Thanks -- or no thanks -- to the TV industry's upfront dog and pony show about next fall's shows, there just wasn't any time to either get The Power Rankings! up on a Monday, as I prefer, or at least by Wednesday. So, behold, the latest (but the greatest?) Power Rankings! ever. We'll all live. But it's important to remember that this represents the week ending May 12. Now, that's particularly troublesome for series that air on Mondays, because the episodes being considered actually aired on May 6, which seems like a damned long time ago. Just keep those crazy dates in mind and I'll try to get The Power Rankings! up early next week, unless the broadcast networks would like to show us a bunch of new stuff its going to cancel again. The good news for this installment is that an influx of comedies is making things particularly volatile and creating chaos. Which is lovely. Also, maybe it's appropriate that a Slow TV entry takes the No. 1 slot on a week we're late. So, welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending May 12. On my command, unleash hell! FYI: 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 the link to the Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. Also: The Bastard Machine links have their own Facebook Page. And Tim Goodman loves Twitter.
Bet you weren't expecting that. Hell, after The Americans rushed up and grabbed the No. 1 slot last week for its finale, a little more order was probably expected from the odds-on favorites like Game of Thrones and Mad Men. But listen, the "Plato's Cave" episode of this Sundance Channel series had everything I love about the show. It was contemplative. It was smart - almost too smart with all the literary references being dropped and philosophical exercises manifesting themselves in the plotting (big applause for the effort, by the way; impressive). I know not everybody is a fan of the Slow TV thing, but you can't tell this story any other way. And with so few episodes in its freshman season, I'm absolutely fine with taking time to enjoy every frame of this show. This was an episode worth rewatching, even more than once.
The second very strong Mad Men episode in a row was intriguing on a number of levels, none more than Dominant Don trying to control all aspects of a life that doesn't seem to be giving him much joy. His power games with Sylvia no doubt had some people cringing (and others way into it), but the strangest part of it may have been that the dominance had no real sexual component. None of Don's domination of Sylvia was depicted in bed (and yes, the series has hinted at this before, sexually, so it could have easily been done here). Maybe the emptiness of it was the point. And then it all just fizzled for Don. It all just ended. This was a great episode for Jon Hamm, who managed to portray with his face exactly what it's like being in charge, losing that power and, in the best example yet, coming to terms with it physically and intellectually while in the plane with Ted.
Game of Thrones
It may need to be said every week just to make the point and to prove that I appreciate the gesture: Game of Thrones is carrying around some seriously heavy plot this season. It's impressive. But it also handicaps the HBO series just a bit in that doling out tiny bits of plot and tiny bits of action among an immense cast tends to make the series feel both jam-packed with information and yet also sluggish. It's an odd feeling. I was ready for Game of Thrones to jump up higher this week but other series exceeded the effort. Hard to soar with all that plot on your ankles. However, I have no doubt that once the plot points start to release, Game of Thrones might be unstoppable.
Not only does HBO's new comedy from Christopher Guest join The Power Rankings! in the first week, it leaps into the Top 5. Well done, lads. I've seen four episodes of this series and adore it. They won't be able to make the episodes fast enough to satiate me. But that's fine, there's plenty of subtle moments and humor to revisit here. In fact, it's often funnier the more you think about it and revisit. Excellent job, Family Tree.
I keep thinking that the weirder this series gets, the more it will lose me because I especially love and am drawn to the grounded, relatable aspects. And yet -- bring it. Every twist has been appreciated. Every odd manifestation. This show should have more buzz, because it's damned good.
Do you see a pattern here? Yep, the strongest of shows are holding steady despite an influx of new blood. Veep, which broke the no-comedies-yet run of the Elite 11, is a real gem for HBO. Like Family Tree, it's a series that benefits from repeat viewing (I think that's true of all great comedies). So much to love here. And it was nice to see some of the stars drop in and goof around with THR recently.
Look who's making a run around the outside! The first episode of Maron was proof that the podcast-to-TV idea could work. The second episode was even better, bringing into play all kinds of quirk and expanding Marc Maron's world. Both encouraging and excellent. And in case it wasn't implied enough -- hilarious. Nice work, IFC.
Where's the love, people? A nice little upward bounce for this underrated costume drama out of the Showtime stables. It might not be laden with as much plot as Game of Thrones, but damn, it sure is getting heavy with intrigue. Maybe a little less nimble than a week ago, but also more dense. The Borgias, folks. Write it down. Play some catch-up.
Not a drop to worry about. Not one that indicates a problem. Just a lot of good competition. Again, because "A Boy & His Dog" seems to have aired like three weeks ago -- thanks, stupid upfronts! -- I don't want you to get confused about which episode we're talking about here. Taxidermy. Ah, right. You've got it now. Some people are still on the fence about what's going on in Bates Motel -- what's the direction, what's the point. Listen, save those questions for The Borgias when you start watching. It's pretty complicated. But on Bates Motel, you just need to be all-in and go with it. Weird town. Weird family. Weird things happening. That's all you need to know. Just watch.
Da Vinci's Demons
Interesting. I just looked at this ranking from afar and realized we've got some serious mother issues up in Bates Motel and some serious father issues here. Pretty lousy parenting all around, for the record. But intriguing. And, in this case, fun. I would also like to point out something about Da Vinci's Demons that I didn't know before, since it's not a personal thing for me, but fans have pointed out to me that watching the show makes them want to smoke a bowl. Hmmm. I can see the connection(s). I certainly love a glass or several of the red when I'm watching it. Da Vinci had a lot going on in his head, people. He needed some release. Let's not judge the man or the viewers for doing what they need to find a little peace of mind.
Well, hell, looking back at this week's Elite 11, there was more consistency than I thought. Lots of shows were flat (in the rankings, not in entertainment value, silly). A lot of neutral arrows. Anyway, as for Defiance, I'm sure some hardcore sci-fi types might argue that this should be higher. Maybe they have a point. But I'm not a hardcore sci-fi guy. If it gets a little too hokey, I wince a bit (which probably explains Rectify at No. 1 better than anything I've written prior, no?). I like Defiance. I like the world it has created. I like the action, the fact that it's entertaining. I wouldn't say it's ready for a big run up the rankings just yet, but it's here. And lots of shows are not. That should be good enough.
Out: With The Americans gone because the season ended, Family Tree filled the void with ease. Everything else was just jockeying.
In peril: Let's remember that this version of the rankings doesn't take into consideration anything that happened after May 12. That means the season finales can really mess things up with flux next week. Just saying.
In the mix: Hannibal, Elementary, Grimm, Person of Interest; some comedies that are still on the air.