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 we are all aligned on a few favorites, along with some niche choices below). 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 March 16th.
Point Total: 18
About ten or fifteen minutes into the first episode of Atlanta’s vibrant second season, Darius and Earnest (Donald Glover and Lakeith Stanfield) are driving out so Earn can check in about drug rehabilitation, for which he will have to pay $375. The scene between Earnest and the clerk lays out the stark, imposing aftermath of being poor, black, and labeled as a low-level criminal in America, and there are plenty more similar moments in Robbin’ Season that are at once surreal and devastating. And yet, what continuously bubbles up from Glover’s wondrous and wise series is humor, heart, and, most importantly, experience. The world he creates with his collaborators, including the cast and regular director Hiro Murai, reflects a tortured mind pickled by life, one where alligators are kept in bathrooms and, to paraphrase Earnest’s uncle, family can often feel like business. Even such a cynical character, played brilliantly by Kat Williams, has crucial insight into existence in Atlanta and Glover’s gamble on reframing the narrative in Season 2 hasn’t taken the shine off that fact, even marginally. If anything, in Robbin’ Season, Glover seems to be venturing into darker political and social terrain than he did before, and his show incalculably benefits from his boldness. — Chris Cabin [Full Review]
Point Total: 14
While the one-liner for Barry is that Bill Hader stars as a hitman who decides he wants to be an actor instead, the show is far more rich and layered than one might expect. Hader stars in, co-showruns, co-writes, and directs some of this half-hour HBO series, which has quickly become one of the best shows on TV. It’s incredibly funny, yes, but what makes Barry stand out is that it has the ability to swing wildly in tone from silly comedy to emotionally devastating drama in ways that feel organic to the story and characters. The eight-episode first season tells a complete story from beginning to end, with twists, turns, and real consequences for Barry’s actions so that the violence isn’t just a punchline. It has the dark comedy of Fargo and the compelling narrative drive of Breaking Bad, but it also feels entirely unique as its own entity. This is great TV, full-stop. – Adam Chitwood (Full Review)
Point Total: 11
AMC’s adaptation of the celebrated Dan Simmons novel The Terror is one of the most stunning TV shows of the year. Filled from frame to frame by a first-rate cast of British actors including Ciaran Hinds (Game of Thrones), Jarred Harris (Mad Men), and Tobias Menzies (Outlander), The Terror is a gripping naval drama and character piece that’s also a downright bone-chilling tale of survival horror and spiritual menace. Inspired by the real-life naval expedition to discover the Northwest Passage, The Terror follows the Royal Navy crew through the ill-fated journey, who are torn apart at every turn by treacherous conditions, warring agendas and mysterious forces, including a terrifying beast that stalks their every move. Beautifully shot and impeccably acted from top to tail, The Terror is the rare horror series with a whiff of prestige; a slow-burn investigation of fear itself, how it unwinds men and unmakes order, that conjures rich, vivid dread and a steady jolt of adrenaline in the frigid expanse of an endless winter. — Haleigh Foutch (Full Review)
Network: The CW
Point Total: 11
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)
Network: BBC America
Point Total: 11
Killing Eve is a spy story, a murder mystery, a spellbinding character drama, and a gloriously wicked comedy. It all comes together to make one of the year’s most delightful and captivating series, starring Sandra Oh as a bored, desk-bound MI-5 agent, and Jodie Comer as the glamours, mysterious, and completely unhinged international assassin Villanelle. The two women’s fates soon become intertwined, and their cat-and-mouse game is really more like two cats circling each other on the European stage. The series comes from Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and is based loosely on Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novels. It refreshingly puts women in positions usually reserved for men, or at least, where one man would normally be involved. In many ways it’s like a gender-swapped version of the Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham dynamic from Hannibal, where obsession, sexual desire, and death all swirl together into one deliciously complicated and dazzlingly entertaining tale. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
Point Total: 9
Any concerns that viewers had about The Americans treading water in its penultimate season have been answered swiftly and decisively at the start of its final season. The Americans — not only one of TV’s best shows, but one of its tensest and most anxiety-inducing — kicks off Season 6 in the middle of turmoil. After a three-year time jump (starting in October of 1987), the emotional intensity has built to a fever pitch, proving that this final run of episodes may be the best the show has ever offered.
