Bullz-Eye.com's TV Power Rankings, Spring 2011 Edition, The Killing, The Walking Dead
TV Power Rankings

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Take a look back at all of the past editions of our TV Power Rankings!

To say that a lot has happened since the last time Bullz-Eye's TV Power Rankings last reared their head would be more than a little bit of an understatement…but, then, with the proliferation of new programming nowadays, perhaps that goes without saying. Last time we got together to talk about the best TV series of the previous six months, "Mad Men" was sitting atop our list. This time, the prospect of new "Mad Men" episodes is so distant on the horizon that we're not even going to waste our time putting it in the "Returning" section, partly because we'll have another Power Rankings before the show returns to the airwaves, but mostly because there's just so much else to talk about in the meantime. You'll note that we've got a new show in the number-one slot this go-round, and by "new," we don't just mean that it's the first time at the top, we mean that it's the first time it's appeared on the Rankings at all. We've got a few other newbies, too, some of which are simultaneously making their last appearance in the Rankings (we'd ask "Terriers" to stand and be recognized, but it's been dead and buried for weeks now), but just because audiences didn't embrace their awesomeness doesn't mean they don't deserve to be applauded for their accomplishments while they were on the air.

Be sure to check out our interview with Veena Sud, executive producer for one of our co-#1 shows from AMC, "The Killing." And, as always, we recommend treading carefully below as there are several spoilers – so consider this your SPOILER ALERT!

