The A.V. Club's Scores

For 274 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 55% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 42% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 2.2 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 67
Highest review score: 100 Black Mirror: Season 1
Lowest review score: 0 The 1/2 Hour News Hour: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 170
  2. Negative: 0 out of 170
170 tv reviews
  1. This isn’t just a story, it’s a history, and admirably, the work of the players has brought it to life.
  2. The mood develops exquisitely from the first frame.
  3. Hannibal has always been beautiful, and that’s still the case. It’s also always featured dialogue and plots that stay just on the right side of being too pretentious, and that remains the case. If there are any notable steps up from season one, it’s both in the tension that mounts thanks to the great game played between Will and Hannibal and in the better use of the show’s supporting cast.
  4. Louie season four is as good as ever, and sometimes it’s slightly different.
  5. Everybody inside and outside of Litchfield’s walls matters. That shouldn’t feel revolutionary. That it does speaks both to how essential this show is and how much most other TV shows will have to do to catch up to it.
  6. None of this would work without compelling characters. Fortunately, The Leftovers has bunches of them.
  7. With Masters and Johnson occupying a space in between love, work, and friendship, the heart of the Masters feels like it is finally beating; the joy of the show is watching the two of them interact with each other, and Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into their roles. Ashford and her team have also become more confident with pacing and plotting.
  8. Outlander succeeds admirably, and partly that’s because it follows the bent of both of its creators: It refuses to sit comfortably in any genre.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Beyond anything else, the main reason to tune into MasterChef Junior is to watch talented people do amazing things, regardless of age.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    There are many things that Olive Kitteridge gets right, but none so significant as how brilliantly it simultaneously captures the deep, pervasive stillness and the close, suffocating entanglement of small-town living.
  9. Veep has become the clearest heir to 30 Rock and Arrested Development, and specific bits throughout the season recall both series.
  10. It’s not that Portlandia has lost its sharp comic edge; rather, it has added a complementary sweetness that is somehow just as funny.
  11. From episode three on, [Sheen] begins to give one of the most fascinating performances on TV.
  12. Sleepy Hollow works because it approaches everything with a relatively straight face, yet never seems to be taking itself too seriously.
  13. Burton And Taylor is not comprehensive or perfect as a film--the direction in particular is lackluster--but as a character study in both writing and acting it is, as Burton says of Taylor herself, “peerless.”
  14. While the narrow view of the tragedy means a limit to the movie’s broader appeal, it’s intensely refreshing to see a story like this told without any need to soften or commercialize its ideas.
  15. The docudrama is at its most powerful in its second half, as the focus shifts more toward David Bradley as William Hartnell.
  16. The show’s beauty is not in big moments, or exquisitely written scenes (though it has both), it comes in the pauses between, the semicolons and commas that make up the bulk of many lives, but which TV has trouble giving full heft.
  17. If the second episode can build even more on the insanity of the first, then Rick And Morty has the potential to be a versatile, entertaining comedy.
  18. If this strong start is anything to go by, the show is going to produce an interesting, challenging, and hilarious batch of episodes for its fifth season. That’s reason enough to rejoice for now.
  19. For the most part, Lannan and Haigh have crafted something that’s bittersweet and funny and surprisingly quiet, willing to simply let the characters hang out and try to figure out what the rest of their lives are going to be like.
  20. Broad City presents a recognizable, recognizably hilarious perspective on what trying-but-failing looks like from the inside.
  21. Legit walks the tightrope between the dark and the heartfelt as well as anything on TV.
  22. Fitting for a star whose improvised podcast appearances frequently turn down dark alleyways, Review really gets going when it digs deep into horrible behavior.
  23. Orphan Black is better than almost any show on TV at feeling like it’s constantly building toward something, no matter how perilous and rickety its structure becomes.
  24. When Inside Amy Schumer commits fully to that work, it’s television unlike almost anything else on the air today.
  25. Game Of Thrones has not moved away from “sexposition,” prostitution, and casual rape as titillating plot points, and that will always tarnish what is otherwise a groundbreaking show. But the good outweighs the bad. Game Of Thrones was and is an astonishing achievement.
  26. Penny Dreadful is a surprising show, one that offers both some putrid rotting at the core of London’s soul and a way of going about excavating humanity’s inherent darkness in a different and unexpected way. That is easily worth a penny, and maybe more.
