The A.V. Club's Scores

For 712 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 62% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 35% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 3.4 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 68
Highest review score: 100 Hannibal: Season 2
Lowest review score: 0 Marshal Law: Texas: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 477
  2. Negative: 0 out of 477
477 tv reviews
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    The series maintains a perfect balance between joy and trauma that exemplifies the duality of the black experience; its writing is sharp and contemporary. Even the moments of parody feel relatable as opposed to over-the-top.
  1. The mood develops exquisitely from the first frame.
  2. It isn’t always easy to watch, but it’s always compelling, and almost unfairly stocked with stellar performances.
  3. 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.
  4. Legion is a dazzling and unusual show--full of extraordinary beings and events--but at its core are the same recognizable, human qualities that Hawley’s previously stretched to the limits.
  5. Even without the sadness that now floods Bright Lights, it would still be a classic of its kind. It recalls the equally entertaining late-in-life portraits of wonderful, vicious broads like Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work and Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.
  6. Toy Story That Time Forgot attests to the strengths of this fictional universe by relying on its deep bench of supporting players.... Schaal’s capacity for wonder enlivens a plot that harkens back to the first Toy Story.
  7. Impossibly, the show’s second 10-episode batch surpasses its first, and it does so by widening its focus on the Pfefferman family while keeping Maura’s journey central to the story.
  8. Take My Wife quickly builds and fleshes out its detailed, zippy world in just six tight episodes. The show puts its characters first.
  9. It’s atypical in the television industry for a show born of a larger creative trend to surpass the trend’s flashpoint, but with the new season, Fargo puts itself head and shoulders above its anthology peers. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but can it be, when done thoughtfully? You betcha.
  10. With its strong cast, diverse ensemble of interesting characters, beautiful visuals, and patient direction, Fortitude is a promising freshman outing from cable obscurity Pivot and a worthwhile addition to an already over-stuffed subgenre.
  11. Once the show establishes its new rhythm, one in which it’s impossible to guess who or what the next scene will consist of, Orange is thrillingly off-kilter.
  12. 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.
  13. The fifth season of Veep doesn’t just win the expectations game, it just wins. The rapid-fire, acid-tongued dialogue hasn’t changed, nor has the almost unfathomable ratio of zingers per minute. With a cast this talented--Julia Louis-Dreyfus remains at the height of her talents--the only thing that could go wrong is the writing, but it’s as assured and hilarious as ever.
  14. If the fourth season reminds viewers of anything, it’s that The Americans has a masterful control of tone, doling out horror and slow-burn dread like very few of its contemporaries.
  15. Beyond reference points and sermons for the converted, With Bob And David is a hilarious triumph on its own merits.
  16. Meticulous detail makes the difference between competent television shows and instant classics, and The Americans teems with period minutia, and treats it with a solemn respect not often paid to the ’80s.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    You’d be hard-pressed to name a work of art, let alone another TV show, that balances such enormity so playfully, without also being glib about the ponderous questions at its core.
  17. 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    It’s not just well-written and lovely to look at. It’s downright immersive. ... Outlander feels important--even moreso in its second season.
  18. The obvious comparison point is The Twilight Zone; that Black Mirror is a worthy successor is the highest praise that can be paid.
  19. Going Clear is the most scorching, disturbing documentary in recent memory, not because Wright and Gibney smuggled agendas, but because the institutionalized cruelty and avarice alleged against the church of Scientology precludes pure objectivity.
  20. 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.
  21. None of this would work without compelling characters. Fortunately, The Leftovers has bunches of them.
  22. Louie season four is as good as ever, and sometimes it’s slightly different.
  23. This isn’t just a story, it’s a history, and admirably, the work of the players has brought it to life.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  24. There’s nothing immediately grabby about this film, beyond the promise of watching two of the best actors of the past half-century dance gracefully around each other for the better part of two hours. But sometimes that’s enough--especially when neither man misses a step.
