This week, we say goodbye to three series that highlight three different ways to hit hard in today’s age of television. There are yellow jackets, a weekly release that has gained steam (and theories) throughout its season, station eleven which featured paired episode drops on a major platform, and The extent, which (despite being a weekly release) transitioned from linear cable to a streaming platform several seasons ago, and can be easily binged. But however you like to consume your TV, one thing we can all agree on is that there are plenty of them!
The Power Rankings rules are simple: any current television series is eligible, whether it’s a comedy, drama, news program, animated series, varieties or a sporting event. It can be network, basic cable, premium channel, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or anything you can stream to your smart TV, as long as a new episode was made available the previous week (ending Sunday) – or, in the case of one-off shows, they must have aired within the previous four weeks. The voting committee is made up of Pastry Editors and TV screenwriters with fairly broad tastes.
Ghosts (CBS/Paramount+), All creatures big and small (PBS), Cobra Kai (Netflix), Noemie (CT), someone, somewhere (HBO)
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Last week’s ranking: Honorable mention
This week: The series finale blocked the landing.
It’s hard to believe that The extentThe current season of will be its last – the interstellar world of the Prime Video series (Once Upon a Time Syfy) seems bigger than ever, the kind of sandbox any TV writer would kill to play in. the truncated sixth episode almost seems to share that perspective, with the fearless crew of the Rocinante continuing to explore an exponentially expanded universe at the Ring’s doorstep and tangling with the dangerous extremist Marcos Inaros (Keon Alexander) as if their adventures would never end. Whether that conclusion can do justice to the years we spent with Captain James Holden (Steven Strait) and company is a question for another day, but in the meantime, the Rocinante’s final flights continue to exhilarate as the nuanced machinations that surround them spread out, additional cementing The extent as an immersive and stimulating achievement on the small screen. —Scott Russell
Network: HBO Max
Last week’s ranking: Not eligible
This week: Worth watching for the danceable intro alone.
Chris Smith, aka Peacemaker, is a ridiculous character.
The superhero/supervillain dressed in red, white and blue is a walking, talking contradiction. Peacemaker is arrogant, socially oblivious, misogynistic, and culturally insensitive. His ridiculousness extends not only to his costume (it’s not a toilet seat he wears on his head, it’s a beacon of freedom) or his bald eagle named Eagle, but also to his most commonly used slogan. “I cherish peace with all my heart,” Peacemaker says in The Suicide Squad. “I don’t care how many men, women and children I have to kill to get it.”
While Peacemaker wears a bit of darkness, it’s a James Gunn production, so it’s also filled with humor and music. The script is loaded with witty banter, the action scenes are destructive and goofy, and star John Cena will clearly say or do anything for a laugh. “That’s my jam,” Peacemaker says, flipping through a stack of ’80s hair metal albums from Cinderella and Faster Pussycat. “It was back when men were real men because they weren’t afraid to be women.” Moments later, he sings the Quireboys song “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, using a vibrator as a microphone while wearing nothing but tight white clothes and dancing like Axl Rose. It’s embarrassing and hilarious at the same time. This series revels in its own ridiculousness, which it manages to balance with a gripping story. At the end of the line, Peacemaker is simply fun to watch. — Terry Terrones [Full Review]
Network: HBO Max
Last week’s ranking: Honorable mention
This week: A magnificent and bewitching finale for a magnificent and bewitching spectacle.
The last few years have really made us wonder what the end of the world might look like. And in this sense, the new series of HBO Max station eleven, an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 apocalyptic novel, has unfortunate (or perhaps auspicious) timing. Who wants to watch a show where the world’s population has been ravaged by a pandemic, where the characters are grieving for what they’ve lost and wondering if hope is a worthwhile investment? Who wants to inhabit a dark universe that feels just a branch away from ours?
And yet, the 10-episode mini-series pulls off an incredible feat: it’s a masterpiece. The moment of our own pandemic heightens the series’ horror and disaster, but also makes every emotional beat that much stronger. station elevenThe pandemic is very different from ours: it is fast. In just a few days, the world has changed forever, very few have the opportunity to say goodbye. The series delves into that pain and asks if separation is something you can learn to endure in a world that takes each character on their own path. For a series so inspired by Shakespeare’s legacy, it seems rightly impacted by “parting is such sweet sadness.” station eleven ventures to dwell on both the sweet and the sorrowful, that both can exist at the same time all the time.
While COVID-19 remains a fresh wound and station eleven is not for the faint-hearted, it rewards the viewer by finding artful beauty in a painful world. —Leila Jordan [Full Review]
Network: ABC (Hulu next day)
Last week’s ranking: 2
This week: Trying to get things done in the public school system? Triggering.
The best new network show of the season is already delighting viewers and dominating 2022. Quinta Brunson writes, produces and stars in this ABC 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 public education for both children and those who dedicate themselves in their profession to enriching their lives. Keep an eye out for Tyler James Williams as a substitute and Sheryl Lee Ralph as a seasoned teacher who’s seen it all. —Amy Amatangelo
Network: Show time
Last week’s ranking: 1
This week: A hell of a finale that left more questions than it answered.
Showtime’s new survival thriller yellow jackets feels like such a breath of fresh air. The series is an intriguing mix of genres: part 1990s horror story and part modern-day mystery, with heavy doses of teenage angst and supernatural weirdness thrown over the top. Honestly, it’s unlike anything else on TV right now, and while its pacing is a bit more icy than its trailers would have initially indicated, there are times when the tension, combined with our knowledge that many of these people aren’t going to make it out of this alive – is almost unbearable.
The story begins in 1996 and follows the titular Yellowjackets, a New Jersey women’s high school football team en route to the national championships. But when a rich dad’s private plane loaned for the trip crashes in the mountains of Colorado, they spend the next 19 months fighting to stay alive – a feat they apparently don’t all accomplish. We know this because the other half of the show’s plot takes place 25 years later, as several of the crash survivors (played by Juliette Lewis, Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci and Tawny Cypress) reunite visited by a curious journalist aiming to write a book about their stories.
Ultimately, yellow jackets is a meandering mystery that doesn’t easily give up many of its secrets and bases its story on 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 reveals driven by girls’ menstrual cycles syncing up…basically what I’m saying is that lord of the flies could never. —Lacy Baugher Milas [Full Review]
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