The Killing / The Walking Dead (TIE)
Previous Rank: NR / #4
TV Power RankingsAside from the fact that they're both on the same network and have titles that play rather amusingly together when placed side by side, these two series would seem to have precious little in common. "The Killing," adapted from the Danish TV series "Forbrydelsen" by former "Cold Case" executive producer Veena Sud, revolves around the investigation of a teenage girl's murder in Seattle, Washington, and explores the effects that her death has on her family as well as the community. "The Walking Dead," meanwhile, is an adaptation of Robert Kirkland's comic book about the inevitable zombie apocalypse. (Yeah, that's right: "inevitable." It's coming, dammit. You know it is.) Strange bedfellows on the surface, perhaps, but both the death of Rosie Larson and the rise of the zombies ultimately perform the same function as plot devices, showing us a side of humanity that only rears its head when individuals are placed under horrific and/or traumatic circumstances. Zombies schmombies: if there's a general theme to "The Walking Dead," it involves the old Walt Kelly axiom, "We have met the enemy and he is us." That's not to say that there isn't still plenty of gore, though. Indeed, the sights and sounds of bloody flesh being torn asunder and rapidly devoured may prove so disconcertingly realistic that you're forced to turn away from "The Walking Dead. But, then, "The Killing" inspires a similar reaction from the emotional effect of watching Rosie's parents (played with perfect pathos by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton) reel from the death of their daughter. Long story short: both series are, in their own way, extremely hard to watch, but those with the fortitude to stay tuned are rewarded with some of the best drama in recent memory. – Will Harris
Veena Sud interview | The Walking Dead episode blog | The Walking Dead Season 1 Blu-ray review | Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman interview | Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies interview | Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun and Norman Reedus interview | Gail Ann Hurd Interview #1 | Gail Ann Hurd Interview #2 | Greg Nicotero interview | Michael Rooker interview
Modern Family
Previous Rank: #3
TV Power Rankings"Modern Family" is like one of those rare hotshot rookies who tears the cover off the ball from Day 1, running away with Rookie of the Year honors en route to a storied career that will likely feature a few MVP awards and maybe even a Hall of Fame induction when it's all said and done. This ABC hit was a favorite right from the jump, landing at a respectable #13 in our Power Rankings during its debut season before settling into the Top 10 in subsequent editions and finally climbing all the way to its current lofty perch as not only the #1 sitcom on the list, but also the top-ranked network show. In other words, no worries about a sophomore slump here. The second season of "Modern Family" has been every bit as good as the first thanks to an ensemble cast with nary a weak link and an episode lineup featuring memorable highlights like "The Old Wagon," "Our Children, Ourselves" and "Slow Down Your Neighbors." Like any great sitcom, "Modern Family" combines plenty of tender moments with its endless supply of laughs, a recipe that will no doubt lead to many more Top 5 finishes. – Jamey Codding
Season 1 DVD Review | Ed O'Neill interview | Ty Burrell interview
Boardwalk Empire
Previous Rank: #5
TV Power RankingsWhen "Boardwalk Empire" made its debut in the #5 slot last time around, we admitted outright that we were kinda sorta swayed into watching the show by virtue of all the big names swarming around it, be it Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, or former "Sopranos" executive producer Terence Winter. Even back in November, we were more than comfortable making the commitment to stick with the show for the rest of the season, but we had no clue just how well we'd be rewarded for our time. It's perhaps a given that Buscemi offers a captivating performance as Nucky Thompson, political kingpin of 1920s Atlantic City, but when it comes to turning in a can't-look-away scenes time after time, the show's clear-cut winner is Michael Shannon as Agent Nelson Van Elden, the man who'll do anything to take down Thompson's empire. Michael Pitt's work as Nucky's former protégé, Jimmy Darmody, is doing some fantastic work as well, walking viewers through the evolution of a young man learning to tone down his brashness to achieve brilliance. Winter has left us wondering where Jimmy's future lies, now that he's forged a tenuous relationship with his father, The Commodore (Dabney Coleman). And speaking of relationships, what's going to happen between Nucky and Margaret (Kelly MacDonald)? What we really want to see, though, is how things play out with Agent Van Elden. Of all the shocking moments in Season 1 of "Boardwalk Empire," none could compare to Van Elden's decision to, uh, baptize one of his fellow agent. Clearly, the man is out of control…and, frankly, we can hardly wait to see what kind of intense craziness lies ahead in Season 2. – WH
Episode blog | Aleksa Palladino Interview
Previous Rank: #13
TV Power RankingsSay, speaking of intense craziness, haaaaaaave you been watching "Community" this season? What started as a show which could've simply been about the trials and tribulations of a collective of community-college students has turned into one of the most eccentric, creative, and thoroughly outrageous sitcoms on the dial, ever ready to turn clichés and conventions on their head. Take, for instance, the series' already-infamous bottle episode (which, somewhat surprisingly, doesn't actually take place in a bottle), which plays off the concept of episodes that take place in a single location, or the fantastic stop-motion animation holiday episode, which on most shows would be incredibly cute but on "Community" never fails to remind viewers that Abed (Danny Pudi), God bless him, has some legitimate psychological issues going on. These issues are also extremely evident in the episode "Critical Film Studies," which we're going to go out on a limb and say is the first time anyone's managed to pay tribute to "Pulp Fiction" and "My Dinner with Andre" simultaneously. From the outside looking in, "Community" might seem best described as "that show with the dude from ‘The Soup,' Clark Griswold, and that nekkid Asian dude who was locked in the trunk in ‘The Hangover,'" but…well, okay, that's not actually inaccurate, because all those people are on the show. But it's so much more than that. It's smart, it's silly, and it offers hilarity with heart. Plus a monkey named Annie's Boobs. – WH
Season 1 DVD review | Alison Brie interview | Chevy Chase interview | Cast of Community interview
Game of Thrones
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power RankingsIt's been compared to everything from "Rome" to "Dallas," and has even been called "The Sopranos" meets "Lord of the Rings" on more than one occasion, but HBO's new fantasy series, "Game of Thrones," is far too good for such lazy comparisons. Based on George R.R. Martin's wildly popular book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, the show is perhaps the most ambitious production in HBO's history. But while it may be expensive to produce, it's money well spent, as the impressive sets and costume design are truly magnificent. A lot of attention has also been placed on the show's graphic use of sex and violence, but it's hardly as scandalous as it sounds, and actually quite necessary in bringing to life the gritty and raw universe that Martin has created. The show's real talking points should be its rich storytelling, deep mythology, and almost endless supply of great performances from the ensemble cast. Sean Bean, Kit Harrington and Aidan Gillen have all proven themselves to be instant standouts, but it's Peter Dinklage's turn as the royal dwarf Tyrion Lannister that steals the show every time he appears on screen. The diminutive actor has been delivering solid work for almost a decade now, and if there was ever a time to reward him, it would be with an Emmy for his performance here. Of course, with only four episodes aired, there's a chance that "Game of Thrones" won't live up to its strong start, but based on what we've seen so far, it's more likely that it'll only get better. – Jason Zingale
George R.R. Martin interview | David Benioff and D.B. Weiss interview
Parks and Recreation
Previous Rank: #16
TV Power RankingsLeslie Knope, the eternal optimist played by Amy Poehler, has the biggest heart on "Parks and Recreation," and may be the nicest character on all of television. In a landscape full of mean spirited and cynical comedies, her presence is a welcome relief. It's her spirit that resonates throughout this great series. "Parks and Recreation" may have begun as a starring vehicle for Poehler, the former star of "Saturday Night Live," but it's quickly become one of the sharpest and flat out hilarious ensemble shoes on TV. Leslie Knope's influences everyone on the show. How else can you explain why we care about a douche bag like Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), clueless Andy Dwyer (secret weapon, Chris Pratt), apathetic April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and hardass Ron "the stache" Swanson (the superlative Nick Offerman)? The permanent addition of Adam Scott, as Leslie's love interest, Ben, and Rob Lowe, as uber upbeat Chris Traeger, have only added to the depth of the cast. "Community" may be NBC's most sublime comedy and "30 Rock" may be its most revered, but "Parks and Recreation" is the crown jewel, as this season has proven. Time and again it has outshined the other shows that surround it on NBC's Thursday lineup. Let's hope that the network brass wises up ad doesn't make us wait until January (like they did this year) to bring the show back next year. – Scott Malchus
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | Michael Schur interview
How I Met Your Mother
Previous Rank: #18
TV Power RankingsAlways one of the most amiable series on television, "How I Met Your Mother" brought back the romanticism and heart that made the show a hit when it premiered. The producers made a conscious decision to write episodes that tied into ending the mystery of who the mother actually is. In doing so, the show seems to have rediscovered its voice. This year, "How I Met Your Mother" has been as good as ever. While it's not always fall down on the ground hilarious, the characters on the show are the reason we come back each week. They've become so familiar to the fans of the show that they're almost like friends. So when Ted (Joss Radnor) falls for the wrong woman (Jennifer Morrison's "Zoey"), we still root for him. When Marshall (Jason Segel) experiences the shocking loss of his father, we mourn with him. When Lily (Alyson Hannigan) struggles with her decision about motherhood, we understand. When Robin (Cobie Smulders) decides to take her professional life seriously, we root for her. And when Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has a reunion with his long lost father (guest star, John Lithgow) that doesn't go as planned, we feel his pain. At the same time, "How I Met Your Mother" has created a new mystery: Whose wedding is Ted at when we cut to the future and how does this ceremony tie into the woman who will become his wife? Thanks to Charlie Sheen's meltdown and CBS's anxiety over its biggest hit show, it looks like we'll have to wait two more years to find out. As long as the show remains as good as it's been this year, the fans will be willing to wait. – SM
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | Season 3 DVD review | Season 4 DVD review | Josh Radnor interview
The Office
Previous Rank: #8
TV Power RankingsWhen Steve Carell made the announcement that this would be his final season playing Dundie-winning paper company executive Michael Scott, many fans were horrified, but it didn't stop them from tuning in to see how the character's departure was going to be handled. Much of the year was spent as a semi-retrospective of Michael's life and times on the show, giving us a chance to revisit some of his past romances, get fuller examinations of some of his outside efforts (we would totally pay full price to see "Threat Level Midnight" in the theater), and, mostly importantly, watching him finally find happiness with his beloved Holly (Amy Ryan). When they got engaged, it was arguably one of the sweetest moments in any sitcom, because the characters truly are perfect for each other. Michael's decision to leave Dunder-Mifflin behind and move to Colorado with Holly was handed in a similarly heartstring-tugging manner, so much so that we're hard pressed to imagine anyone who didn't find themselves on the verge of tears when Jim (John Kraczinski) said his farewells. So why, then, is "The Office" still sitting in the same spot on the Power Rankings as last time around? We never thought we'd be saying this, but…it's Will Ferrell's fault. As great as it was to see Carell and Ferrell together again, the character of Deangelo Vickers was too over-the-top and never meshed well with the others in the office. Granted, that was probably the point, but it reached a point where Ferrell's mere presence in a scene began to drag down the proceedings. Although we admit to a little bit of excitement about seeing the collection of guest stars in the season finale (James Spader! Ray Romano! Warren Buffett?!?), we hope that whoever ends up replacing Carell for the long haul fits better than Ferrell did. – WH
