The A.V. Club's Scores

For 752 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 3.5 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 69
Highest review score: 100 Fargo: Season 2
Lowest review score: 0 I Wanna Marry Harry: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 506
  2. Negative: 0 out of 506
506 tv reviews
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Louie season four is as good as ever, and sometimes it’s slightly different.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. [Elisabeth Moss'] take-and the show’s take--on the character is a distinct blend of what Atwood once identified as the main thrust of Canadian literature (survival) and a gumption most closely associated with the country Offred once called America. This can cause some tonal clash in the voice-over--the mission statement that closes episode one feels like it belongs in a different show--but it also gives The Handmaid’s Tale the necessary verve for an ongoing series.
  10. The mood develops exquisitely from the first frame.
  11. This isn’t just a story, it’s a history, and admirably, the work of the players has brought it to life.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. This batch demonstrates that Master Of None finds just as much inspiration from the people surrounding Ansari. That’s where the root of the Francesca problem lies. For everything Alessandra Mastronardi invests in the role, she’s playing an invention surrounded by lived experiences. There’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy, but it clashes with the entertaining way in which Master Of None reflects its creators’ realities.
  15. While not quite reaching the heights of the show’s first season, Transparent manages to deliver something a little more fully formed and contained in season three.
  16. 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.
  17. The series exudes warmth and grace even in its smallest moments without losing sight of its sense of humor.
  18. 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.
  19. Simpson so skillfully shapes each personality that in just a few episodes, they almost stop being real people and become televisual characters. It feels less like a true-crime miniseries and more like a rich, layered legal drama, and ironically, the fictional patina makes it easier to engage with and invest in a story the audience assumes it knows inside and out.
  20. 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.
  21. Burns and Novick have engineered a staggering feat of filmmaking ambition, so overwhelming and raw it’s sure to rip open still-fresh scabs of those who lived through it.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. There are some truly shocking moments early on, but it all just feels a bit too familiar. Luckily, the cast picks up the narrative slack; Winstead and Coon might both be playing thwarted women, but they’re basically fire and ice. McGregor manages to carve out distinct personalities in his dual performance.
    • 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.
  26. Tig
    Viewers need not be familiar with Notaro’s story to enjoy Tig, and Notaro is so likable that it’s hard not to be excited by her success—as the film shows, it’s well-earned.
    • 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
    • 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.
  27. 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.
    • 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. It’s beautiful work that speaks to the storytelling power of Burns. This isn’t just a history lesson; it’s cinema.
  31. 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.
  32. Waller-Bridge has a bracing willingness to let entire scenes play out just to build to one absurd joke at the end, and she proves adept at giving characters and moments the touch of specificity that makes them feel real and human.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. This prequel is worth watching because it asks more of itself. And the amount of jailhouse imagery in the season three advertising campaign, coupled with the trajectory of the two episodes screened for critics, suggests that Jimmy’s and Mike’s paths will continue diverging. But there is this force that we know unites them in the future.
  36. It’s not that Portlandia has lost its sharp comic edge; rather, it has added a complementary sweetness that is somehow just as funny.
  37. 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.
  38. Despite the exciting reboot, UnREAL still falls short of the expectations set by Rachel and Quinn, because their relationship is more crystallized than anything else on the show. Everlasting’s production process remains as frustratingly opaque as its contestants, and it isn’t always enough that the vagueness gives Rachel and Quinn a wide-open playing field for their mind games.
  39. True Detective might be finding itself in the first half of its first season, but few processes of discovery are so enthralling to watch.
  40. Veep has become the clearest heir to 30 Rock and Arrested Development, and specific bits throughout the season recall both series.
  41. 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.
  42. It’s focused on Mrs. Watts’ personal journey home, her escape from the small bubble she’s come to know. As it is, it’s wonderful to watch Tyson make that escape.
  43. Wolf Hall’s efforts to capture the same mood as its source material ultimately serve it well.
  44. The show’s creators get just as caught up in this sordid albeit entertaining world as viewers, but Simon and Pelecanos take care not to forget what’s underneath it all.
  45. 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.
  46. From episode three on, [Sheen] begins to give one of the most fascinating performances on TV.
  47. 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.
  48. 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.
  49. It isn’t always easy to watch, but it’s always compelling, and almost unfairly stocked with stellar performances.
  50. 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.
  51. 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.