  25. When Inside Amy Schumer commits fully to that work, it’s television unlike almost anything else on the air today.
  26. Legit walks the tightrope between the dark and the heartfelt as well as anything on TV.
  27. Sleepy Hollow works because it approaches everything with a relatively straight face, yet never seems to be taking itself too seriously.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Nikita is probably The CW’s most purely entertaining show at the moment, and it brazenly promises to be its best self now that it’s coming into the home stretch, wrapping up its loose ends with what amounts to a concluding, six-episode miniseries.
  31. With 10 episodes this season, Please Like Me has filled out beautifully.
  32. Outcast is a creepy, unsettling treat—and one of the strongest TV debuts of the year.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    Abbi and Ilana are back and as unapologetic and funny as ever. Broad City season two is simultaneously old and new, with the same madcap stoner hilarity and a handful of fresh new faces.... But even these great comedic actors never distract from who is really in charge.
  33. 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.
  34. Fortunately, it continues to be fascinating.
  35. A show that relies so heavily on self-awareness has to have a beating heart and a big helping of humanity, and by focusing on Bamford’s mental health struggles, Lady Dynamite turns into something deeper, more challenging, and ultimately, more rewarding than a winking self-parody.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    It’s chewy popcorn television, where everything zips by at face value, from the laughs to the thrills to the kills, and once again, Ash Vs. Evil Dead delivers this mayhem with gutsy results.
  36. Underground benefits from its deliberate pacing. This is, after all, a heist story, except that the thieves are literally stealing their own bodies. All the components of a tense thriller are here.
  37. The first four episodes of Game Of Thrones’ fifth season are typically rich and rewarding, but for those seeking reassurance as the show heads for uncharted territory, there’s as much to love as there is to fear.
  38. Because the writing and characterization on this show has been consistent (and superb), failures are often as hard-won as progress, a revelation that’s all the more stunning for its relatability. Most of the disasters are the result of minor missteps or oversights that snowball into untenable, albeit hilarious, situations.
  39. Wilmore proves a smart and capable host in his auspicious debut.
  40. 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.
  41. The Affair is both quietly unsettling and impossible to look away from.
  42. The hour accomplishes what it set out to do. It creates characters so compelling that we compulsively want to tune back in to see them again.
    • 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.
  43. It took a circuitous route, with two cancellations and a move to Netflix, but it sticks the landing with this affecting, impressive final season.
  44. There’s something soapy and delicious about Empire.... But it’s a double-edged sword: Empire will either continue to be fun and splashy, while staying grounded and engaging, or it will flame out as so many primetime sudsers have before it, becoming too ridiculous for its own good.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    Detroiters isn’t looking to shock viewers, or deliver any big social satire about life in the Motor City. It just wants to invite them into its tree fort, pull up the ladder, and tell a bunch of weird, delightful jokes.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    It’s sad, it’s funny, and it’s surprising.
  45. Broad City presents a recognizable, recognizably hilarious perspective on what trying-but-failing looks like from the inside.
  46. 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.
  47. The fourth season effectively channels the raw vitality of WTF’s early days, when Maron was trying to dig his way out of a hole by embracing the world around him instead of pushing it away.
  48. Montage understands Cobain as an icon, but also as the mixed-up kid who got too famous too fast, and it seems content revealing, rather than reconciling, his contradictions.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    iZombie provides a zombie-centric supernatural procedural with a sharp focus on the possibilities of that premise, while also paying homage to its comic roots.... iZombie is another win for The CW.
  49. It’s beautiful work that speaks to the storytelling power of Burns. This isn’t just a history lesson; it’s cinema.
  50. The Art Of More does a captivating job of offering access to this secretive, exclusive, and corrupt world.
  51. Hill and McBride are able to strike a balance between biting comedy and introspection.
  52. There’s no capital-letter message here, but Rae’s portrayal of a black woman’s life is still revolutionary.
  53. [Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have] blended their sensibilities, weaving a rich tapestry of whimsy, epic action, and deft characterization. Practically speaking, it will definitely tide you over until that other fantasy drama returns. But thematically, it could knock someone off their throne.
  54. 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.
  55. It’s the equal partnership of intelligent, absurdist humor and biting drama that has elevated BoJack Horseman to one of the best shows on TV or the internet.
  56. 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.