Season 2 DVD review | Season 3 DVD review | Season 4 DVD review | Season 5 DVD review | Season 6 DVD review | Oscar Nunez interview | Melora Hardin interview | Craig Robinson interview | Paul Lieberstien interview
Friday Night Lights
Previous Rank: #6
TV Power RankingsAs "Friday Night Lights" wrapped up its fifth and final run as one of television's most underappreciated dramas, fans were treated to one last season of the most consistently written and beautifully acted shows in the 21st century. As the clock wound down, the series continued to challenge us with compelling stories and richly drawn characters. Who would have thought that Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) could be so naïve and bone headed, or that Vince (Michael B. Jordan) would fall under the sway of his ex-con father, the same man who got his mom addicted to drugs? It’s also unlikely that anyone expected the rock solid marriage of Eric and Tami Taylor (the Emmy worthy Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) to be tested the way it was in the final episodes. Arguably most shocking, though, is that stripper Mindy (Stacey Oristano) and her lunkhead of a husband (Derek Phillips) somehow became role models. In addition to the excellent storylines of this season, fan favorite characters were brought back to make brief appearances and provide closure. Even though Scott Porter, Adriane Palicki and Zach Gilford have all moved on in their careers, it felt natural and right that they should return to the show that first brought them to the public eye. The final episode of "Friday Night Lights" was a perfect hour of television, mixing sentiment with hope, heart, and plenty of tears, just as you'd expect. This may be the last time "Friday Night Lights" will appear on the power rankings, but it leaves some damned large cleats to fill. – SM
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | Season 3 DVD review | Season 4 DVD review | Season 5 DVD review
Sons of Anarchy
Previous Rank: #24
TV Power RankingsIronically, "Sons of Anarchy" enjoys its best TV Power Rankings placement yet on the heels of what many consider its weakest season to date. Of course, that is very much a relative statement because the worst "SoA" season would still tower above the best offerings from most other shows on TV. So why the jump into the Top 10? To put it simply, some of our staffers finally took the time to get caught up on the first three seasons of "Sons of Anarchy," and to say that they liked what they saw would be an understatement. Granted, the decision to spend a large chunk of Season 3 in Belfast, Ireland took some time to get used to, but it also gave what already was a fascinating story even more depth by shining light into some of its darker corners. It's a shame the FX drama has never even been nominated for a proper Emmy (sorry, the theme song nod in 2009 doesn't qualify) – Katy Segal's snubs are particularly glaring in light of January Jones' nomination last year – but at least "Sons of Anarchy" is finally getting its due on our pages as one of the finest shows on TV. – JC
Interviews, reviews and more at our Sons of Anarchy Fan Hub | Episode blog | Ron Perlman interview | Kurt Sutter interview
The Big Bang Theory
Previous Rank: #19
TV Power RankingsThere's certainly precedent for sitcoms sticking around for the long haul without changing any significant about its cast and characters, just as there's precedent for fans to rebel against change and desert their once-favorite series like rats from a sinking ship. If "The Big Bang Theory" was a show strictly watched by geeks and nerds, as is the perception of many of those who don't actually watch the show themselves, then it's reasonable to theorize that it would have sunk like a stone in the ratings merely as a result of the risky decision to give Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) a – gasp! – girlfriend in the form of Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). Instead, there's been a change in dynamic on the show that's actually allowed the series to branch out, exploring more storylines revolving around the unique female trifecta of Amy, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Penny (Katey Cuoco). Yes, there's been a fourth female on the show recently, but even though Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is still dating Raj's sister Priya (Aarti Mann) as of this writing, there's just no way Leonard's going to be able to quit Penny cold turkey. Even if Priva makes it back for the show's fifth season, we don't see those kids lasting for the long haul. – WH
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | Season 3 DVD review | Johnny Galecki interview | Jim Parsons interview | Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons interview
Previous Rank: #19
TV Power RankingsAt the close of its third season, "Californication" looked to be going all serious on us, what with Hank Moody being arrested for assault. In the Season Four premiere, the assault charges were dropped, only for Moody to find himself immediately arrested for the statutory rape of Mia (Madeline Zima), which occurred way back in Season One. For Hank, the season mostly revolves around two things: his legal troubles and all of the problems that ensue, and the making of his book Fucking and Punching into a feature film and all the problems that ensue. The guy is never short on problems, but he's also never short on finding immature ways to avoid dealing with them. That's kind of the allure of this show. Hank's allowed to be the eternal Peter Pan, never truly having to grow up. He can get drunk, do drugs, screw as many women as he wants, and yet he only pays the piper in tiny increments, all while behaving like a total ass, devoid of serious repercussions. In short, he acts the way we would act if we could get away with it, and therein resides the reason we keep tuning in. It's indulgent, trashy television, to be sure, but not without sadistic charms. This season also saw the scrumptious Carla Gugino playing Hank's lawyer. Unfortunately, she didn't take it all off. It also brilliantly showcased Rob Lowe playing what appeared to be a riff of sorts on Brad Pitt. Luckily, he left most of it on. – Ross Ruediger
Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l David Duchovny interview l Pamela Adlon interview
Previous Rank: #9
TV Power Rankings It's depressing that "Fringe" was so close to the chopping block that EW's Ken Tucker felt the need to write an article begging Fox to save the show. And in fairness, we understand why people are reluctant to tune in to the show deep into its third season; the mythology is deep, and involves parallel universes and drugs with names like Cortexiphan. What those people should know, though, is that the characters are driving the action of "Fringe," not the science, and that shift of focus has elevated the show tenfold. John Noble has been putting on an acting clinic in the dual role of crackpot genius Walter Bishop and the stern, ruthless Secretary of Defense "Walternate" Bishop, and nowhere was that more evident than in the show's jaw-dropping season finale, as the two faced off for the first time and are forced to work together or both of their worlds will end. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is the show's most sympathetic character, considering the traumatic experiments Walter performed on her as a child, but the show is nothing without Joshua Jackson, who has transformed Peter Bishop from a one-liner-spewing ex-con to a layered, deeply conflicted man. (It's hard to stay mad at the man who stole you from your real father, even if he saved your life by doing so.) Were the timekeepers telling the truth when they said Peter never really existed? Let's hope not, because "Fringe" would not be the same without him. – David Medsker
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | John Noble interview
Previous Rank: #15
TV Power RankingsIf you're sitting there perplexed about how a single-season wonder that finished its run in December of last year managed to land a spot on our Power Rankings, it's because you're one of the many people that never tuned in to the show. Clever, funny, dark and provocative, "Terriers" may have not pulled in the audience it so rightly deserved, but it was without a doubt one of the best new series of 2010. Part of the problem was the title, which people complained didn't tell you what the show was about, even though it made complete sense after watching the first episode. The real downfall, however, was that it took a while before the series found its groove, and when it comes to the make-or-break politics of TV these days, time was the one thing that "Terriers" didn't have on its side. Still, the buddy detective drama consistently delivered some of the best acting and writing of any series week in and week out – namely due to the performances of stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, who had an unparalleled chemistry as the scrappy private investigators caught up in the middle of the case of a lifetime. At least FX found it in their hearts to air all 13 episodes (even if the writing was already on the wall), but it's still a shame we won't get to tag along with Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack on any of their further adventures, because "Terriers" was just on the verge of something really special. – JZ
Donal Logue interview
The Daily Show
Previous Rank: #16
TV Power RankingsIt's almost seemed as if President Barack Obama has joined the TDS staff lately. He's delivered two huge stories rife with potential while, for a change, the show was not on hiatus. First, the president provided his long-form birth certificate and the comic comeuppance of newborn birther Donald Trump. Then, with a gigantic hand from some Navy SEALs, he provided the death of the second most irritating man in the news. Stewart dealt with the birth certificate story with the mixture of glee and contempt it deserved. Not long after, Stewart and the best f*cking news team on television dealt with the death of Osama Bin Laden with the glee and contempt lifelong New Yorker Jon Stewart clearly feels that man deserves, though being careful to add a touch of seriousness and respect for all humans not belonging to Al-Qaeda. The show had already been on a roll with an insanely brilliant reaction to Glenn Beck's immanent departure from Fox News a few weeks prior, a tour de force parody of the fearmonger extraordinaire's drama queen antics. Just another month or two in the life of one of the most reliable institutions in our ever-troubled democracy. – Bob Westal
Previous Rank: #11
TV Power RankingsIt might be relatively low on our power ranking, but fans of this Peabody-winning hodgepodge of cop show, modern dress western, and witty crime drama are as high as a kite over the just-wrapped second season. Featuring a superbly dry portrayal by Tim Olyphant ("Deadwood") as Elmore Leonard's violence prone, Stetson-wearing U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, this year was consistently terrific, if a bit light on clever capers. Instead, a plot involving some cash unwisely borrowed from an evidence locker by Winona (Natalie Zea), Raylan's ex-wife/girlfriend, stole too much precious time -- F/X is keeping the length to a chintzy 42 minutes -- though supporting marshals Nick Searcy, Joelle Givens, and Jacob Pitts have been given brief opportunities to shine. Nevertheless, this season moved forcefully in a more classically tragic direction as the ongoing tale of three at-odds Kentucky crime families, one of whose name happens to be "Givens," has continued in outstanding fashion. Walter Goggins remains intriguing as inscrutable antihero Boyd Crowther, but this season saw a really fantastic and emotionally complex villain in Margo Martindale's deadly but sincerely maternal marijuana magnate, Mags Bennett. Meanwhile, for those of us who can't get enough, 85 year-old Leonard has just finished a new book, Raylan. – BW
Men of a Certain Age
