Variety's Scores

For 2,069 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 35% higher than the average critic
  • 4% same as the average critic
  • 61% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 7.9 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 57
Highest review score: 100 Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 4
Lowest review score: 10 Training Day (2017): Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 833
  2. Negative: 0 out of 833
833 tv reviews
  1. Like "Manchurian Candidate," Homeland does some of its best work via flashbacks to Brody's time in captivity, sprinkling additional tidbits with each glimpse into the past.
  2. Bright and breezy, The Middleman manages the increasingly rare feat of being knowing but not snide. It's a show, frankly, for people who love (and have probably watched too much) TV. By that standard, it's far from the middle, but rather rises straight to the top.
  3. The Man in the High Castle has a solid opening episode and gains weight and heft as it goes, in part due to fantastic world-building.
  4. Not every beat works, but after watching an hour it was hard not to stick with The Returned for the full ride.
  5. It's reassuring to see the program refocused and mostly back on track as it opens its fourth season, which finds new torments with which to plague its central trio, as well as a plethora of showy guest stars in deliciously perverse roles. [31 Aug 2006, p.6]
    • Variety
  6. The second-season opener, fortunately, featured a couple of knockout, buzzworthy moments as well as a tantalizing new plot thread, promising that this suburban soap's back alleys and side streets have plenty of stories left to divulge. [27 Sep 2005]
    • Variety
  7. On the surface, the concept of Criminal Intent seems like a gimmicky way to milk some of the success from its predecessors, but in the capable hands of exec producers Wolf and Rene Balcer, who also serve as the show's head writers, it makes for taut, engaging television. This self-perpetuating franchise of cops and lawyers is hardly running out of steam. [28 Sept 2001, p.8]
    • Variety
  8. Rectify is a more-than-credible addition to the DVR menu--one more worthy option as we escape into our own little electronic cells of solitary amusement.
  9. Flitting among three storylines, it's smart, nimble and best of all, funny, while actually making a point about the evolving nature of what constitutes "family."
  10. A slickly produced and irresistibly engrossing docu series that offers a multilayered look at various forms of politics.
  11. Somewhat diluted in its split focus on Richard Nixon’s presidential malfeasance and the movie devoted to those acts, the two-hour doc doesn’t break much new ground, but does pore over familiar terrain, and its lingering implications, in an entertaining way.
  12. The feature format is better suited to heroes with clearly defined goals and a fixed timeframe in which to achieve them, whereas Olive Kitteridge has more existential concerns on its mind. That may lead to viewer attrition, as auds tune in for the first hour but may not be necessarily hooked to the end, though each successive episode takes those who remain deeper into the family’s private world.
  13. It’s smart enough to make the mechanics and facts of its premise just plausible enough, but its real interest of exploration are the details that are relevant to the audience--what it is like for us, with our current values and awareness, to enter into times that are so far removed from where we are now.
  14. Whatever its chemistry, the show surely knows how to go for the throat. And like its mythical night-prowlers, once Blood sucks you in, its attraction is awfully difficult to resist.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    For the uninitiated, the show's dense plotline has become a head-scratching web of scorned relationships between Armenians, Mexicans, corrupt politicians, dirty cops, police commissioners and Mackey, of course, in the center of it all, doing whatever it takes to hang on to his badge. For the longtime fan, however, the story is complex yet riveting, making complete sense, especially after witnessing Mackey's hellacious journey to get here.
  15. Perfectly cast and cleverly paced, consider it a mini-"Masterpiece Mystery" for that franchise’s crime-loving loyalists.
  16. This latest caper isn't at 'Burn Notice's" level yet, but based on the channel's track record, you'd be ill-advised to bet against it tracking down an audience.
  17. Justified has a clear sense of its strengths and shrewdly plays to them. For FX, that savvy combined with Olyphant's charisma has all the makings of a series destined to nail its target.
  18. Having shot more than 1,500 hours of footage, the crew mostly eradicates the conspicuous influence of the filmmakers' presence, capturing harrowing moments graced by genuine humanity.
  19. Though clunky in places, at its best the series captures the essence of what the movie version of "A Chorus Line" didn't, providing an illuminating window into the creative process.
  20. Where “Louie” is frequently taken by flights of fancy and an inexhaustible curiosity about why the world is what it is, Better Things is, so far, more focused on the Fox family’s daily grind. The world is full of puzzles, but Sam and her daughters largely leave others to the solving.
  21. Sharply satirical and playfully dorky without getting bogged down in its own mythology, this iteration should continue to broaden the show's appeal beyond its twin fanbases of Comic-Con lifers and Anglophiles, though both groups will certainly give their seal of approval.