  27. It’s a quiet, deliberate show, but it contains multitudes and a willingness to go for broke with religious symbolism or Southern gothic overtones, right smack dab in the middle of stories about normal people going about their lives.
  28. In the hands of McKellen, Jacobi, and company, they are sitcom characters who manage the tightrope between human warmth and on-screen viciousness, and they do it by being the best damn sitcom characters they can be.
  29. As of right now, Satisfaction is actually suspenseful--leaving the audience unsure if its protagonists will embrace their better natures or succumb to their special version of suburban ennui. And though some of that suspense is a result of some messy decision-making, those types of messes look a lot like life.
  30. The result is a show that isn’t always “ha ha” funny, but is scathingly brilliant.
  31. The series is ambitious and shaggy--those two go hand-in-hand--but despite its blurry spots, The Honorable Woman is hard not to watch all the way through. The story sucks viewers in farther and farther down a rabbit hole that does not end.
  32. It took a circuitous route, with two cancellations and a move to Netflix, but it sticks the landing with this affecting, impressive final season.
  33. The Knick rides the beautifully brutal, brutally beautiful nexus of 2014’s televised finest--Hannibal, True Detective, and The Leftovers all leap to mind--set aside by moments of true hope.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    Black-ish, is fun, cool, and hip. It just so happens to also have a lot going on upstairs.
  34. The series finds just the right balance, creating a unique place for itself among the current network fare. With its down-to-earth lead character and self-aware, but not self-parodying approach, Jane The Virgin is a breath of fresh air that will hopefully find a strong and loyal fan base.
  35. The Affair is both quietly unsettling and impossible to look away from.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    It’s beautiful work that speaks to the storytelling power of Burns. This isn’t just a history lesson; it’s cinema.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    From the writing, to the cast, to impactful details like the spot-on styling and sets, Benched exudes confidence and commitment.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    The Comeback is the same as it ever was, and more highly concentrated. It still out-metas anything else on television. The performances remain stellar all around.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    Alex Gibney’s Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown is an assured threading-of-the-needle, slowly working its way to the sweet spot where the man and the legend overlap.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Comparisons to The Wonder Years are inevitable, but Everybody Hates Chris scrapes away much of that golden nostalgia by putting a funny spin on frequently painful times.
  36. Despite what feels like risky storytelling, Homeland is staying true to its characters, following through on its fireworks to examine the ashes as well. It’s hard to tell which way it’s going to go, but for its performances and sheer courage, it’s worth watching.
  37. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a tight, funny pilot where the energy of the cast salvages the few down moments. Still, it lays some possible traps for the rest of the series, not the least of which is the ever-present temptation of cop-show cliché.
  38. In its pilot form, at least, Trophy Wife is surprisingly self-assured and confident, the sort of show that seems ready to hit its stride in just a week or two.
  39. Enlisted hasn’t realized all of its potential, but that it already has its characters in such good shape suggests much to anticipate for its future.
  40. It’s too soon to say Atlantis has a great destiny, but the signs are promising.
  41. It seems like they’re trying to build a little universe of their own, on the shoulders of the most notable sketch shows of the past. It’s a show worthy of attention for that reason alone, and doubly so because it’s often funny as hell.
  42. True Detective might be finding itself in the first half of its first season, but few processes of discovery are so enthralling to watch.
  43. As impressive as Sam is--a teenager trapped inside an old man’s body who never seems bothered by his circumstances--when the documentary focuses on his mother, it easy to see where he gets it from.
  44. The series is at its most potent when it reframes the everyday in the context of the Cold War, like Philip comparing notes on home life with a Mossad operative or Elizabeth displaying a flash of vulnerability in front of a government-contracted dupe. (And then betraying that parental bond by turning it into a threat.) Other aspects of the show would do well to find this middle ground; they’re getting there in season two.
  45. The many tones should produce whiplash, but the series works because it’s always able to go back to its central idea of a lower-level government employee living in a sleepy small town and getting wrapped up in something bigger than he would ever have anticipated.
  46. Getting On captures the drudgery of work and life in this ward, but it also catches glimpses of the beauty, and it’s in those moments that it feels like a series that deserves better than it’s going to get.