Ultimately, The Americans continues to explore its central themes and loyalty and identity (including with Stan and his maybe KGB wife, as well as his past connections to Oleg and others). Keri Russell is exceptional in these early episodes as Elizabeth tries to juggle so many jobs that she’s swigging coffee and popping pills to keep herself awake, all while holding onto an incredibly dark secret. But even though their stories aren’t yet as dynamic as that, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor, and others continue to be emotionally compelling pieces of this grounded (though sometimes a little overly complicated, especially in early episodes) final season. There’s a lot to take in, a lot of choices that have to be made, and not a lot of time to see them all play out. What the show has planned for us at this point is impossible to say, but what is known for sure is that it cannot be missed. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
Point Total: 7
Smack in the middle of its fifth season, the Golden Globe-winning series Brooklyn Nine-Nine remains one of the quirkiest and most positive comedies on TV today. Though it’s anchored by Andy Samberg, who also won a Golden Globe for his performance as the prank-loving, self-deprecating Detective Jake Peralta, the real strength of The Nine-Nine is its incredible supporting cast that’s full of bigger-than-life characters played by accomplished and versatile actors.
Terry Crews brings a surprising vulnerability and sweetness to the hulking Terry Jeffords, Joe Lo Truglio is the endlessly awkward Charles Boyle, and Andre Braugher delivers pitch-perfect dialogue that’s delightfully dry. The women of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are even better thanks to Melissa Fumero’s particular and perfect Amy Santiago, Stephanie Beatriz’s tough, no-nonsense Rosa Diaz, and Chelsea Peretti’s sarcastically skewed queen of the precinct, Gina Linetti. Oddballs Hitchcock and Scully, played masterfully by Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller respectively, add pungent humor to the mix, punching up the whole ensemble, as does the show’s excellent rotating cast of guest stars.
While you may have avoided Brooklyn Nine-Nine in its early days if you weren’t a fan of Samberg, give it another shot. The show has really come into its own as a strong ensemble comedy series that’s among the smartest, most peculiar, and at times heart-felt shows on TV right now. – Dave Trumbore
Point Total: 4
Still the most audacious of the Marvel TV group, Legion’s second season sinks deeper into the ultraviolet miasma that is the world according to Dan Stevens’ David Heller. David’s battle with the Shadow King, who continues to take on a variety of forms, is now becoming something like a partnership against an unforeseen all-powerful enemy, leaving David alienated from everyone short of Syd (Rachel Keller), his body-swapping girlfriend. The first episode indulges in quite a lot of foundation laying but Season 2 quickly expands from there, developing narrative and visual ideas with unique abandon. The mental battles between David and the Shadow King take the form of wrestling matches and dance-offs, lending physical weight to metaphysical tests of strength. Creator Noah Hawley also cares enough to give nuance to otherwise underdeveloped figures like Hamish Linklater’s authoritarian government man and Cary & Kerry Loudermilk, while also introducing new faces and forms. Riddled with curious detours, Legion is best when the writers keep the backstory lean and the explanations to a minimum, putting the emphasis on its dense imagery, staccato editing, and often enveloping pacing. And as the story of David Heller continues to drift out into the ether, the series’ aesthetic follows suit. — Chris Cabin (Full Review)
Last Week Tonight
Point Total: 3
Though John Oliver will likely go to his grave insisting he’s not a newsman or journalist of any sort, there’s very simply no other news show on TV right now that’s even in the same informative and entertaining realm as Last Week Tonight. Four seasons in and Oliver, backed by an impressive research team and a formidably funny writers’ room, has become the most reliable and popular voice of the left and his 2018 episodes thus far have focused on the dire state of the liberals and the left in the Trump era. His opening gambit included a horrifying survey of America’s reputation overseas, climaxing with a borderline moving rendition of Smash Mouth’s “All-Star,” and he most recently attempted to explain the cryptocurrency craze and blockchain in ways that make sense to someone who doesn’t spend their entire life online. The only issue is that Oliver often seems a bit too muted and in control. He’s clearly connected to the human toll of his stories but his visceral anger can only be gleaned in blips, restrained only in the name of decorum. Still, this is a minor demerit for a series that has been more informative, hysterical, and sincerely emotionally affecting than any show tied to the news of the week, especially when there’s so god damn much of the stuff. — Chris Cabin
Lost in Space
Point Total: 3
The epic Netflix series Lost in Space, a modern re-imagining of the classic 1960s sci-fi series, is set 30 years in the future, when colonization in space is a reality and the Robinson family – John (Toby Stephens), Maureen (Molly Parker), Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Maxwell Jenkins) – is trying to make a life for themselves in a new and different world. But when they find themselves off course, they must quickly learn to adapt, work together and form new alliances, if they’re going to survive in an environment with dangers around every corner.
