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Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending March 6. Here’s a little story about reruns: No. Granted, the rules of The Power Rankings!, such as they are, specify that you can’t be dropped completely if you have a rerun unless it’s a week where genius has gone on a rampage and there’s no room for slacking. Ah, but plan to take a few weeks off — kind of like a mini hiatus — well, that we can not abide. We’re looking at you, The Office, Community, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation. Three weeks off? Whuck? Oh, and all the rest of you, too. Despite our love for you, we can’t cover for you. Show up, do your best, get ranked. Otherwise, some other show is going to take your place. Like this week. 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 last Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. In the meantime, let’s rank those players who weren’t afraid to suit up.
If you’ve been watching Lights Out, and you should have been, then we are entering the ultimate pay-off area right about now. The show has, for some viewers, lumbered along a bit. I’m assuming that’s because they wanted more ring action when, in fact, boxing is really secondary to the story at hand here. In any case, what has been built in previous weeks is really emerging as an exceptional viewing experience. Adding Eamonn Walker as Romeo was fantastic casting and throws another chunk of worry onto the pile. There’s a fight coming up of possibly epic proportions. The question is, who’s ready? Until then, give it up for the new No. 1.
If you saw last week’s mea culpa on giving Southland a second chance, then you should probably know that all my apologies have been replaced by regret and frustration. I really should have been on this show sooner and I’m not too proud to admit that. I wish I’d started sooner and I’m bummed out that the finale is upon us. Also, this proves that even when you take a second look (like last season), that look better be a long and fair one. So chalk this up as a miss for me. (And thanks again to the viewer/fan feature that alerted me to the major oversight…You other people trying to get me watch Smallville and whatnot, just know that this is different. Sometimes you overlook a show and sometimes it’s more about avoidance because you’ve seen all you need to see.) Anyway, another strong episode for Southland (though I’m not quite as engaged with the burgeoning and illicit — well, maybe inappropriate is a better word choice — romance). But overall, just excellent. TNT, you know what you need to do. So do it.
Never let it be said that those shows on the outside looking in can’t take a big leap if they’re already “In the Mix” and the circumstances are right. In this case, please welcome one of the most underrated sitcoms, The Middle, back to The Power Rankings! (yes, it had been there at times in the earlier incarnation) and especially put some sting in those claps for making it into the Top 5. Impressive. The circumstances I speak of, obviously, are the reruns that have decimated this list. Congrats to The Middle on seizing opportunity. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know that when it all adds up, it seems pretty easy.
This was essentially a placeholder episode where Boyd is still holding onto the light, so to speak, and hasn’t caused himself some chaos. It was also a chance for the rest of the cast to get in some face time and add to their backstory, which is fine by me. Everyone involved in Justified can hold their own in front a camera. But the fact is, not a lot happened this week. And in the preparation for the season-ending rush to mayhem, it’s justified (couldn’t help it) to have an hour like this. But something a little more dramatic could have happened on the side trip. That’s all. I’m sure it’ll be ready to battle for the top spot next week.
I know what you’re thinking — what the what? Or something along those lines. But hey, when opportunity knocks, you don’t peek your head in, you push it through the doggie door. (Something like that. Just go with it, “nerd boner.”) In the case of Traffic Light, it fits snugly in with The Middle as maybe the best sitcom you’re not watching. Maybe it’s the title. Maybe it’s the couples theme. Or all the hands-free driving. Doesn’t matter — Traffic Light is funny and endearing. Although I hold the latter trait at arms length most of the time, it’s not fair to let Modern Family and Community have all the hugging and learning free passes. So, it’s now official. Watch Traffic Light. In fact, go back and find the early episodes. There’s a lot to like here. And frankly, I like it a lot at No. 5.