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power Rankings TNT didn't do "Men of a Certain Age" any favors by slicing its second season up into two parts, running the first six episodes through January 10 and then sending the show on a six-month hiatus. Huh? Fortunately, the wait is nearly over, with one of the best dramas on TV set to return June 1. That may seem like a rather bold statement to the uninitiated who have a hard time picturing comedian Ray Romano successfully pulling off a dramatic role, but count that as one of this show's most pleasant surprises. In fact, Romano deserves heaps of credit for making us completely forget about the whiney Ray Barone with his portrayal of Joe Tranelli, a recent divorcee and recovering gambling addict who's trying to keep his business above water while staying involved in the lives of his children. Co-stars Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher are just as enjoyable in their respective roles as Joe's longtime buddies, with each man facing his own unique midlife troubles. There's very little flash to "Men of a Certain Age," with the focus instead on these everyday characters facing everyday challenges that most of us can relate to, all of which gives the show a distinctively authentic feel. Unfortunately, a third season is anything but a certainty at this point, so be sure to tune in when "Men of a Certain Age" makes its return on June 1. – JC
Season 1 DVD review
Previous Rank: #11
TV Power RankingsLet us address up front that McKinley High School does not exist. Not in the most open-minded large market – and certainly not in Lima, Ohio – and not in any other parallel universe our world may know, not even the one in "Fringe." It is a fantasy land for creator Ryan Murphy to make a statement about the persecution of those perceived as different, and on that level, the show is a blessing. But let's not mistake this for real life, because no high school principal would crown the school's only openly gay male student as the write-in vote winner for prom queen. "Glee" always puts its mission before the characters' accountability; it's just one of those things you have to accept. And yet, in spite of this disconnect with reality, this season has been light years better than its first. The show's dialogue has always been clever, but they took a page from the "Election" playbook and let the student characters take turns narrating the story. This serves two purposes; it keeps the show from revolving around glee club director Will Schuester, and it allows the audience to get inside the heads of the show's more guarded characters, like the caustic (but deliciously hot) Santana. Most importantly, they've dialed back Sue Sylvester's screen time, a smart move considering the explosive-in-short-bursts nature of her character. The big test, though, will be how the whole Kurt/Karofsky subplot unfolds. Right now, they're having Kurt push Karovsky out of the closet. Bad idea, if you ask us. No good can come from that. – DM
Season 1, Volume 1 DVD review | Season 1 DVD review | Season 2, Volume 1 DVD review
The Middle
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power Rankings If you've watched "The Middle," it won't be much of a surprise for you to learn that the show was created by two writers (Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline) who spent a lot of time on the staff of "Roseanne," and given the state of the American economy at present, this is the perfect time to once more shine the spotlight a family who's struggling on a weekly basis to make ends meet. Although "The Middle" has been presenting a consistently funny look at a real family, one that resides in a house that actually looks like someone lives in it (the remarkable accuracy of the set design is, in its own way, right up there with "Mad Men"), since its debut in the fall of 2009, the show's second season is a textbook example of a series that has let everything that didn't work spectacularly in Season 1 – :::coughing::: Frankie's job at the car dealership :::coughing::: – fall by the wayside in favor of the stuff that did work, namely the dynamic between the various members of the Hecht family. Hey, don't get us wrong, we like Chris Kattan and Brian Doyle-Murray as much as the next guy, but over the course of these two seasons, it's become increasingly clear who the stars of this show are: Frankie, Mike, Axl, Sue, and Brick. If the show never left the Hecht home again, it'd be alright by us…well, just as long as Mike's brother Rusty (Norm MacDonald) stops by, anyway. – WH
The Colbert Report
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power RankingsWhile some were wondering whether celebrating the death of any human being, no matter how despicable, was seemly, faux right wing pundit Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, provided just the right level of decorum. "I am as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot bin Laden in the eye....Hey, Osama, no 3-D movies for you in hell, which I'm pretty sure would be The Last Airbender." He then went on to hold a long-delayed celebration of the terrorist's passing with decade-old balloons, a Photoshopped picture of OBL in Icelandic singer-actress Bjork's swan-dress from the 2001 Oscars, and moldy cake. Nothing less would have been expected from Colbert, who had used previously given up Catholicism for Lent and used obvious green screen to persuade viewers he had miraculously moved his show to London overnight for the royal wedding. As always, "The Colbert Report" remains one of the best written and most imaginative comedy shows in television history. On top of his brilliance as a satirist, Colbert is an ever more superb all-around performer. His sheer stamina and skill in keeping up the high level of work he's done four days a week for five and a half years is kind of awe-inspiring. – BW
Real Time with Bill Maher
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power RankingsOver the past eight years, 212 episodes of "Real Time with Bill Maher" have been produced. This isn't necessarily a huge feat compared to myriad other talk and news shows, but there's something to be said for Maher's longevity and stamina in the face of so much opposition. There is simply nobody else on television who espouses their opinions and agendas in the same way as Maher. Nor could they, because on any given commercial network, nobody would be allowed to say the kind of things Bill does. Maher himself learned this the hard way, and surely both he and HBO owe a huge debt of gratitude to ABC for cancelling "Politically Incorrect" all those years ago. And maybe, just maybe, he's starting to make a dent. Last autumn that nutjob Christine O'Donnell was running for a Senatorial seat in Delaware, and Maher aired a clip of her from "Politically Incorrect" in which she spoke of dabbling in witchcraft. Shit hit the fan and any chance she had of winning was almost immediately killed. Maher's become a force to be reckoned with, but maybe that's to be expected from a guy who, between "Real Time" and "the old show," as he refers to it, has been on the air for 18 years. It's entirely probable that he's even got another 18 left in him. – RR
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power RankingsThe biggest thing "Treme" has working against it is that its co-creator is also responsible for "The Wire," considered by many a serious TV watcher to be the greatest TV show ever made. Although it would be nice for David Simon to trump his previous series with this one, that doesn't seem to be in the cards. But it seems just as likely that Simon, along with Eric Overmyer, isn't even trying to top "The Wire." "Treme" is best appreciated as its own beast, and an engaging beast it is. At the time of writing, the third episode of Season Two ("On Your Way Down") just aired, and it was the first installment of the season to play its hand and show us what "Treme" is really dealing us this year. Late at night, as she was closing her bar, LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) suffered a brutal attack and rape. Unlike most shows, "Treme" didn't allow this development to become central to the episode, but instead chose to play it as part of the "Treme" weave, which, in many ways, made it all the more harder and disturbing. It seems likely that this season will continue to tread down darker paths than maybe it did in its freshman year, which is just fine, because it's tracking its way through the horror, hurt and the recovery in New Orleans in the most honest ways possible. If you're not watching, you just don't know what you're missing. – RR
Season 1 DVD review l Treme: The Big Uneasy
Doctor Who
Previous Rank: #17
TV Power RankingsIt's still too early to give the sixth season of "Doctor Who" a thumbs up or a thumbs down, although given the show's tracks record, it would have to go disastrously off the rails for us to stop watching. We've only seen three episodes thus far. The season opener, "The Impossible Astronaut," kicked off with a literal bang by showing us the Doctor (Matt Smith) being killed down by a mysterious astronaut…only for a younger version of the Time Lord to appear minutes later, much to the surprise of his travelling companions. If we wanted answers in part two, "Day of the Moon," we didn't get them. Instead, we just got more questions. That opening two-parter was a hell of a bold way to open a new season, as prior to this, they always kicked off with fairly simple tales. Here we were introduced to the Silents, who may or may not be more frightening than the Weeping Angels, but there's no question they're a genius creation either way. Being that edit themselves out of your memory the moment you're no longer looking at them! There's also a Neil Gaiman-penned episode right around the corner, which seems all but guaranteed to reduce many a fanyboy and girl to a whimpering "Squee!" With a several month break in the middle, it's going to feel like a long season, and you just know that the end of Moffat's seventh episode will have you flinging your remote at the TV, so prepare for the worst while expecting the best. – RR
Season 1 DVD review | Season 2 DVD review | Season 3 DVD review | Season 4 DVD review | Season 5 DVD review | Complete Specials DVD review | Piers Wenger interview
Previous Rank: NR
DamagesIt certainly won't be the only thing that Stephen J. Cannell will be remembered for, but "Castle" has proven on numerous occasions why it's one hell of a way for the legendary television producer to go out. Season Three, in particular, has found the crime procedural at the top of its game with a nice mix of murder-of-the-week mysteries and more character-driven cases that have allowed the writers to further develop the burgeoning romance between Castle and Beckett. For the time being, however, the will-they-won't-they tension isn't going anywhere, and it's hard to imagine creator Andrew Marlowe using that particular ace-up-his-sleeve unless he sees a slip in the ratings. And it's a good thing, too, since the chemistry between Castle and Beckett is almost entirely built on the sexual tension that's been brewing between them since Day One. It's bound to happen eventually, but for now, "Castle" has more than enough to keep audiences coming back each week, thanks in part to a fantastic cast led by the hilarious and charming Nathan Fillion, who really should be a big movie star at this point in his career. But for as much as we enjoy watching Fillion and Stana Katic play off one another, it's the work by Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever and the rest of the supporting cast that has made this season the best yet. – JZ
Season 1 DVD review
Mad Love / Traffic Light (tie)
Previous Rank: NR
TV Power RankingsWhen the broadcast networks started rolling out their new mid-season series, viewers were damned near bombarded with sitcoms revolving around groups of friends in their 20s and 30s. Not that this is anything remotely resembling a unique premise, but, criminey, we can't remember an occasion when we got so many at the same time. NBC was first in and first out with "Perfect Couples," while ABC was last through the gate with "Happy Endings," which as of this writing is being burned off two new episodes at a time, rarely a good sign for any series. For our money, though, the other two entries are the preferred options, though we're depressed that our favorite, Fox's "Traffic Light," was just given its walking papers. We were behind the series from the get-go, making a point of interviewing every single member of its cast before its premiere, but even though the plot scenarios and banter were top-notch, our enthusiasm apparently wasn't enough to earn the show another season. Hey, we tried. At present, though, we're still hopeful that CBS will serve up a sophomore year of "Mad Love," which, while decidedly more slapstick and in-your-face with its delivery of its characters' romantic foibles, has a cast of four proven comedians – Jason Biggs, Tyler Labine, Sarah Chalke, and Judy Greer – who make it very easy to come back week after week. Now all we have to do is see if CBS lets them. – WH
Tyler Labine interview

