The Best TV Shows on Right Now
Each month, we’re polling our Collider staffers to pick our favorite shows on TV right now. Every show is submitted with a point value: 3 is “must see,” 2 is “should see,” and 1 is for “if you have time.” Then we tally the votes and list out the series in order, starting with the highest votes tallied among our staff members, giving a sense not only of what we agree on, but allowing for a variety of niche favorites.
Things can — and will — change up each month, so be sure to check back in as things are sure to shift around (right now there’s not much of a consensus; we’re all watching one show, and then each watching many others). Happy viewing!
Rules: TV shows must be currently airing on broadcast/cable, or have aired a new episode within the last week as of the posting date. For streaming series, they have to have premiered since the first of the month (and since this was compiled before Legends of Tomorrow returned, know that it will be added soon!)
Network: The CW
Point Total: 9
The newest superhero series to join The CW is also its best. Sure, we’re only a few episodes into Black Lightning at the moment, but so far Salim and Mara Brock Akil‘s adaptation has tackled some truly difficult subject matter. While the rest of the Arrow-verse has been alternating between comic book action and soap opera drama, Black Lightning is actually trying to say something about gang violence, drug addiction, and systemic racism. That’s a world apart from what we’re used to with these kinds of shows, and The CW is all the better for it.
Cress Williams stars as Jefferson Pierce, the mild-mannered alter-ego of the title superhero. Pierce isn’t just a white-collar worker who’s superficially interested in bettering his community while secretly spending most of his time fighting crime, he’s the principled principal of a local high school, an institution he’s managed to turn around for the better without ever donning a mask or super-suit. But when street violence extends to his workplace and to his own family, Pierce is forced to come out of retirement in order to tackle crime on two levels. As positive an impact as this decision has for potential victims, his actions also have consequences that carry over from episode to episode in increasingly complex ways. Now’s the time to go all-in on Black Lightning before you’re left behind! — Dave Trumbore (Full Review)
Point Total: 8
Double J.K. Simmons equals double the fun in Starz’s reality-bending series Counterpart. The show almost immediately introduces the concept that there is a parallel world to ours where dopplegangers exist — and we can meet them. The idea that there is a second version of us out there is so tantalizing that a special government agency is dedicated to making sure that — save for some sanctioned missions from both sides — the denizens of the two worlds remain blissfully unaware of this second reality. And while Counterpart does examine how the two worlds have fared differently (in medicine, tech, government, socially, etc), it is mostly focused on what it means to face the choices you’ve made in life that have made you who and what you are.
Featuring an excellent cast and a twisty plot that is part spy series and part psychological study, Counterpart is truly anchored by Simmons’ exceptional dual performances. The layers that he gives both of his mirrored characters is impressive, but the empathy and affection one feels for the meeker version from our world that is being played, seemingly, as a pawn is enormous — as is the triumph once he starts to embrace his now altered life and what makes him, well, unique. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
Point Total: 7
TNT’s The Alienist, based on Caleb Carr’s book of the same name, goes to the late 19th century to find the very nascence of connecting forensics and psychology. At that time, madness was defined as being “alienated” from one’s own nature, giving the name “alienist” to those who study the afflicted. Our alienist himself, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), has been at work for many years and has something of a reputation for his fascination with the human mind, something that’s regarded with suspicion. The series immediately connects our leads — Kreizler, alongside his society friend and illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), and the young police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) — through one unrelentingly brutal murder that they investigate together.
Director Jakob Verbruggen has a very specific aesthetic he wants to convey, with exquisite attention to detail. But there’s something more, thanks to the show’s simmering soundtrack and a terribly gleeful foley artist, that creates a terrible sense of dread that permeates the production. As it continues, The Alienist is proving itself to be a gripping tale, one that explores a collision of beauty and horror, rich and poor, and traditional versus modernity with panache. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
Point Total: 7
If you’re not yet watching the Showtime series The Chi, you should be. With a fresh, confident vision from show creator Lena Waithe (who won an Emmy Award for writing in a comedy series with the “Thanksgiving” episode of Netflix’s Master of None), it’s raw, real, painful, funny and 100% human. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing and crying all within the same episode.
Set in the South Side of Chicago and centered on a group of residents who become linked by circumstance, but bond over the need for connection and redemption, The Chi might be about life in one specific location, but it has emotions that are undeniably universal. Waithe’s portrait of Chicago is one of a community where drugs and violence are still a choice, not a given. It is a hard-working, strong, resilient and beautiful city that is full of culture, music and art, and characters that you’ll want to watch for seasons to come. — Christina Radish (Full Review)
Blue Planet II
Network: BBC America
Point Total: 6
Blue Planet II is so visually tantalizing that it really demands visceral reactions. Joy, terror, confusion, and celebration are commonplace when watching these stunning sea stories, thanks to things like bubble-less diving equipment that allows the camera operators to get closer to their subjects than ever before.