  22. There’s a lot to like, in a series with genuine laughs.
  23. The series almost immediately establishes a distinctive voice, and sets up Bloom as a talent to be reckoned with.
  24. The kinetic energy of the production wasn’t quite at the level of “Grease Live”, but the vocal performances and wonderful dance numbers made up for most of that. And most importantly, Hairspray Live! in the main was genuinely entertaining, even amid some messy moments of a huge production that seemed to be striving for a lot of different emotions all at once.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Gavin has evolved, and the writers are making sure he's more multidimensional than ever thought possible. It's a winning move.
  25. Austen's simple tales of love -- deferred, nearly derailed but eventually and inevitably triumphant -- hold up extremely well, and this latest "Sense & Sensibility" has done a splendid job casting its various roles, despite an inevitable wattage deficit compared with the most recent theatrical version.
  26. Despite creative speed bumps, Masters of Sex remains a slick vehicle, one that thoughtfully examines the relationship between sex and romance that Masters and Johnson sought to uncoil.
  27. "Deadwood" remains a series like none other.
  28. The Killing remains compelling, and the writers (led by Sud, adapting the show from a Danish series) are adept at overcoming the stodgy pace by dangling tantalizing clues near each hour's end, creating a strong pull to see what transpires next.
  29. Impeccably cast, extremely handsome, predictably soapy and a trifle slow moving, it’s another first-rate costume drama.
  30. Frankly, six hours is a whole lot of time for any documentary, but the treasure trove of Python material ensures that Almost the Truth goes down smoothly, or at least almost so.
  31. What a bracing thrill-ride it is. .... There are so many ideas bouncing off each other and colliding in the new season that viewers may occasionally long for a quiet moment or two, but presumably things will settle down a little once the setup is out of the way.
  32. A a behind-the-music celebrity miniseries with a surprising sense of humor and humility. ... It helps also that Carey--through sheer charm--makes what is essentially an eight-episode misdirect so delightfully human and engaging.
  33. If the premise sounds cheesy and busy, the execution is crisp and efficient--and manages to sell dialogue like, "Together, we can take this city back," which often sounds better in a word balloon.
  34. Sit back, relax and savor a genuine treat infused with Hollywood nostalgia, riotous storytelling and only a few easily forgiven drops of mutual admiration.
  35. Prone to slow starts and whiz-bang finishes, Justified opens its fifth year in midseason form.
  36. Having settled on a solid core of players after some casualties along the way, the show forges ahead with a strong sense of momentum and vision, as well as an intricate mythology that connects the ancient evil of the series’ vampire race, the strigoi, to the past.
  37. Jane and Adams' interplay, the willingness to let the story gradually unfold and the project's disarming sensitivity (exemplified via a splendid fourth-episode guest shot by Margo Martindale) helps elevate Hung well above its gimmicky title--and gives HBO another improbable series that actually looks well worth hanging onto.
  38. Anne, Emily and Charlotte come vividly to life as they decide on their pseudonyms, engage with publishers via correspondence, and diligently crank out some of the works that eventually made them famous.
  39. Crews quirky mannerisms don't overwhelm the plot, and the show does strikes a nice balance between whimsy and its much darker backstory.
  40. The plot is a trifle chaotic, but the action culminates in an impressive sequence of special-effects derring-do and whooshing bloodsuckers.
  41. Lights Out isn't an unqualified knockout, but in its milieu, leading man and rich supporting players, score the show a clear winner on points. And that's no bull.
  42. Shows great series potential.
  43. Developments are doled out at a measured clip, and the filmmakers seem less interested in sustaining forward momentum than in painting a vivid panorama of this broken community, a town cloaked in a dark and vaguely incestuous malaise.
  44. The lessons the new Roots teaches over the course of its eight hours, which air on four consecutive nights, are worth revisiting, and a number of outstanding performances enliven this retelling of the story of Kunta Kinte and his descendants.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The show's minscule budget has turned into one of its greatest assets, using real-life Austin locales and citizens to bring an authenticity that only adds to the drama.
  45. The statistics used are occasionally mind-boggling (enough forest lost every year to cover Germany), and the stars’ intense reactions at times perhaps a little too studied. Nevertheless, the producers build a compelling case, and keep the production moving by flitting among two or three separate celeb investigators in each hour.
  46. While the climax isn't entirely satisfying, Pillars does create strong roles for its female characters, Natalia Woerner's earthy Ellen and Atwell's determined ingenue balancing Parish's delicious wickedness. Frankly, the whole exercise would be worth the price of admission (or rather, subscription) simply for the cobra-eyed McShane.