American Idol (Fox)
TV Power RankingsReality shows rarely make it in onto our Power Rankings list, which sort of shows that most of us here don't take the format all that seriously, even if we watch the shows anyway. Yet it seemed a good idea to send a shout out to "Idol" this spring for seeming to effortlessly accomplish the impossible: Keeping the show going without Simon Cowell. This is a feat nobody thought the producers and Fox could pull off, and yet they have admirably. This isn't to say the new judging panel is perfect, just that it works, and arguably works better than it has for the past couple seasons. Steven Tyler brings an immense amount of whackjob PG-13 humor to the table. Jennifer Lopez may very well be the most beautiful woman in the world – both inside and out. (She puts Kara and Paula to shame.) And Randy Jackson? Well, he's still our dawg, but this year he's proven that he's got a little more bite. Hopefully all three will stick around for next season, because they found some incredible talent this season, and above all else, that's what "Idol" needs if it's going to remain relevant and viable with a show like "The Voice" on the air – a show which has already gained a huge amount of momentum in a short amount of time. – RR

Big Love (HBO)
TV Power RankingsHBO's polygamy drama never did crack the Top 25 of our TV Power Rankings, which is hardly surprising. It did, however, find a semi-permanent home right here in the Honorable Mention section during its five-season run thanks to a storyline that consistently squeezed every last drop of drama and suspense out of its ever-evolving premise. Granted, the last couple of seasons may not have quite lived up to the first three as the show careened toward what seemed to be its inevitable conclusion, but the show's faithful fans tuned in through the end to see Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) fall at the hands of an angry neighbor. Some say it felt like a copout, and they may have a point, but the show had pretty much backed itself into a corner, limiting its options as "Big Love" came to a close with March's series finale. It was never the best show on TV, but it was always damn entertaining. – JC