Now there’s a jump up that will get noticed. Not that Parenthood had done anything wrong the week before (in fact, another excellent episode), but flux is both a bitch and a blessing. In this case, reruns allowed a lot of gaps to open in the rankings and Parenthood zoomed right through them with another one of those touchy-feely (OK, emotionally devastating) shows it does so well. (Though the angry ones are easier to move past.) In any case, like Parks and Recreation last year, Parenthood might be the frontrunner for Comeback Series of the Year. Unfortunately, Parenthood isn’t coming back until March 29. That kind of programming is galling, but what are you going to do? You can’t always make 22 episodes fit in a 36 week TV season with sublime perfection. So, we wait. And recover.
How the hell does a sitcom that decided to keep working — instead of slacking off like the rest — drop from a week earlier? Again, nothing to worry about here. It has nothing to do with shaving a man’s garden. A man you’re related to. It’s flux, people. Shows come in, they go off. It’s cause and effect, often without much rhyme or reason. But still, you’ve got to love Raising Hope for being more than a little fearless. Greg Garcia certainly seems to be having a good time in the network television pool. The guy has been on a roll.
Well now. A little breathing room (and a perfect opportunity to show that flux works both ways). An interesting turn on Shameless. In an episode full of surprises, bringing in Monica — the wayward mother to this mess of a clan, was bold. And the results, like a bullet bouncing off the steel innards of a space ship, were whiplash-dangerous to behold. And who would have thought that anyone — literally any one — could make Frank look good in comparison. (It was also refreshing to reinstate that all moms aren’t angels, a lesson television rarely teaches (because it’s afraid to be that bleak).
Don’t sleep on Shawn Ryan. Translation: He’s too good to overlook. And though I’ve had some problems with Chicago Code taking the next step (mostly tied to my troubles fully embracing Jennifer Beals in this role), I didn’t doubt that it would eventually fight its way into The Power Rankings! Ryan makes good television and seems, despite perhaps what critics might want him to do, very happy working in the big tent of broadcast television. The relevant point here is that Chicago Code will not be The Shield. And as unfair as the comparison is just based on how the industry operates, it’s probably more unfair to Ryan and Chicago Code. The show may still be evolving, but it’s good and likely to get better. We just happen to live in a time when there are a lot of excellent dramas and, far more newsworthy, lots of wonderful sitcoms. Getting all of the entries down to the Elite Eleven is not easy. But the Chicago Code earned it and could likely stick. We shall see.
Just a blip. (And yes, I said blip instead of flux, because I need to say flux in the next entry). I love Modern Family. I have from the pilot. And it’s ever-more lovable when it’s not in reruns. That’s not to say it can do no wrong. All shows do wrong. But not this, in a week when most every other favorite comedy let us down. (Cue “Stand By Me,” with Phil singing…).
Despite the fact that there was a lot of — wait for it — flux, this week, Mr. Sunshine has been a pleasant surprise and was bound to end up here anyway. That it got here — welcome to The Power Rankings! — with one of its best episodes yet, is just an added bonus. You shows at home, listen up. If you keep trying hard and don’t whine or sell out too much, good things will happen. Last week’s Mr. Sunshine used all the cast in creative ways and not only brought out more of the character’s personalities, but established that Allison Janney doesn’t have to be over-the-top nutty to be effectively funny. She killed it this week with her hair alone, a sight gag that pays off beautifully in the end, while continuing to evolve as the politically incorrect boss. So, too, did Matthew Perry get results by reigning in a bit of his apoplectic reactions to his world going wrong. Oh, he still blew up, but there were enough moments where his character grew in direct proportion to the reduction in outrage. Lots of people are already watching this series so it can’t really fall in the Traffic Light/Middle arena, but it’s certainly another half hour you should add to your viewing.
In Peril: If the reruns keep up — and it looks like they’re going to — then nobody is safe. More to the point, it looks like Parenthood is taking some time off and this is a stretch when the networks seem fine about collectively “saving” episodes. At the very least, it makes the rankings more fun. A foot in the door is always good drama.
In the Mix: Archer, The Good Wife, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Mad Love.
Out: Parenthood is taking an extended break and, dare I check again, we’ve got more reruns next week. Slots are open, people.
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