  57. Thanks to the grounded performances, The Night Of, like the similarly themed Serial, will have audiences ready to render their own verdicts, convinced they know the characters well enough to telegraph their actions. The only glaring flaw with The Night Of comes from Price’s efforts to humanize each character with novelistic quirks.
  58. Luke Cage is the result of a meticulous vision, and it should rightfully elevate Coker into the league of television auteurs.
  59. 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.
  60. The Crown easily rises far above, adding a cinematic quality to a complex and intricate time for an intimate family. The performers and creators are seemingly up for the task.
  61. [The] TV adaptation ... continues to surprise three years into its run. ... Unlike most shows that reach for the “reset” button, Hannibal wasn’t in a position where it needed a new beginning. It’s just the logical, natural place to go, and the fresh slate makes startling hay from the unknowns.
  62. The production on Search Party is cinematic, with spot-on young-poor-people apartments and a score that sways—like the series itself--from light-hearted to menacing and back. The ultimate reveal, when it arrives, is extremely satisfying, even though it potentially upends everything that came before it.
  63. Wolf Hall’s efforts to capture the same mood as its source material ultimately serve it well.
  64. 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.
  65. As familiar as this all sounds, the déjà vu won’t last for viewers; the writers have too refined an approach for any of this to come across as a mere echo of previous arcs.
  66. 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.
  67. 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.
  68. Aafter a brief foray into the dark side, Katie realizes that it’s pointless to be anything but herself, and the fun of the show comes from watching her not just discover that but also teach it to her kids.
  69. 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.
  70. The show is getting rebooted for its fifth season, and it’s quickly clear what a good idea that is.
  71. With its bold new move to double our number of perspectives, it appears that The Affair will sail over that sophomore slump that has felled so many other Showtime dramas.
  72. In fact, all of the performances are winning, with Driver deserving most of the praise. ... Speechless is shaping up to be one of the fall’s best comedies.
  73. The Leftovers staff digs at complex emotions with surgical precision and intimate storytelling.
  74. Mandel hasn’t squandered any of his comedy capital; he keeps the barbs flying and the crushing disappointment looming closely enough to maintain the momentum in his second term.
  75. 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.
  76. From its first golden images of drowning to the drawing-room showdowns on a dark and stormy night, And Then There Were None is a triumph of atmosphere and an adaptation bold enough to make you uncomfortable to the very last.
  77. Bloom is so perfect for the part, emerging as a fully formed character. She grounds Rebecca, but is also fearless when Rebecca needs to live up to the title of the show.
  78. Gilligan and Gould have been wise to set the show far apart from its ancestor, such that it becomes a draw for its clever writing, inventive direction, and nuanced performances rather than its proximity to another story set in the same universe.
  79. By the end of episode three (titled after yet another brand-new character, Morgane), almost everyone is miserable, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for relief from the unrelenting gloom. Thankfully, the show remains so brilliantly acted and written, and so masterfully shot, it’s never anything less than compelling.
  80. It’s quite engrossing and addictive.
  81. The series exudes warmth and grace even in its smallest moments without losing sight of its sense of humor.
  82. Naturally it prepares for its own end like a pro, not with sound and fury but with moments and gestures that recommit to the show’s belief in the dignity and absurdity of life, made all the more poignant by the knowledge that this is the end. The gravity of death and the parade of life combine to give Getting On an uncommon mood.
  83. 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.
  84. While the show never soft-pedals the havoc Escobar created, it makes him surprisingly sympathetic, thanks in part to Moura’s shrewd, affecting performance.
  85. The Characters is weird without trying too hard to be weird. For as much careful attention to detail as there is, there’s a general ease to the series. The production value is high, but it never feels overproduced.
  86. Ansari and Yang come out of the gate strong, showcasing who they are and how they view the world with a clarity and assuredness that few others have been able to master.
  87. The docudrama is at its most powerful in its second half, as the focus shifts more toward David Bradley as William Hartnell.
  88. Amid the precision-tooled dick jokes and the airtight comedies of errors, Silicon Valley cuts the compelling tale of a creator forging his own path through a frontier where every other maverick is a charlatan--or worse.
  89. 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.

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