The Chicago Code (Fox)
TV Power Rankings If there's any good that came out of the cancellation of "Terriers," it's that it gave Shawn Ryan more time to dedicate to his other new show, "The Chicago Code." Though the Fox cop drama was already in development long before the axe fell on the doomed FX series, Ryan would have inevitably had to choose between one or the other. (After all, look what happened when J.J. Abrams tried to spread himself too thin.) We'd prefer he was given the option to choose "Terriers," of course, but "The Chicago Code" was a great substitute. (Unfortunately, shortly after this was written, Fox announced that the show wouldn't be picked up for a second season). Whereas "The Shield" was about a corrupt police unit, and "Terriers" fell somewhere in between, "The Chicago Code" follows a trio of good cops (played by Jason Clarke, Jennifer Beals and Matt Lauria) trying to take down corruption in the form of city official Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). The series has admittedly become a bit formulaic as of late with more standalone-type episodes, but between the great characters that Ryan has crafted (especially Clarke's profanity-hating lone wolf) and the overarching story that runs throughout the season, it's hard to complain. After all, while it may not be the best thing he's ever done, it's definitely a step up from the many other cop dramas on TV. – JZ

Cougar Town (ABC)
TV Power RankingsIt may not be much of a staff favorite around the Bullz-Eye offices, but Bill Lawrence's "Cougar Town" has quickly become one of the must-see comedies on TV, all while poking fun at itself along the way. (That title card gag has become the best recurring joke on the show.) Though fans were forced to endure a two-month break in the middle of the season in order to make room for the premiere of the terribly unfunny "Mr. Sunshine," it promptly returned in April with some of the best episodes to date, including a subplot involving Travis and his new girlfriend Kirsten that's pretty heavy stuff for a so-called goofy comedy. In addition, Bobby has matured quite a bit since his beach bum days in Season One (opening the door to a possible golf comeback), and the relationship between Jules and Grayson continues to be treated with respect instead of as the gimmick many people thought it was. But while the Cul-de-sac Crew may be growing up, they still find plenty of time to drink wine and act like children – even when they're babysitting one – and honestly, we wouldn't have it any other way. – JZ

