulligan, among other fine actors. But I don’t need another detective series of any kind, do I? That's why The Terror, in all of its you-haven't-seen-this-in-forever glory is so nourishing. It's set in 1847. It's got two ships stuck in the ice, going nowhere for months. It's got a Big Bad. It has desolation and a unique kind of encroaching doom. And it's all held together by phenomenal acting.

  • 13/0. Howards End (Starz)

    Laurie Sparham/Starz

    It's almost like I lined some of these up to prove a point. Well, Howards End is a costume drama, a limited series and, with a relative lack of British historical fussiness out there, stands out starkly as quite the thinking person's crumpet.

  • 14/7. Get Shorty (Epix)

    Courtesy of EPIX

    Someone who doesn't get Epix — and frankly, that's a lot of people — asked me if it was worth buying Get Shorty episode by episode on iTunes. Instead of pointing out that it would be cheaper to just subscribe to Epix, I said, "Absolutely." And I stand by that. I love this show.

  • 15/6. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

    Erika Doss/AMC

    OK, so, in one of those inverse pyramid kind of ways, I've illustrated how difficult it is for certain series which are otherwise astonishing in their completeness, their wholeness of story start to finish, to remain compelling in the face of, say, a really entertaining female assassin vs. female agent kind of show. It's just human nature to be drawn in that direction. But Halt and Catch Fire is wonderful. Watch the seasons in order. Marvel at the greatness. I have a feeling that despite all of that, this is a series that was best watched slowly under a comforter and will suffer as the sun warms the earth in the coming months.

  • 16/8. Better Call Saul (AMC)

    Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

    Another big drop (like the previous two), but just remember that Saul has been over for a while. It was a show that was strong enough to demand that you watch it immediately. That it's still here is more important than the fact that it dropped eight slots.

  • 17/19. Mindhunter (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    And now for something completely different — a series that's been around a bit and is actually rising up the rankings. Then again, Mindhunter actually serves to prove my earlier point about mood. I loved watching this show (which you can binge because it's Netflix) and was thinking about it the other night, turned on Netflix, scanned a handful of scenes from several episodes and re-loved it all over again. That's a mood.

  • 18/16. Ozark (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    My very late start to Ozark isn't even finished yet and thus the drop has nothing to do with quality in later episodes, but more to do with excellent competition. Hell, it may rise the more I catch up. Another reminder that you're never late to a show these days.

  • 19/11. The Deuce (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    It might not last into the later spring days of the next Power Rankings!, but it's been here a long time, kicking ass.

  • 20/14. Altered Carbon (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    I'd be stunned if Netflix didn't renew this pure science-fiction drama, especially because it has tons of story left and pretty clever character elasticity. I was quite enamored with the series (though I was lukewarm on the last two episodes) and certainly want to see more. Even better, it improves on additional viewings.

  • 21/20. Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams (Amazon)

    Christopher Raphael/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

    As someone who adores Black Mirror, I'll just say that not everything needs to be compared to it and that the creative storytelling of the Philip K. Dick oeuvre is an entertaining reward. You can pick and choose your favorites here. I hope there's more coming.

  • Out, In Peril and In the Mix

    Courtesy of HBO

    Out: From the previous rankings: Humans (eligibility up), Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Fargo, The Handmaid's Tale.

    In Peril: No looming eligibility decisions, but it's not hard to see some of the bigger tumbles being worrisome in terms of those shows being around next time.

    In the Mix: Well, I'd wager the upcoming Westworld season is going to make some big noise. Sneaky Pete, The Crown, The Alienist, Manhunt: Unabomber, Mr. Mercedes, Godless, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Fargo, The Handmaid's Tale.