Blue Planet II is a follow-up to 2001’s seminal documentary series. The new chapter took over 4 years to film (you can learn more about that filming here), and the results are stunning. Airing on BBC America in the U.S., Blue Planet II is again (and of course) narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and takes us on dives across and deep into all of the world’s oceans. But the real trick of Blue Planet II is that despite its deluge of amazing facts and oceanic education, it never feels like homework. It is stunning, delightful, and even terrifying. There really cannot be enough praise for the series, which knows how important it is to engage viewers on both an emotional and intellectual level. The results are a riveting, often heartbreaking look at both the strength and fragility of the world’s oceans. It is a series that cannot be missed, and one that will leave you breathless given the scope of its fascinating but urgent message. Basically, it’ll f— you up real good. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Point Total: 5
The Assassination of Gianni Versace is something of a bait-and-switch. What was marketed as a glitzy and glamorous account of the titular fashion designer and his untimely death is actually more of an American Psycho story of his killer, Andrew Cunanan (played brilliantly by Darren Criss), and the self-loathing path that led him to murdering five people. Indeed, this second season of American Crime Story is very much about homosexuality and mental illness, as the gay Cunanan lived a life as an escort to old, rich, and usually closeted men, then came to resent their shame, wealth, and power. Criss is 100% the reason to watch this season as he’s delivering a truly phenomenal performance, and while the Versace stuff is a little dull, the show thankfully has put its focus squarely on Cunanan. This second season hasn’t caught on like O.J. did, possibly due to the odd marketing, but if you’ve been sitting this one out due to your disinterest in the world of high fashion, know that that’s definitely not the focus of this true crime story. – Adam Chitwood (Full Review)
Point Total: 4
Syfy’s The Magicians is back for a third season, and it’s as foul-mouthed and delightfully weird as ever. This adaptation of Lev Grossman’s book series has evolved into one of the most entertaining shows on TV, tracking the lives of adult magicians straddling two worlds—one on Earth, and another a magical realm that was previously thought to be a work of fiction. The stakes have been raised in Season 3 as the characters find themselves on a quest to restore magic to the world, and the show’s signature mix of sass, pop culture references, and dark drama maintain it as a thrilling cocktail of sci-fi television. – Adam Chitwood (Full Review)
Point Total: 3
As it was with its superb first season, the latest batch of episodes of Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld’s High Maintenance dispels with season-long arcs and occasionally even does away with the idea of episode-long arcs. In the Season 2 premiere, the lovable weed dealer known only as The Guy (Sinclair) rushes around the five boroughs on the day after Trump’s election, doling out ample stress relievers to a city populace largely in mourning; the President’s name is never mentioned once. What Sinclair and Blichfeld’s creative team do instead is offer an unbound, curious, and wildly funny cornucopia of personal experiences in the aftermath of national tragedy, from a rough hallucinogen comedown to a daylong hotel threesome. The other episodes might not so directly confront our political reality, but everything from toxic masculinity and safe spaces to DACA and workers’ rights is woven into the fragments of city life that Sinclair and Blichfeld dream up. By renouncing the outdated and lethargic idea that plot is the anchor of storytelling, High Maintenance is elevated into the sublime, rightly finding more humanity in a quiet game of late-night balloon-volleyball in a subway car then all the empty talk of the greatness of the Big Apple and its denizens combined. — Chris Cabin
Late Night with Seth Meyers
Point Total: 2
When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show, Seth Meyers recognized a gaping hole in the world of late night television and he seized upon it beautifully. Late Night with Seth Meyers leaned into its political coverage, debuting almost nightly segments called “A Closer Look” in which Meyers and his team zero in on one single topic in a humorous but informative manner. The show has continued to evolve, and Meyers has solidified himself as the most exciting voice in Late Night TV right now. They key is humor. Sure the show covers a lot of politics, but Meyers and his team always make sure they’re also honing their jokes, resulting in razor-sharp satire and some wickedly funny burns. Meyers also delights in letting his other staffers shine, which is how the tremendously funny Amber Ruffin—a writer on the series—first caught the public eye and has now become a regular fixture on the show. On top of all of that, Meyers is an engaged interviewer, not content to simply fluff up whoever his guest is. The result is a Late Night TV series that is consistently funny, compelling, and smart. That’s hard to do on a weekly basis, let alone every night. But somehow Meyers and his team pull it off time and again. – Adam Chitwood
Point Total: 2
The series I typically turn to for Comfort Television has made me cry no less than three times this season. Three! In Victoria Season 2, the Queen (Jenna Coleman) experiences the loss of a dear friend, as well as postpartum depression, and is deeply moved to action by the plight of the Irish during the famine. It’s emotional, but it also helps give a little more propulsion to a series that, in its first season, tended to just focus cozily on domestic castle life. It’s taken something from The Crown’s storytelling this time around by keeping that warmth and intimacy in its portrayal of Victoria and her beloved husband Albert (Tom Hughes), but also defining each episode with either a crisis within the monarchy or in helping the country embrace modernity. There’s also an inspirational thread throughout; as she grows her family, Victoria is determined to be a ruler who brings both the compassion and ferocity of motherhood to the throne, and Coleman is always excellent in expressing the young queen’s plucky yet determined charm. With lush settings, exquisite costuming, and a wonderful cast, Victoria is PBS’s current crown jewel. — Allison Keene
Dragon Ball Super
Network: Crunchyroll / Cartoon Network / Adult Swim
Point Total: 2
If you haven’t been keeping up with Dragon Ball Super, now’s the time to get on board because the hit anime series will be coming to a close at the end of March. We don’t yet know whether it’ll be an end to Super‘s run for good, or if it’s just a long hiatus to give the writers and animators some well-deserved time off, but one thing’s for sure, the Tournament of Power is about to draw to a close.