  47. Generation Cryo separates itself from the likes of Catfish and Teen Mom by not treating its subjects as spectacle. They’re portrayed as people dealing with issues that affect their everyday lives, recalling some of the better installments of the True Life series.
  48. Justified has always been a show about defining yourself, for yourself. So long as it keeps finding fresh criminal conspiracies to wrap around that core--as season five appears to have done--the show will remain a must-watch.
  49. The season risks feeling like an epilogue to season two and a prologue to season four, but as both a sequel and a prequel Sherlock’s third season ultimately makes the series’ world richer, and a stronger foundation for more stories to come.
  50. It’s not doing a whole lot of work to examine the role of women in society, but it is a show with a single and still-novel goal: to entertain women, without patronizing them.
  51. Now, three seasons in, Dunham and her team are better at doing what they’ve been trying to do all along: create a string of lovely character vignettes, with a deliberate disinterest in plot and a fascination with a certain zeitgeist. This is specific enough that it has its disadvantages, but now that the characters have been around for two seasons, it’s become easier to understand their different versions of cluelessness.
  52. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s fun to watch and slightly addictive.
  53. Where Bletchley succeeds is in its unapologetic, decidedly feminine take on British life in the ’50s.
  54. Fargo is a singular idea with, so far, not-so-singular execution, perhaps suffering from the fact that what was revelatory in 1996 might be just humdrum in 2014.
  55. Black Box doesn’t have that show’s [HBO's Enlightened] subtlety, but it’s certainly demonstrated an interest in creating a portrait of a contradictory and flawed, but powerful and engaging female character.
  56. If Last Week Tonight With John Oliver can keep shedding humorous light on international affairs and other stories that fall through the cable-news cracks, this show might make it to eight weeks and beyond.
  57. Thanks to the six-hour order, there’s no shortage of subplots for the many returning faces, all of which still smartly stay close to the community hearth.
  58. The Address ultimately can’t nail its ending.... ut so much of The Address accomplishes what it sets out to do and is so different from Burns’ typical work that it becomes a fascinating sidebar in his filmography.
  59. Madam Secretary is not perfect, but it could be. There are seeds of something excellent in this pilot, one that’s able to tell a character-driven story in a world that’s constantly changing.
  60. A well-acted romp that carries just enough weight to justify tuning in, The Musketeers is a campy delight; no one ever hands over a blade when tossing one with a flourish will do, and this time, that’s just as it should be.
  61. There’s something lighthearted about the proceedings, murder and mayhem aside, because the show is more interested in the character drama than the procedure. Taxi Brooklyn embraces the New York-ness of both its main characters, and that bodes well for its future--and provides something fascinating to watch through the summer, in the meantime.
  62. There are portions of the 10-episode first season that are darker than any other American broadcast-network comedy, but not shying away from the inherent gravity of Bruce and Emma’s situation provides a rich shading to the stranger-in-a-strange-land laughs.
  63. Ultimately it’s that frisson of complication that makes Manhattan worth watching--the performances are good, the writing is good, and the premise is good, but the complication of our own history is involving and fantastic.
  64. It’s not perfect, but it’s never boring.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 Critic Score
    As a technically proficient piece of visual storytelling, Boardwalk continues to excel.
  65. Featuring a strong cast, a unique setting, and an alternately energetic and reflective tone, the series has a lot going for it and could easily grow into a surprise hit for DirecTV.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 83 Critic Score
    The show initially relies too heavily on plots in which Cam’s career is imperiled by the family’s behavior, plots that come off as contrivances to give the family deeper roots in Cam’s world. But Remorse finds its sea legs once it realizes Cam’s family can afford to stand on its own, whether they realize it or not.
  66. Sonic Highways does dig deeper than a lot of other musician-centric documentaries do.
  67. There’s enough depth and complication in the performances alone to buoy the six-episode run, and given the intensity of the criminal specifics, the slow burn feels more like a feature than a bug.
  68. Getting On comes back in a mode so low-key that the show feels inconsequential, setting up a season of diminishing returns. But by the third episode, things really start to click again.