Dexter (Showtime) 
TV Power RankingsWhen we left our favorite serial killer last November, he and Lumen (Julia Stiles) were plotting their revenge against famed motivational speaker Jordan Chase, who also happened to be the leader of group of serial rapists/murderers who had recently let Lumen slip through their fingers. Dexter, meanwhile, was still learning how to cope with the murder of wife Rita and had found comfort in being able to show Lumen who he really was. Sadly, once Chase had been dealt with and deposited in Dexter's underwater cemetery, Lumen left town and Dexter lost his new partner. Some said the show coasted during its fifth season, but the dynamic between Dexter and Lumen added a fresh element to the show, and the showdown between Dex, Lumen and Dexter's sister Deb in the finale was a lot of fun. Most shows would kill to "coast" in such grand style. – JC

The League (FX)
TV Power RankingsOn the surface, "The League" would seem to be a prime candidate for our Top 25 – a show about a bunch of immature guys who love insulting each other almost as much as they enjoy competing in their fantasy football league every season. But while it's true that there's a lot to like about "The League," it just hasn't quite graduated to must-watch status because, frankly, there's not a lot of meat on this bone. It's hilarious, but inconsistently so, a problem that cropped up in the two-part finale. Learning that Kevin's young daughter had been saying things like "ride on my suck stick" at school because she heard her mom and dad talking trash during the fantasy football season? Awesome. Watching Taco attempt to age a carton of eggs thousands of years so he can pass them on to his unborn kids? Not so awesome. "The League" often tries to hard to get the outrageous laugh. Of course, the show is great when it succeeds. When it fails? Well, it kinda rides the suck stick. – JC

Parenthood (NBC) 
TV Power RankingsWhile its fate is still very much in the air, the chances of "Parenthood" seeing a third season look pretty strong. Granted, that may have less to do with the show's mediocre ratings and more to do with the crummy ratings most of NBC's other shows have been bringing in, but if it means the Braverman clan will be back for another run, we'll take it any way we can get it. After a stellar debut, Season 2 of "Parenthood" was even better, closing with a two-pronged shocker: Adam (Peter Krause), the eldest Braverman sibling, was fired by his new stoner boss mere hours before learning that wife Kristina (Monica Potter) was pregnant with the couple's unexpected third child. Yippee! With so many threads left dangling – can Jasmine forgive Crosby for cheating? Will Julia and Joel adopt a child? – here's hoping NBC gives us the chance to find out next season. – JC

Southland (TNT)
TV Power RankingsThere are cop shows that take you iside the crime and give you a play by play nalysis with a smattering of character development week to week. And then there are cop shows devoted to exploring the lives of police officers and detectives and telling stories about how crime and having to persecute peple effects the well beings of those caracters. "Southland" slearly fals into the latter category. Closer in spirit to "Hill Street Blues" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets," than "CSI" or "Law & Order," this low rated drama is across the board one of the the finest shows on television. This past season saw shocking deaths that shattered the life of Shawn Hatosy's detective Bryant, leaked crime scene evidence that nearly derailed the respected career of detective Adams (a fierce Regina King) and the continuing struggle between beat cop/partners Cooper and Sherman (Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie, respectively) as Cooper descended deeper into pain killer addiction. Add to the mix C. Thomas Howell in a career redefining performance as a recovering alcoholic teetering on the edge of sanity and you have one hell of a show. At times painful to watch, others funny, and still other full of hope, "Southland" continues to get better with each season. – SM

South Park (Comedy Central) 
TV Power RankingsWe can't let an edition of our TV Power Rankings pass without at least mentioning longtime favorite "South Park." More specifically, we really get a kick out of the fact that the Comedy Central staple has just embarked on its 15th season, which surely qualifies as an upset of epic proportions for all the haters who've dismissed Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny from the very beginning. Like any long-running show, "South Park" has offered up its share of duds over the years, and it's far too early to draw any real conclusions about the latest season, but even after all this time, the show maintains its water cooler status by still delivering the kinds of outrageous moments that made it an instant hit when "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" debuted in 1997. Season 15 won't be any different. – JC


Breaking Bad (AMC)
TV Power RankingsWe'd love to tell you why we're so excited about the impending return of "Breaking Bad," but then we'd…well, we wouldn't kill you, but AMC would kill us. Either way, our silence is a way of preventing carnage, so we hope you'll forgive us. The series saw a lot of change during its third season, with Walt (Bryan Cranston) teaming up with Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) in a big way, Skyler (Anna Gunn) not only finding out about the meth operation but becoming involved in the business, Hank (Dean Norris) getting shot, Jesse (Aaron Paul) getting off drugs, going solo, going crazy, reteaming with Walt, and…well, if you haven't been watching, we don't want to spoil everything for you. As for what we can expect in Season 4, creator Vince Gilligan plays things pretty close to his chest, and his cast follows his lead, but what we do know is that everyone on the cast that we've spoken with – and that includes Cranston, Paul, Gunn, Norris, Esposito, and Betsy Brandt (Marie) – was absolutely blown away by the script to the season premiere. Esposito, in fact, said that he had to walk away from awhile after reading it for the first time. We don't know what's in there, but we can't wait to find out. – WH

