Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from Search Party to Righteous Gemstones

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Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from Search Party to Righteous Gemstones

Out with the old, in with the new! Or even newer—recently-premiered Cobra Kai has already been moved to the Honorable Mention slot to make way for the wholesome return of All Creatures and the wholly unhinged final season of Search Party. Peak TV is revving up again!

But if you need a break from scripted shows, you can also head over to free platform for their annual Games Done Quick charity marathon broadcast, where players from around the world do speedruns of familiar and maybe not-so-familiar videogame titles.

The rules for the Power Rankings are simple: Any current series on TV qualifies, whether it’s a comedy, drama, news program, animated series, variety show or sports event. It can be on a network, basic cable, premium channel, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or whatever you can stream on your smart TV, as long as a new episode was made available the previous week (ending Sunday) —or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous four weeks. The voting panel is composed of Paste Editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes.

Honorable Mention: Station Eleven (HBO/HBO Max), Ghosts (CBS/Paramount+), The Witcher (Netflix), Cobra Kai (Netflix), The Expanse (Amazon Prime)

5. The Righteous Gemstones

Network: HBO
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: Season 2 laughs at the thin line between crime and televangelism.

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Since launching on HBO in 2019, The Righteous Gemstones has felt like a Southern analogue to Succession. It’s a show about a powerful man and shameless bastard whose three spoiled children squabble over who gets to rule his empire when he’s gone, only it’s riffing on Jim Bakker and Jerry Falwell instead of Rupert Murdoch. The Gemstones have been frauds and hypocrites from the start, but season two digs into the violent origins of their rise to power, and how that violence threatens them decades later.

I don’t mean to make Gemstones sound too serious, of course. This is a show that turns the potential death of a major character into a mass barfing scene that’d make Stand By Me proud. It’s as brash, vulgar, and absurd as Danny McBride’s earlier HBO shows, as anybody who watched the first season of Gemstones can attest. But like Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, no matter how ridiculous Gemstones gets, it still somehow makes you care about its destructive, cartoonish characters, exploring the fear, desperation, and sadness that drive them. The shows masterfully combines the outsized and the subdued, contrasting broad, loud, propulsive comedy with surprisingly nuanced characterizations and a believable setting. The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 preserves that delicate balance, and also has pro wrestling, too. How could it get any better? —Garrett Martin [Full Review]

4. Search Party

Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: An audacious series finale has fun tearing everything down.

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Four seasons, a few murders, and hundreds of toxic jelly beans later, Search Party comes to a close. It’s an utterly wild finish to a show that has always swung for the fences. Even more astoundingly, it’s a satisfying one.

When it first aired in 2016 on TBS, Search Party branded itself as the “millennial Nancy Drew.” Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter, the dark comedy (which has since moved to HBO Max) poked fun at the generalized perceptions of an entitled generation using white hipsters as avatars. Plagued by 20-something ennui, Dory (Alia Shawkat) starts the series stuck in an assistant job and tired relationship. When a college acquaintance Chantal (Clare McNulty) goes missing, she hyper-fixates on her disappearance and begins investigating, desperate to find something to latch onto. Drew (John Reynolds) and her best friends/fellow NYU grads, egomaniac Elliott (John Early, bless him in this role) and scatterbrained actress Portia (Meredith Hagner), don’t really get it, but they soon get sucked into her whims.

Attractive attention seekers making terrible decisions and being terrible people treads on familiar satire territory, but absurdist humor is what has made Search Party feel more akin to a sketch comedy than a prestige drama. Part of the appeal is that the show’s less interested in agonizing over why these characters are so self-absorbed than seeing just how far their shenanigans can be pushed. But its colorful, ludicrous finale that speaks to our current moment with tongue-in-cheek humor is one not many could pull off. I won’t be surprised if Search Party’s ending is polarizing. Who will defend it? Chantal said it best: Honestly? Myself. —Annie Lyons [Full Review]

3. All Creatures Great and Small

Network: PBS
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: The delight show returns to finds cozy romance in the Yorkshire Dales.

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It’s actually very difficult to write a review of All Creatures Great and Small Season 2, because everything I said in my initial review of the show remains true. Now, there’s just more of it: six episodes and a Christmas special, to be exact. And what a wonderful gift to chase away the winter doldrums once again as the Channel 5 series, airing in the US on PBS Masterpiece, returns us to a bucolic pre-war Yorkshire and the inhabitants of Skeldale House, the preeminent veterinary practice in the region. (Or so its lead surgeon, Samuel West’s Siegfried Farnon, likes to say—and it is most likely true.)

In Season 2, both change and romance are in the air for James (Nicholas Ralph), Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), Seigfried, and Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley)—her expanded storyline is one of the best things about the TV series, which continues to capture the spirit (if not abide by the letter) of James Herriot’s books, giving us a wholesome and cozy setting that can nevertheless be emotionally intense when it comes to the hardships of rural life. And yet, the storylines about the animals the capable and caring James looks after—and what they mean to their humans—are always wonderful.

The bottom line is that, once again, All Creatures is a delight. It’s lovingly and beautifully made. It’s a throwback that feels familiar, and yet doesn’t always play out exactly as expected. Yet even when it does, it’s charming enough to make each decision work. It’s not out to prove itself, make statements, or feel pressured to bring in dark storylines just to feel more modern. Like the indomitable Tricki Woo, it knows just what it’s about, and we love it for that. —Allison Keene [Full Review]

2. Abbott Elementary


Network: ABC
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: A delightful new series that rings true in its public school setting.

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The best new network show of the season got a sneak preview after the Live in Front of a Studio Audience broadcast of The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes, and seems poised to return with dominance in 2022. Quinta Brunson writes, executive produces, and stars in this comedy inspired by her mother’s experience as a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system. The show is both hilarious and poignant as it lays bare the inequities in our public education system. Keep an eye out for Tyler James Williams as a substitute and Sheryl Lee Ralph as the veteran teacher who has seen it all. (The show has also now moved into its regular time slot). —Amy Amatangelo

1. Yellowjackets

Network: Showtime
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: “There’s no book club?!”

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Showtime’s new survival thriller Yellowjackets feels like such a breath of fresh air. The series is an intriguing mix of genres: part 1990s-set horror story and part modern-day mystery, with heaping doses of teenage angst and supernatural weirdness thrown on top. It honestly feels like nothing else on television right now, and though its pace is somewhat more glacial than its trailers might have initially indicated, there are moments where the tension—combined with our knowledge that many of these people aren’t going to make it out of this alive—is nigh unbearable.

The story begins in 1996 and follows the titular Yellowjackets, a New Jersey girls high school soccer team on their way to nationals. But when the private plane lent by a rich dad for the trip goes down in the Colorado mountains, they spend the next 19 months fighting to stay alive—a feat not all of them apparently accomplish. We know this because the other half of the show’s plot is set 25 years later, as several of the crash survivors (played by Juliette Lewis, Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, and Tawny Cypress) find themselves visited by a nosy reporter aiming to write a book about their stories.

Ultimately, Yellowjackets is a twisty mystery that doesn’t easily give up many of its secrets, and grounds its story in a specifically female experience in a way that other series like this have never bothered to try. From awkward crushes and sexual double standards to character revelations driven by the fact that the girls’ menstrual cycles sync up… basically what I’m saying is that Lord of the Flies could never. —Lacy Baugher Milas [Full Review]

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