    • 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.
  52. 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.
  53. 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.
    • 85 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.
  54. While it may not transcend its genre, The Missing is a strong addition to the canon.
  55. 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.
  56. The performances are literally shaky, from wavering accents to tremulous monologues, but the movie’s such an overwhelming weepie that they fit right in.
  57. The Affair is both quietly unsettling and impossible to look away from.
  58. 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.
  59. 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.
  60. Crime works best as an allegory when the racial anxiety casts a pall over the characters rather than actively driving their conversations.
  61. Broadchurch accomplishes the whodunit in a wholly engaging, yet socially aware manner, anchored by its devotion-inspiring leads.
  62. Crime’s provocation is needlessly excessive, but the show manages to feel vital all the same.
  63. 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.
  64. It’s true that we’ve seen this technique [documentary parody] used on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, and the incisive political commentary has long had a home on The Daily Show, among others. But the Full Frontal approach still feels fresh, perhaps because we’re finally seeing a female host lead the charge, with a female showrunner (Jo Miller) and a diverse team of writers.
  65. Take My Wife quickly builds and fleshes out its detailed, zippy world in just six tight episodes. The show puts its characters first.
  66. [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.
  67. 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.
  68. There’s no capital-letter message here, but Rae’s portrayal of a black woman’s life is still revolutionary.
  69. In the grand tradition of Mike Judge projects, HBO’s new comedy, Silicon Valley, is a bit messy, a bit shambling, and often very funny.
  70. 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.
  71. As a technically proficient piece of visual storytelling, Boardwalk continues to excel.
  72. Goldberg whets the appetite for what Mabley can do, but it’s Mabley, not Goldberg-as-director, who delivers.
  73. [Mike Judge] mines storytelling gold from the people who grew up with and performed alongside a number of country music legends, resulting in a wholly engaging series that even non-country fans should love.
  74. Orange occasionally seems overpopulated, assuming the audience doesn’t hold all of the characters in equal regard. Orange works better when it’s focused on what unites its inmates, not what divides them.
  75. When it gets to the meat of the dark source material that gives the show its name, the action is kinetic and satisfying in a manner previous seasons occasionally struggled to provide.
  76. History’s new vision of Roots justifies its existence almost immediately, reinforcing its worthiness through amazing performances and a tweaked narrative that puts more focus on the interior lives of the slaves.
  77. Like Happy Endings and Community, People continues to lean heavily on minute referential humor. Those who would enjoy Julie and Billy’s companionship in real life will have just as much fun watching them on television, while those who wouldn’t are doomed to smile, nod, and pretend they get the joke.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 91 Critic Score
    The episodes feel pointed and agile in their narratives (as early as episode two, there are tearful goodbyes), while also indulging in the right doses of pure fun and fan service.The episodes feel pointed and agile in their narratives (as early as episode two, there are tearful goodbyes), while also indulging in the right doses of pure fun and fan service.
  78. 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.
  79. 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.
  80. The increased episode count of season three allows Black Mirror to show off its full range of tricks, but it’s the episodes that make a play for resonance—“San Junipero,” “Nosedive,” and “Men Against Fire”--that stand out. ... But even with these advanced features, Black Mirror remains subject to the hit-or-miss vagaries of the anthology format.
  81. 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.
  82. 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.
  83. It’s a show about a woman intent on moving forward that’s at its best when it’s looking backward.
  84. 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.
    • 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.
  85. If formalizing Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship has narrowed the show’s narrative possibilities, it doesn’t show from the first two episodes, which are as nonchalantly winning as anything in the first season.
  86. 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.
  87. Roper is never much more than a menacingly jovial monster, and Pine never earns the soulful self-loathing Hiddleston brings to the role. But there’s something to be said for surface pleasures, especially when they’re this well dressed.
  88. Subtext is an Achilles’ heel that The People V. O.J. Simpson finally healed for Murphy, and though Bette And Joan doesn’t represent a full recovery, it lands some clever jabs at the status quo through depictions of the stars’ insecurities and beauty regimens.
  89. 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.
  90. 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.”
  91. It’s easy to forget that A Series Of Unfortunate Events is family entertainment. It treats mature themes like grief, loss, and disappointment with sardonic honesty, but that’s a world-weariness beyond the show’s reading level.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    No one can backpedal his way into a ditch quite like Gervais.

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