Lost in Space has the large-scale visuals and highly-detailed sets that you would expect from having a Netflix budget, but the coolest thing about the story is that it’s a family adventure full of complex characters with relatable issues. Through the use of flashbacks, we learn what makes the Robinsons tick while they search for a better understanding of each other in the present, and it’s through those growing pains that we can understand why Will might find friendship and comfort with a robot whose own history is very complex. On top of all of that, when you throw in Parker Posey, as the mysterious and always seemingly up-to-no-good Dr. Smith, Ignacio Serricchio, as the charismatic Don West, and a chicken, as comic relief, you have a ride that you can take while watching with the entire family. — Christina Radish (Full Review)
Santa Clarita Diet
Point Total: 3
If you’re not watching Santa Clarita Diet, you’re missing one of the funniest shows on TV, and in an unexpected twists for a bloody, profane series about cannibalism, you’re also missing one of the sweetest, strongest marriages on TV. Drew Barrymore stars as Shiela, a peppy real estate agent who suddenly dies and turns into a zombie one day under inexplicable circumstances. With the help of her devoted husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant), her no-bullshit teenage daughter Abby, and the squirrely science wiz next door (Skyler Gisondo), Shiela has to adjust to her newfound taste for flesh and all the sweeping personality changes that come with being undead. From Better Off Ted creator Victor Fresco, Santa Clarita Diet is a laugh-out-loud goofball comedy, and thanks to Netflix’s content policies it never has to shy away from a gore gag or a well-timed F-bomb. Barrymore relishes playing an uncensored spitfire with unquenchable bloodlust (and just regular lust) and Olyphant is channels a grinning, high-strung side of himself we’ve never seen on screen before. Together, they’re a knockout comedy pair with killer chemistry, and the evolving marriage between Shiela and Joel gives the bloody comedy real heart. — Haleigh Foutch
Point Total: 2
There is a lot of talking in Starz’s new miniseries Howards End. Some of it is just chatter, but other times it’s the exchange of ideas, or the admonishment of siblings, or profuse apologies. The point is that there’s an almost overwhelming amount of it, and yet, Kenneth Lonergan’s script (an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel) is delightful. The words are crisp, clever, and even the chatter reveals important character traits and dynamics. Nothing is wasted in this series, which is gorgeously directed in full by Hettie MacDonald. Her camera is never static, which reflects the energy of its cast. This is Edwardian England, yes, but it’s the dawn of a more progressive era — one that series (like the material on which it is based) confronts head-on.
The series (which moves quickly and is never stuffy) follows the collision of two families, the vivacious and progressive Schlegels, and the more conservative and plutocratic Wilcoxes. Hayley Atwell shines as Margaret Schlegel, the head of the family, who becomes close to the Wilcoxes, particularly the patriarch Henry (Matthew Macfadyen) and his wife Ruth (Julia Ormond). The results are charming and emotional, and sometimes unexpectedly dark, as the series explores the nuanced layers of a class system that is rapidly changing.