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) 
TV Power RankingsHow do you top the most anticipated TV reunion of all-time? That's the biggest obstacle standing in the way of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as it returns for its eighth season, but Larry David and Co. don't seem too intimidated by the loss of its "Seinfeld" star power. In fact, it's only made them even more ambitious, as the series plans to shake things up a bit by transporting everyone's favorite pessimist to New York City for a good chunk of the season. It's also secured some killer guest stars, including Michael J. Fox, Rosie O'Donnell, Michael McKean, and great character actor Fred Melamed. Of course, the pairing we're most excited to see is David and Ricky Gervais, who will hopefully appear in more than one episode, because putting those two guys together should be instant comedy gold. And though news of Larry's pilgrimage to the Big Apple has led many to wonder what will come of Cheryl, Jeff, Susie and Leon, from the look of the behind-the-scenes promos that HBO has released so far, they'll be joining him on his trip to the East Coast, and that makes us pretty, pretty, pretty excited. – JZ

Entourage (HBO) 
TV Power RankingsIf we were being completely honest, "Entourage" probably could have called it quits a few seasons ago, but now that the final season is just around the corner, we can't wait to see how it ends. Granted, there's still a chance that Vincent Chase and Co. will make the jump to the big screen just like the "Sex and the City" girls did a few years ago, but even if that does happen, creator Doug Ellin will likely still want to provide some kind of bookend to the series. So what can we expect from the upcoming season? Surprisingly, the cast has been relatively hush-hush for a series that prides itself on its celebrity cameos, but it has been confirmed that Turtle will be trying to open a Hollywood location of the much-loved Italian restaurant, Don Peppe, with the help of some co-investors like Amar'e Stoudemire and Mark Teixeira. Everything else is just a guess at this point, although after last year's finale, you can probably expect to see a few things, including a cleaner, nicer Vince following his stint in rehab, the marriage of Eric and Sloan, and a reunion between Ari and his wife. And if that sounds like Ellin would be playing things perhaps a little too safe – too bad, because we've seen enough HBO shows end on a down note not to want to see a happy ending for once. – JZ

Rescue Me (FX) 
TV Power RankingsIt's been seven years of ghosts and fires, clarity ad historic drinking binges, life, death and some of the most outrageous, kinky sex you can put on basic cable. For those of us who've stuck with "Rescue Me" through the years, this drama/black comedy could be some of the most rewarding hour of TV around. It could also be a ridiculous mess. There's something about Dennis Leary and Peter Tolan's creation that sucks you back in each year and now it's all drawing to a close. What will become of the firemen of house 62, the most reliable and unpredictable firehouse in NYC? More importantly, what will become of Leary's fucked up, tortured hero, Tommy Gavin, a man who can not and will not forget what his city and country lost on September 11, 2001. The series was created in the wake of that tragedy and it's no coincidence that it's final episode will air five days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Maybe "Rescue Me" hasn't always been the best drama on television, but it's always taken risks, making it both exciting and , yes, sometimes a ridiculous mess. For that reasons, I'll be tuning in to FX in late July as the final episodes roll out and we say goodbye. – SM

Torchwood (Starz)
TV Power RankingsHere's a show that's been on our "returning" list for probably the last three Power Rankings. Well, this time it actually is returning, and if the cast list is any indication, "Torchwood" is set to be bigger than ever; Bill Pullman, Mekhi Phifer, Lauren Ambrose, Ernie Hudson, Alexa Havins, C. Thomas Howell, and John de Lancie are all names that should be familiar to U.S. viewers unfamiliar with this cult series that has actually developed quite the rabid following here in the States. This new season, which is subtitled "Miracle Day," revolves around a world in which one day nobody dies. Then the next day nobody dies. As you can imagine – and well, let's face it, for the time being you'll have to – this causes big problems. So it's up to Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) to get to the bottom of the goings-on, which they will, and hopefully they'll have a little bit of fun doing it. – RR

True Blood (HBO)
TV Power RankingsWe'd be lying if we said we were even close to being as excited about the return of "True Blood" this season as we were last season…but, then, we were pretty pleased with Season 2 for the most part. Season 3…? Not so much. Still, we've got enough of a history with the series that we'll still be tuning in to see what Sookie and the gang have got going on in Season 4. All we really know about the proceedings so far is that it'll be loosely based on Dead to the World, the fourth novel in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series, that witches will play a major part in the plot, and that we'll meet Andy's sister and Sookie's cousin, as well as a few other faeries. Oh, right, and we also have HBO's official synopsis for the season premiere: "Sookie journeys away from Bon Temps; Eric and Bill try to win back the human public; Jason learns that no good deed goes unpunished; Tara finds refuge in close quarters; Sam bonds with his own; Hoyt and Jessica debate the dinner menu; Jesus urges Lafayette to join a coven; Terry tries to alleviate Arlene's fears about the baby." Okay, HBO, you've got us, we'll tune in…but mostly just because we want to see that dinner-menu scene with Hoyt and Jessica. (That's got hilarity written all over it.) – WH

"30 Rock" Deep Sixed?

30 Rock"30 Rock" has long been a staple in the Top 10 of our TV Power Rankings, but the NBC sitcom didn't even crack the Top 25 this time around. What gives? Jeff Morgan took a closer look at the demise of one of his favorite shows and wonders if "30 Rock," now in its fifth season, has run its course:

"It's not that the show is bad -- '30 Rock' is still funny (at times), still clever (at times), still better than 'Two and a Half Men' (all the time) -- just that it's bad when compared to its former self. The show is like a fading star trying to hold on to its former glory. It is the Rober De Niro of contemporary sitcoms."

Read the rest of Jeff's column here.

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