  47. The pilot rumbles forward on crisp action and light-hearted humor, while hinting at higher stakes that offer room for narrative growth. While easily dismissed as another "Alias" (like Jennifer Garner, Perabo can do wonderful things to a simple skirt and heels), the show also makes clever use of Walker's newbie status.
  48. Nothing here is especially groundbreaking. But Bloodline smartly dives into its soapy doings with multiple plots, as well as an impressive acting roster.
  49. Mostly, Judge has an unerring ear for pop culture and outright stupidity.
  50. The pilot represents a polished product that neatly introduces an array of characters and establishes Eastwick as a project with no small measure of potential. As for how well that's realized, as they say, the devil is in the details.
  51. Inevitably, there’s some overlap (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is cited in both of these first two hours), but Makers offers an evenhanded look at the barriers women have faced, while celebrating the accomplishments of those pioneers who have overcome them.
  52. While In Treatment isn't perfect by any means, given its uneven start and improbable origins, it's as good as anything with two characters yammering probably has a right to be.
  53. Even with the occasional fits and starts, The Detour looks like one of those shows that’s worth going out of one’s way to find.
  54. In episodes that alternate percolating energy with quiet ruminations on loyalty, leadership and the ways in which people lie to themselves and others, the satisfying third season builds up an admirable head of steam and gives the core cast (including the wonderful and previously under-used Toby Huss) and guest star Annabeth Gish smart material to work with.
  55. Those who love it aren't likely to get that itch scratched anywhere else. Like jazz, though, that's a relatively narrow audience, one that Simon--perhaps even more so than in "The Wire" and "Generation Kill"--has chosen, for better and worse, to uncompromisingly serve.
  56. The semi-serialized six-episode run has a dark, bittersweet quality, but despite some clever moments, F generally merits no more than a “B.”
  57. The Missing is harrowing, absorbing, and difficult to stop watching; in its multifaceted storytelling about one toxic case in a small town, it offers a wide-ranging, intimate, and mercilessly honest view of human tragedy.
  58. A scabrous, profane and darkly funny satire.
  59. [It manages] to be extremely entertaining, packed with amusing details and highly relevant to today's politics.
  60. It’s sometimes horrifying and sometimes silly, and at times, Search Party can get a tiny bit precious with its own cleverness. But when it works, it’s an astounding and engaging journey through genre conventions that should be at odds with each other.
  61. A worthy and excellent new series that works as both a television drama and an interlocking array of engagements with some of the most thorny issues of our time. Shots Fired resists easy villains and simple answers, even as it knits its many pointed questions into an accessible narrative that is laudably brisk and generally efficient.
  62. Crashing may be a bit slight, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: It knows what it’s going for and more often than not, fulfills its modest ambitions in amusing and diverting ways.
  63. Granted, given much thought, the show's various conceits risk crumbling the way Dracula did when he was exposed to daylight. With a little patience and forgiveness, however, Being Human remains a bloody good time.
  64. Sleepless in America, more than most National Geographic fare, makes a pretty solid case for finding the time to watch, even if that requires staying up past one’s bedtime.
  65. I Just Want My Pants Back is easily the channel's best effort since plunging into the scripted business, a smart and funny look at a group adept at orchestrating hookups but with few genuine connections.
  66. Hunted doesn’t offer any rays of hope or notes of comfort. The film merely places its lens on a situation that, for those enduring it, must feel like a dystopian nightmare, and for those watching it, provides yet another disheartening glimpse of cruelty masquerading as righteousness.
  67. In a relatively short amount of time, A Good Job (a reference to a really serious fire) manages to be by turns touching and funny, capturing the camaraderie of firefighters--including the colorful hazing that’s part of hanging around in a firehouse all day--as well as the way danger and death become ever-present handmaidens of the work.
  68. Kitchen Nightmares is shockingly good storytelling and hilarious. This may be the most compelling show of the new season
  69. Breathless is a pretty near flawless condensation of soap-opera conventions into a delicious little package.
  70. Like plots on "Hustle," "24" and "The Shield," there's a bit of incredulousness that comes with each caper. But with persuasive writing, sharp visuals and editing, as well as a steady directorial hand, "Thief" is always convincing.
  71. Perhaps it is a little over-the-top to remind our audience of B-movie thrillers in the midst of what is otherwise a negotiation between several rich adults. But the lingering taste of fear makes The Arrangement into a dark, delicious fantasy, one that feels voyeuristic even when it’s telling a scripted story.
  72. The Walking Dead clearly appears bigger than any of its expendable parts, and unlike those zombies, has a whole lot of life left in it.