The lesson of Howards End, if there is one, might be how these vastly different personalities always keep things pleasant, yet never in a way that feels false. In such a vitriolic and divided atmosphere as the one we exist in now, there’s something aspirational about the exchange of ideas — even passionately — that these characters have. They talk and talk a’plenty, but crucially, they also listen, grow, and change without losing themselves. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
National Treasure: Kiri
Point Total: 2
Kiri comes from Jack Thorne, (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and explores the aftermath of the disappearance of a young black girl, Kiri (Felicia Mukasa), who is about to be adopted by a wealthy white family. The prime suspect in her abduction is her biological father Nathaniel (Paapa Essiedu), a drug addict with a history of violence, aided potentially by his father Tobi (Lucian Msamati). Ultimately, all of this is caused by the supposed negligence of a white social worker, Miriam (Sarah Lancashire) who took a risk to keep Kiri connected to her cultural heritage. The racial implications are clear, but the four-part British series is in some ways it’s reminiscent of the recent four-part crime series Collateral on Netflix, which also touches upon some difficult politics as its investigates a complex crime involving race and immigration, as well as the Starz miniseries The Missing, which has dealt with two different perspectives about child abduction. Kiri also, ambitiously, tells its story from several different points of view, exploring everyone involved in the tragedy, as well as the role that the media plays in creating its own sense of truth. — Allison Keene (Full Review)
Point Total: 2
Billions is a weird show. One might think it’d be hard to watch a series about ridiculously rich white dudes in this day and age, but showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien always keep one toe firmly in satire. The show knows it’s about toxic masculinity and its many forms, and while the fact that its protagonists are by and large toxic men can sometimes get a little grating, there are enough flourishes of joy and silliness (oftentimes via David Costabile’s Wags) to keep things entertaining. What makes this third season stand out as uniquely compelling is the focus on Asia Kate Dillon’s Taylor, a non-binary character who is now put in a very key position at Axe Capital. They offer the perfect contrast to the dudebro atmosphere of Wall Street, and Dillon’s performance is terrifically on point. – Adam Chitwood
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
TBS is the home to very funny entertainment. Olan Rogers’ new animated series Final Space certainly fits that bill, but where it really succeeds is in subverting your expectations and broadsiding you with emotional moments when you least expect it. As of this writing, the sixth episode has yet to air, but I had a chance to check it out for my review, and believe me when I tell you that it’s a gut-puncher. Without having seen any of the episodes that follow, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s a game-changer, but if you’ve been laughing along with the space-faring adventures of Gary and his band of colorful characters, this one will catch you off guard. What I’m really excited to see is where Final Space goes from here, how its characters will deal with certain upcoming events, and how each episode’s future-set cold open will finally be revealed. There’s a lot to love in Final Space, but it’s probably not for the reason you’re expecting, which definitely makes it worth the watch. –Dave Trumbore [Full Review]
Ash vs Evil Dead
Point Total: 2
In terms of bang for your buck, you’d be hard-pressed to find another horror franchise that delivers the goods as consistently as Evil Dead, from the original film trilogy, through the brutal remake, and now in the goofy/gory Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead, the deadite scourge has always packed a punch. In its third season, Ash vs. Evil Dead continues the tradition of the utterly unhinged franchise with all the signature splatter gore, gag-worthy gags, and low-brow humor that has made Evil Dead the benchmark of horror comedy, and Bruce Campbell might just be the reigning king of line delivery on TV right now, mining every zinger and cheeky one-liner for all its worth. At this point, Campbell’s really the reason to stay tuned. The writing team never seems to run out of new gross-out comedy bits for him, and all the time-looping mythology and non-stop and momentum make Ash vs. Evil Dead an energetic blast of viscera and visceral laughs, even if the narrative sometimes seems like its going in one big circle. — Haleigh Foutch (Full Review)
The Last OG
Point Total: 2
Jordan Peele and John Carcieri’s sly TBS series The Last OG gives Tracy Morgan not only the best role of his career but a platform for him to showcase his menagerie of comedic skills alongside heavyweight colleagues like Tiffany Haddish and Cedric the Entertainer. Morgan plays Tray, an ex-con who returns to a millenialized Brooklyn after a 15-year-stint in jail for drugs. Back home, he finds his serious girlfriend, Shay (Haddish), has had his children and also married a very white man (Ryan Gaul), and he’s left to sleep at a shelter and maintain minimum-wage work. There’s a potent sadness to the series but the writers avoid sentimentality without exception, and the struggles that Tray faces on the outside mirror an unreasonably difficult road back to citizenship even after time served in a penitentiary. Some of the jokes go broad rather than cutting deep but the series continuously matches a wise skepticism of humanity with a weathered belief in the basic human desire to help one another. It’s a testament to the vision of Peele and Carcieri, a longtime producer on Eastbound & Down, who have fashioned a shaggy, melancholic hero at odds with the world all but tailor-made for Morgan, a comedic titan deserving of a hundred more roles like this. — Chris Cabin