  69. Banksy Does New York doesn’t give more than a passing voice to Banky’s critics and skeptics. (If anything, it’s more harsh to the New York art world for largely ignoring the residency.) But the film does a fine job of getting at the tension that each day’s new piece inspired.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The premise is gimmicky, but based on the promising first two episodes, Lee's infinite list of wrongdoings should provide many seasons' worth of amiable comedy.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    No one can backpedal his way into a ditch quite like Gervais.
  70. Five seasons in, Cougar Town may not have many new points to make about its characters, but those viewers already convinced of the show’s charms will find the show as amusing and entertaining as ever.
  71. The early goings of Hello Ladies are more amusing than they are funny.
  72. But where the storytelling seems occasionally forced—intent on ending every episode with a moment of heart, no matter how unearned—the dialogue is weird and funny. With time for the stories to settle down and match the performances, the series should find a nice groove.
  73. For better or worse, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the best network drama pilot of the fall, but that’s mainly because so many of the other network drama pilots don’t even seem to be trying. There’s good stuff in S.H.I.E.L.D.; there are also things that feel curiously muted and cautious.
  74. Sometimes you just have to go with American Horror Story, even if it hurts your soul to be entertained by such heedless provocation.
  75. The new first episode is good enough to suggest Tolan and creator Peter Duncan will be able to get at least a season out of the world punishing Keegan. There might not be enough here to go beyond that initial episode order, but just watching Kinnear play the sad asshole—wandering around L.A. without a car or getting beaten up due to gambling debts—keeps things rolling smoothly for now.
  76. It’s an episode of television that exists at the intersection of Marvel’s superpowers-as-puberty metaphors and the half-baked cultural upheaval of True Blood—with a Whedon-esque anti-authoritarian streak thrown in for good measure. The show could devolve into a grab bag of familiar themes and tropes down the line, but its pilot does a remarkable job of synthesizing a cohesive introduction out of those disparate parts.
  77. The script by Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie SenGupta never finds a wholly convincing Venn diagram intersection between period piece and teen soap, but it also doesn’t bother trying, hoping it can turn insane tonal shifts into a virtue by stepping on the gas. That this approach mostly works is thanks to their script being unafraid to unleash the crazy and the surprisingly beautiful direction from Brad Silberling, who makes the most of an Irish location shoot the rest of the series won’t have the advantage of.
  78. For now, though, it’s comfortable, but inessential. The performances blur together, as actors deliver lines in a competent, polite way, and everything is filmed in a hazy glow. There’s nothing wrong with any of it.
  79. The Toy Story franchise has always operated best with a note of existential panic, and there’s some of that here, but it feels like the special leans awfully hard on the films that gave rise to it.
  80. Rothenberg and company are sneaking in a surprisingly sophisticated look at a world filled with want.
  81. Baldwin and Toback’s bloviating can grate, and the whole project comes across as pretty frivolous when all is said and done. But for film buffs with an interest in the frustrating business side of things, it’s a rare glimpse into a crucial part of the moviemaking industry.
  82. While Ground Floor achieves its deliberately modest aims, it also leaves the viewer wondering if something more might have been accomplished with that premise, particularly with the enjoyable Heelan in the female lead.
  83. Goldberg whets the appetite for what Mabley can do, but it’s Mabley, not Goldberg-as-director, who delivers.
  84. Silverman has never been sharper or seemingly more confident as a comedian and performer, and the laughs are there--just not quite as many as might be expected.
  85. Six By Sondheim is just barely more than the sum of its parts, but when it finally adds up, it feels like many of the master’s best songs and shows: a puzzle that assembles itself right in front of your eyes.
  86. It’s got some of the same appeal [as Scandal], but at its core, it’s a strong spy thriller with a few fascinating characters, not a splashy nighttime soap. And that’s okay.
  87. Reproduction isn’t The Spoils Of Babylon’s comic strong suit, absurdity is. Crummy special effects are cute, but the miniseries finds its voice by bursting Jonrosh’s bubble, illuminating his shortcomings as a filmmaker through mealy mouthed dialogue, incomprehensible blocking, and continuity errors.
  88. Sure, the show’s “politics” feel ripped from a Politico comment section, and yes, the show’s plot doesn’t really go anywhere until the final handful of episodes. But the season also tosses an incredible number of balls in the air and manages to keep juggling them, which is impressive in and of itself.

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