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Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending March 27. Do you believe in miracles? Because the fact that you’re reading this is one of them. Jesus, how many shows are coming up this week? I’ve watched like three episodes of each and I can’t remember a damn thing about whatever took place 72 hours ago. I will say that, contrary to my strongly disapproving review of The Kennedys, it plays a lot better if you’re taking Percocet with your red wine. (It’s a thought.) As for the week ending March 27, well, let’s call this the end of the wishes and kisses. It feels so good to urge series to do their best and to goose them now and again in the rankings so people will pay attention. We are about nothing, if not love. And kisses. But that ends this week because, you know all of the shows I’ve been locked in a room watching? Well, they’re coming. And Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara have already aired. Nobody gets on this list next week without nailing it at every turn. No more hugs. This is getting painful. And to think, it was actually difficult to make the cuts for this version. Imagine the next one. It’ll be like Spartacus – with better dialogue. Here we go. 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 this Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. FYI: The Bastard Machine is on Facebook. Also: Twitter.
The battle for No. 1 the past few weeks has been between two FX series – Lights Out and Justified. What happened this weeks is that I liked “Rainmaker” more than Justified‘s “Save My Love,” for a number of reasons. The notion of allegiances and trust was strong, but having Lights and Theresa accept that they need to deal with all the crap surrounding them — no long talks about right and wrong — was a key element to keeping the title (the Power Rankings! title, of course). Implication is key to a shaded characters – and they both took a step into the dark side. And David Morse was more than just the kicker to the episode, he was tragically sad and true to what a character like that would be — loyal. A nice twist and a compelling episode.
You can’t say that Shameless has ever been easy viewing. It fights you every scene from embracing it. But the season finale worked mostly for the choices it made on where to show compassion. Three scenes stand out. Most important, there was no forgiveness for Frank. There was no hug from Lip. Unless you call peeing on your dad’s head sweetness. Frank deserves no compassion. And even his speech about messing up, though true, was not what would open the door of a hardened son’s heart. The second was Lip forgiving Karen on the rooftop, a rare showing of heartfelt emotion on this series. Two kids, totally messed up, finding something in the aftermath of their father’s actions. Credit Laura Wiggins for another standout performance there. And Jeremy Allen White has been outstanding all season. Lastly, — spoiler alert — the final frantic hours of Karen’s dad, Eddie. Actor Joel Murray was never better this season. A finale worth a two-slot bump.
You could say that before all hell breaks loose in Harlan, there was time to exhale with an episode about Raylan and Winona. Maybe that’s true, but I just never bought the fact that Winona would do such a stupid thing (stealing money) and this episode was essentially cleaning up the mess. Taut, sure, but if you don’t opt in it doesn’t matter and Winona is too smart to give in to temptation like that. Still, it’s Justified were talking about here — not like there’s going to be a huge fall from grace.
Now that’s more like it. Our love for 30 Rock is at times boundless because it has delivered more than enough laughter, but the faux reality show was a noble failure. Getting back to business with “Plan B.” There were, as usual, a number of brilliant jokes and ideas hatched in 22 minutes here, but all that really needs to be said is that Devon returned (doesn’t Will Arnett just own that character? Wish he was a regular). He’s back and out as “the gay Jack Donaghy.” That’s all you needed to put in the storyline and I would have been in. Welcome back, little show.
Another big leap up the ranks after (according to some of you) an undeserved dip. Never mind that – the question is this: How did Archer get funnier than last season? Maybe it should be a statement: Archer is funnier this year than its funny freshman season. And it got there by being fearless. And crazy dumb. “Placebo Effect” fit the bill nicely on that style. If you don’t believe me, too bad. Because the survey says. (For the love of God, if you’re not watching this show, step up and make it happen.)
Well, look at this. The Office returns to an almost forgotten sense of excellence with this episode. It managed to make Michael likable, to make the episode sweet and funny (not my favorite combo, but Steve Carell is leaving and major character departures just can’t be laughed off….or can they? Hmmm). Anyway, it was a recipe that didn’t promote faith, but in the end it was applause-worthy in its accomplishments. The trick now will be keeping that balance right through the end of the season.
The dip has nothing to do with the content and everything to do with flux. And hey, this was actually a tough week to sort the list. You know a series is good – consistently good — when you expect it to hit anything that comes down the pipe deep into the night and it does just that. (Baseball starts on Thursday – sorry). Anything billed as “the Pulp Fiction episode” should be absolutely creatively crushed by the Community writers and cast. And it was.
Parks and Recreation
Don’t lie to me like I’m Montel Williams. You totally knew there would be a drop off after the Harvest Festival stuff. And No. 3 – come ON! – that was a lofty height. A come down was inevitable. But yes, I’m expecting some grief. “Camping” had lots of laughs. But like I said at the top, unless I didn’t, we’re running out of time for free hugs and encouragement. Flux is like instant karma. Wait until you see the blood spilled next week. Just giving you some perspective. P&R remains a favorite.
I may have had real issues with the connection and motivation between Mildred and Veda, which dampened my enthusiasm for a miniseries I’d been looking forward to for a long time, but that doesn’t mean that Mildred Pierce would miss out entirely on the Elite Eleven. There are exceptional acting performances, the writing is solid and the sense of place is always at the forefront. Despite a serious weakness, I never wanted to stop watching either of these first two (of five) parts. My guess is that it will return next week, even with increased competition. (Unless it doesn’t – I’m making no guesses, favoring no shows.) But the grandeur here can’t be dismissed.
After a too-long layoff, one of the most reliable sitcoms makes its return. (And now goes off the air again for two weeks. Nice scheduling, ABC.) Let’s not get all pissy about scheduling or try to figure out what goes into that (um, guessing?). Instead, let’s focus on getting three pretty funny families back. For all of 22 minutes. Great, thanks, ABC. You’re lucky the show is so damned funny or we’d bail.
An argument could be made that dropping Fringe to the bottom of the Elite Eleven – fresh off its 22 episode pick up, no less — is just a heavy-handed way of continuing to make a point. You know, that there are no guarantees. That good shows are likely to miss the cut and go missing (not like Modern Family missing, but getting excluded The Power Rankings! missing, even when there are new episodes). And that argument is probably correct. No more wishes and kisses. This isn’t 6-year-old youth soccer, people. We call fouls. We enforce the rules. It’s tough love out there. Nobody’s gonna take a knee and wait for little Fringey to stop crying after it fell down. Next week, asses are gonna get kicked. And if I have to make that point more obviously again, Steinbeck is going to blush for me. So, shape up. Everybody. Fringe is a lot of fun. But what happens when Nurse Jackie knocks it on its backside? Huh? What then? OK, maybe I’ve taken this too far.
In Peril: Well who the hell isn’t? Haven’t you been reading? Two shows didn’t make the cut this week. That’s barely noticeable. Next week it’s carcasses in the streets, people.
In the Mix: Bob’s Burgers, The Good Wife, The Middle, Mr. Sunshine, Traffic Light, Chicago Code, Mad Love.
Out: Raising Hope had a week off after a long, great run. And Shameless had its season finale. Those are natural drops. Next week – oh, hell, you get the point.
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