1. The Walking Dead — A thrilling, heart-pounding season premiere, and likely the best season opener of the series’ run. New showrunner Scott Gimple seems determined to combine great character development with the more action-oriented nature of the show under Glen Mazzara’s run. It won’t be the next Breaking Bad or anything, but by elevating character, The Walking Dead may end up being the best show of the fall.
2. New Girl — From Nick’s inability to get it up, to the revelation that Schmidt started a fan club in support of Billy Zane’s character in Titanic, to Jess’ Papa Smurf make-over, to everything about kinky, humiliating sex position, The Captain, this week’s episode of The New Girl was the best of the season.
3. American Horror Story: Coven — AHS has always been campy, trashy fun, but by steering the focus on teenage witches this season, it already feels more lighter and more engaging (the slave torture, notwithstanding). It feels like there’s an extra element of fun, and bringing in Kathy Bates to play alongside Jessica Lange was pure genius. (See Joanna’s recap)
4. Parks and Recreation — After a slow start to the season (for Parks and Recreation), they pulled out some terrific stunt-casting with June Diane Raphael as April’s annoyingly sorority doppleganger; the obnoxious Billy Eichner, whose obnoxiousness worked in his favor as Donna’s Eagleton double; and Sam Elliot, who pulled out an unexpected and delightful goddamn twist as Ron Swanson’s vegan, peace-loving Eagleton counterpart. The episode could’ve been nothing but Ron Swanson reaction shots, and I couldn’t have loved it more.
5. The Good Wife — It’s amazing how well this show continues to move parts in order to maintain the political tension within the law firm, now with Will trying to oust Diane, who is already on her way to the bench, while Alicia is still on the brink of starting a new law firm with Cary. I would not be surprised if, at some point down the line, Will obliterates Diane’s chances of getting on the state Supreme Court and Diane ends up joining Alicia’s outfit, while Will becomes the villain in the series, at least for half a season before Will is redeemed and our rooting interests are completely re-aligned once again.
6. Scandal — One of the more terrific aspects of this season of Scandal is how they have managed to transform the philandering, Supreme-Court justice killing President of the United States into the show’s most sympathetic character. In a sea of calculating, evil, backstabbing little sh*ts, a desire to come clean about one’s infidelities is all it takes to rise to the top of the sympathy scales. (See Sarah’s recap)
7. Masters of Sex — Another solid episode that deepened the existing characters and saw the introduction of Mae Whitman and Julianne Nicholson (for a little while, at least). They’re also beginning to humanize Masters slightly more, though the comedic stand-outs in the series have been the sex subjects, in particular the prostitutes, who we may be losing after this episode. My only fear is that — like many Showtime series — Masters of Sex may be chewing too quickly through plot.
8. Parenthood — Joanna singled out Crosby’s heartfelt bonding moment with his newborn daughter as the squishiest moment of the week’s episode, but the moment that brought on the waterworks for me, actually, was Zeke’s explanation behind why he doesn’t want to sell the house. Maybe it makes me a stubborn old coot, but walking among the ghosts of my family memories seems like the perfect third act to me.
9. Boardwalk Empire — It would’ve taken a lot to top last week’s episode of the HBO drama, which saw two major deaths (one bloody, one heartbreaking), and while the episode certainly didn’t match the intensity of last week’s, there was something terrific about seeing Nucky Thompson and Sally Wheet’s sucker-punching one another as a prelude to wall-banging. I have to say, though, that after witnessing Chalky wall-bang at the episode’s end that the writers here (and everywhere), really don’t appreciate the level of difficulty involved in vertical f*cking.
10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — This is really more of a nod toward the fact that Sunny managed 100 episodes — despite the misanthropic, hilariously offensive nature of the show — than it was to the episode itself. Comedies should not be as consistently good as Sunny is in its 10th season, and while the 100th episode suffered from the use of dream sequence (however hilarious), the series should get major ups for longevity.