If you’ve only been watching the excellent English-language dub, you should probably stop reading this now to keep spoiler-free. But if you’re like me, and millions of other fans around the world, you’re eagerly awaiting each weekly episode to see just how the Universe Survival Saga is going to shake out. Will Goku get to the next level of God-tier powers? Will Universe 7 survive to win the whole thing? And what will the ultimate winner do with their epic wish? You’ll have to tune in to find out! — Dave Trumbore
The End of the F***ing World
Point Total: 2
On premise-level alone, The End of the F***ing World has most teenage romances beat by a mile. Alex Lawther’s James is almost positive that he’s a serial killer and when Alyssa (Jessica Barden in a lively breakout performance) takes an interest in him, he thinks he’s found the perfect first victim. In essence, they both want release from the bonds of society and their bodies, with Alyssa seeking that release through exploration and confrontation while James seeks the same through destruction and rejection of humanity. When they impulsively take off together on a road trip, however, the dynamics get a bit more complicated and yield surprising insights. Early on, there’s a fear that the show might veer too hard into the cutesy, but the actors, including Steve Oram of Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, and the writing consistently evade letting the gooey overwhelm the unseemly. If the series is given a second season, the creative team might do well to push the story into darker terrain but for now, it’s the kind of engagingly morbid, funny, and surprisingly moving show that Netflix devotees should make time for. — Chris Cabin
Point Total: 2
The high-intensity action series Strike Back is back on Cinemax for a 10-episode fifth season, following a new Section 20 team on a new mission (previous series leads Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester left at the end of Season 4). With fanatical terrorist Omair Idrisi (Don Hany) escaping from and eluding Syrian authorities while planning to launch an unprecedented attack that could change the face of modern warfare, the manhunt is placed into the hands of Captain Natalie Reynolds (Roxanne McKee), Sergeant Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson), Sergeant Thomas “Mac” McAllister (Warren Brown) and Lance Corporal Gracie Novin (Alin Sumarwata), who must uncover and attempt to dismantle a vast global web of criminal and terrorist activity, all while getting to know each other.
After Strike Back seemingly ended its run with its fourth season, in which it really went all out thinking that it would be its last, the announcement of its return was a surprise for fans. But because it was coming back without the great camaraderie that had developed and evolved between Sgt. Damien Scott (Stapleton) and Sgt. Michael Stonebridge (Winchester) over their time together, there was admittedly some trepidation about the new make-up of the series. All of that was quickly overcome as this new foursome has had to hit the ground running, each establishing themselves as bad-asses in their own right, with the top-notch action and edge-of-your-seat missions that the show is known for. — Christina Radish
Point Total: 2
The last thing the world needs right now is yet another series centered on a white, male comedian struggling with identity and a sense of purpose as a burgeoning entertainer. And yet, the second season of Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow’s Crashing makes a case that there are still plenty of complex, distinct ideas and emotions to be dug through in such a rote premise. Holmes’ unexpectedly expressive yet subtle performance anchors the show, as he continues to find his footing in the New York comedy scene with the likes of Artie Lang and Pen Jillette while romancing Jamie Lee’s Ali, but the best moments of Crashing are similar to the best moments in Apatow’s filmography. An uproarious run-in with Dr. Oz in the second episode of the season mirrors similar cameo roles from Eminem, Ryan Seacrest, and even Stormy Daniels in Apatow’s movies, and the show similarly puts more emphasis on the inventive nature of comedic people than anything like plotting. The result is a consistently entertaining and largely unpredictable paean to artistic struggle as a way of figuring your shit out, even when the ends are not exactly what you were hoping for from life. — Chris Cabin