The Return of the Weekly Power Rankings: The 10 Best Television Episodes of the Week
Welcome to the return of the Weekly Power Rankings, where I watch what I hope to be all of the quality television shows each week and rank them, not by the overall quality of the show, but by the individual episode. Before I kick off the fall season, I do want to make one note: Last spring, a television critic at the Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman, began running Power Rankings similar to these. I was both miffed that THR seemingly took an idea from an obscure website with a gibberish name and a little flattered. However, after I did a teensy bit of resarch, I discovered that it was Tim Goodman, in fact, who came up with this concept first. Several years ago, he ran weekly television Power Rankings at his old job as TV critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Therefore, it is I who should apologize for inadvertently stealing his concept. I’m still going to continue running them because it allows us a weekly dump where we can discuss what’s been going on in TV-land for the previous seven days. But I will do so with a nod and an apology to Tim Goodman.
Note, too, that the Power Rankings will typically run on Mondays, except when events like the Emmys push them back. Note, too, that only shows that aired between between last Monday and this most recent Sunday are included. Also, there will likely be some spoilers in the brief notes below.
1. Breaking Bad: For the next three weeks, I don’t expect anything else to be in this slot, even with all the returning shows. “Breaking Bad” is so far above everything else on television right now that, for the purposes of the Power Rankings, it ought to be handicapped. See Dan’s recap for full analysis.
2. Parenthood: It felt good to see everyone back and now that it’s the only Jason Katims show on the air, it’s the only hour on network television where we can go to get that wholesome feel-goodness that makes us want to be part of something bigger, like a football team or a large family. I do not, however, care for what they’re doing with Alex (Michael B. Jordan) so far. Whatever happens, he’s the one that should come out on top, not Hattie. You got that, Katims? In fact, just chuck Hattie; the Bravermans can adopt Alex.
3. Sons of Anarchy: I’m glad that Kurt Sutter has returned to what made “SoA” so good in its first two seasons, but I don’t feel like the show has the same magnetic attraction it had back in season two. It feels a little safe and routine, or as much as a show about a motorcycle club running guns and, potentially drugs, can feel safe and routine. Even still, it’s one of the best hours of drama on the tubes.
4. Doctor Who: I didn’t care all that much for the main story line with the hotel of bad dreams, but I was surprised that a routine monster-of-the-week episode would end with the Doctor dumping Amy and Rory, even if it’s only temporary before it’s permanent. She is coming back, right? For the finale? That can’t be the final send-off, can it? Check out C. Rob’s full analysis.
5. It’s Always Sunny in … Philadelphia: The introduction of Fat Mac and a story line that looks to dominate this season was amusing, but it’s still Charlie Day that keeps “It’s Always Sunny’s” weekly misanthropy from become tedious.
6. Damages: I don’t know that I’d keep watching “Damages” if there were more options during the summer. Season four kicked off fairly strong with the introduction of characters played by John Goodman and Dylan Baker, but it petered as the season slogged to a close. I think what annoys me most about this show is that, for a drama about lawyers, the law doesn’t come into play as much as it should. I’d like to see a big, satisfying courtroom finale, but what we end up getting is telegraphed twists and a body count. If you saw the first three seasons and are weighing whether or not to watch this one, I’d probably make it a low priority. However, I am intrigued by what the last few minutes set up: A season 5 that will pit Patty Hewes against Ellen Parsons, hopefully to the death.
7. Up All Night: I thought Christina Applegate and Will Arnett were great, but that Maya Rudolph’s character was annoying as hell. It does show great promise, though, at least for parents that can relate. Read my full review.
8. Awkward: Am I the only one watching MTV’s “Awkward”? If you’re not, you should. It’s a witty, smartly written coming-of-age comedy that hits a lot of high notes, even if is targeted way outside of my demographic.
9. Archer: The episode did not live up to my excitement for its return. It was OK, but don’t expect it to hold its place when all of the new and returning shows arrive next week, not if the next “Archer” episode is as middling as this one was.
10. Survivor: Gah, I loathe myself, but I can’t stop watching this show. I’ve seen every goddamn season, and it feels like there are no iterations left. But even in this first episode, with Coach and the porn star returning, there are things about “Survivor” that I still still find sociologically compelling. Like, for instance, how easily the new players buddy up with the returning stars, even after seeing Boston Rob take it all last season. When will they learn?