  73. Billions is shamelessly entertaining. Don’t come to it looking for an in-depth commentary on the stratification of American society or the pitfalls of late-stage capitalism. This is a generally well-crafted soap opera about rich people, one that crackles with energy and insider knowledge of its well-heeled territory and the narcissistic insiders who live there.
  74. TNT's take on the classic primetime serial is exactly as it should be: Texas-sized, frothy and unwilling to settle for a double-cross when a triple can be executed.
  75. At least within Ullman's cutting overview of America, in fact, it can be reported without reservation that the "State of the Union" is strong.
  76. While light on laugh-out-loud moments, this clever half-hour earns the gold in the category of "wry and bemused."
  77. Buoyed by a riveting supporting performance from Jon Voight, it’s a dense, highly organic world--at its best, playing like a present-day “Chinatown.” More often, it’s eminently entertaining, if not initially quite worthy of a spot alongside TV’s velvet-roped A-list.
  78. While the docu would have benefited from being fleshed out beyond its 40-minute running time, as is, it’s still an effective calling card for the animal-rights agenda.
  79. For anyone familiar with the history--or who even just saw the movie--a lot of this will feel familiar.... Yet even those interludes are played well enough to work in this context, and will certainly come as revelations. And there are several lump-in-the-throat moments in seeing loved ones have to endure watching a husband or father blast into the unknown.
  80. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is a droll, spirited, and disarmingly intimate documentary that now feels karmically timed.
  81. Based on two episodes, it’s premature to give the show an unqualified endorsement. But it does represent the kind of drama that should appeal to a sophisticated palate if the ongoing quality justifies first impressions.
  82. The League comes close to the goal of creating a TV show with "The Hangover"-type appeal.
  83. The first installment of the drama does a truly impressive job of establishing a mournful atmosphere, as it sketches out an array of characters worth following on what promises to be a very challenging journey.
  84. Girlfriends’ Guide is for the most part a pleasure, and unlike a lot of the network’s series, there’s nothing guilty about that.
  85. With the larger narrative diminished, what remains are the smaller moments. There Hall's terrific performance--full of sly wit and contradictions--elevates the show
  86. The cast has terrific chemistry, and the second season of the show ably builds on the strengths of the quite enjoyable first.
  87. What makes it work beyond the sitcom-ish sound of that, to the extent it does, is primarily the genial camaraderie between Cam and Reggie, and the genuine warmth among the characters, even when they’re sniping at each other. Give part of the credit to director Ken Whittingham, who brings a natural, unforced quality to those scenes.
  88. Toy Story That Time Forgot--which will be paired with the perennial “A Charlie Brown Christmas”--actually fulfills that time-honored tradition of delivering genuine family fare around the holidays.
  89. The series has settled into a nice groove thanks to the clever writing and strong interplay among the cast.
  90. The show's blessings, however, are more earthy - beginning with Hunter, who oozes anger, sexuality and irreverence, sometimes all at once. San Giacomo is perfectly cast as her friend and sounding board, and Johnson, Rippy and Woodbine all deliver solid support, with the jailhouse sequences among the show's best.
  91. At its best, what Homeland achieves better than most is tapping into not just the apprehensions raised by terrorism--and the sacrifices undertaken by those who combat it--but also the moral and political tradeoffs associated with that struggle.
  92. This technically superior project intriguingly mirrors territory the producers explored in tackling Baltimore's mean streets, and while Baghdad's avenues are even meaner, the producers' impeccable craftsmanship is roughly the same.
  93. The pulpy style and brutality (torture is one of Daredevil’s tools) clearly seek a higher sense of realism, which must be balanced against the notion of a blind superhero who can shimmy up walls and whose spectacularly hearing lets him to function, among other things, as a human lie detector. Helpfully, Cox brings the necessary mix of grit and Marvel-esque self-doubts to the dual role.
  94. Simple, low-key (read: cheap) and a great deal of fun, Penn & Teller: Fool Us manages to wed some of the pizzazz associated with old-fashioned variety shows with the peeking-behind-the-curtain quality of “Breaking the Magician’s Code.”
  95. No one will mistake this well-produced but inevitably dialogue-driven piece for pure cinema, but Leon and adapter Paris Qualles open up the play just enough to avoid the usual stage-to-screen claustrophobia.
  96. As written by Sam Esmail, this has the jittery feel of a British thriller, and an absurdist sense of entrenched interests vs. a weird insurgency: a conceit that vaguely recalls Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” While commercial prospects appear hazy, it’s hard to remember the last time USA put on anything more intriguing.

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