Variety's Scores

For 1,796 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 Breaking Bad: Season 3
Lowest review score: 10 Kings of South Beach: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 702
  2. Negative: 0 out of 702
702 tv reviews
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    When it's supposed to be funny it is funny. When it could be trite, it's still funny. When it might be poignant ... it's very funny. [19 Jul 1995]
    • Variety
  1. As with all Bochco series, the writing and intricacy of the characters sets apart Murder One. The show deals in shades of gray that ultimately may work to the series' detriment commercially but nevertheless are dramatically riveting. [19 Sept 1995]
    • Variety
  2. "Larry Sanders" remains a piece of small-screen art, a series whose wildly colorful characters and flawless execution make it the wittiest half-hour on TV. [12 Mar 1998]
    • Variety
  3. Simply put, there's no more unpredictable series, and its delicate handling of combustible ingredients will be admired and studied by writers for years to come.
  4. Those along for the ride since the beginning have rightly come to savor this as one of TV's premier hours --- a meticulously written, superbly acted program that demands undivided attention. [16 Sep 2004]
    • Variety
  5. When television history is written, little else will rival "The Wire," a series of such extraordinary depth and ambition that it is, perhaps inevitably, savored only by an appreciative few.
  6. It's difficult to single out any particular aspect of the show: It's just plain brilliant. [13 Jan 2000]
    • Variety
  7. "The Sopranos" retains the title of the most involving series on television and James Gandolfini continues to be a powerhouse of a performer. [2 Mar 2001]
    • Variety
  8. Once the narrative begins hitting its stride in the second episode, it's clear the program remains on a rarefied creative tier, tantalizingly mixing terrific performances with anything-can-happen edge.
  9. Either appropriately or ironically for a show about meth cookers, Bad is simply one of TV's great addictions.
  10. Not all "The Sopranos'" flights of fancy pan out... but it never fails to fascinate, creating a completely organic world in which it's easy to forget the art and artifice that go into realizing Chase's vision.
  11. FX’s frost-covered drama appears to have equaled its splendid predecessor, capturing the same off-kilter tone while actually enhancing the comedy quotient. If the first series deftly approximated the spirit of its movie namesake, this one works in a cheeky Quentin Tarantino vibe, with results as refreshing and bracing as the region’s abundant snow.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    There's lots of good stuff to recommend Homicide. Performances are uniformly strong, above normal level of series work. It's a class act; all techs are superior, including excellent photography by Wayne Ewing and editing by Jay Rabinowitz. [29 Jan 1993]
    • Variety
  12. Martin’s fantasy world, with its ruthless lust for power, is surely not for the faint of heart, and the sheer number of subplots invariably means that one or two start to sag. Such criticisms, however, amount to nitpicking on a show that operates at such a consistently high level, from the spectacular cast to the sweeping and diverse backdrops, consistently conjuring a summer-tentpole feel.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Never have lives of quiet desperation been so laugh-out-loud funny as in "The Office." [10 Oct 2003]
    • Variety
  13. Deadwood will never be everyone's cup of tea, but it stands as one of HBO's most fully realized dramas since "The Sopranos" and exhibits no signs of fading in the second leg of its run. [3 Mar 2005, p.4]
    • Variety
  14. Good as "Curb" has been, this 10-episode season should be the year it gets recognized as HBO's finest comedy. [11 Sep 2002]
    • Variety
  15. Inevitably, not everything works, including some of the material devoted to Louie’s interactions with his young daughters, as he seeks to balance his standup career and parental duties. More often, though, the show is wonderfully absurd.
  16. Those who wade through the slow-going first three or four hours of this stately production will be richly rewarded by the engrossing final four.
  17. "The Larry Sanders Show" returns for another season with a full barrel, taking exact aim at backstage eccentricities, connivances and weaknesses. [20 Jun 1994]
    • Variety
  18. This hour finds the cast in fine form, but the most interesting crumb to emerge might be Weiner's apparent rumination on the program's success and--speaking through his protagonist--his own heightened profile since the series took off.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Everything goes (nudity, language, violence), but that's just the beginning; one-upping any overhyped "NYPD Blue"-like controversy over whether or not it's kosher to show someone's backside on TV, it's also a tour de force of assorted emotions, layered relationships and raw dialogue. [12 Mar 2002, p.4]
    • Variety
  19. The Americans picks up pretty deftly from where last season’s cliffhanger left off, while advancing that storyline at a relatively slow pace.
  20. Series creator Ray McKinnon manages to incorporate various elements associated with serialized drama into the narrative (such as the local sheriff, played by J.D. Evermore, investigating the beating), while infusing the show with poetic qualities, aided immeasurably by Young’s exquisite, tightly coiled performance.
  21. 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.
  22. Not every beat works, but after watching an hour it was hard not to stick with The Returned for the full ride.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The show's other standout is Bess Armstrong, as Angela's loving, conflicted mother, Patty. She is equally compelling and convincing as a woman still so in touch with her youthful idealism and values that she can't believe she's also a disapproving mother. [23 Aug 1994]
    • Variety
  23. Transparent takes an idea that feels pretty well played out--from “Parenthood” to “Brothers & Sisters”--and invigorates it not through a gimmick but rather via strong writing and performances.
  24. Featuring wild swings in tone, Louis C.K.’s deeply personal, frequently melancholy vision of life opens with what amounts to a mini-masterpiece of awkwardness, then proceeds to deal with his ongoing peculiar romance, a troubled friend and finally an unexpected encounter that’s both raw and disturbing. Almost nothing else on TV--certainly in half-hour form--rivals the particularity of C.K.’s approach.
  25. There are so many fine performances here it’s difficult to single out just a few.... Benioff and Weiss have become inordinately adept at juggling an almost dizzying assortment of plots, but the manner in which those narratives intersect this time around has only enriched the show.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The show's supporting cast assists tremendously in convincing viewers that they are watching behind-the-scenes wranglings at a well-known talkshow, and the creative decision to delve more into Sanders' off-screen life could be a wise one to help expand the show's appeal. [2 Jun 1993]
    • Variety
  26. Dev may be drifting a bit, but Master of None sets exceptionally ambitious goals for itself--and for the most part, it nails them.
  27. In short, coming off the first season's solid ratings, Justified pretty much looks like a home run for FX, which has been getting by lately on singles and doubles.
  28. While the show’s payoff is likely to strike many as strained and unsatisfying, as well as disturbing, its raison d’etre is as much about the atmospherics and the getting there, with the twists trumping the actual whodunit.
  29. Granted, parts of the series feel like a rehash of "March of the Penguins," but there's enough jaw-dropping footage in this seven-part undertaking--including one installment devoted strictly to how the footage was captured--that nobody with even vague interest in the subject matter should be left feeling cold.
  30. Sherlock weds the old and new in much the way Holmes solves his cases--making a complicated process look almost effortless.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's a clever melding of real-life and on-camera stuff that's down and dirty and diabolic in its intent. ... An absolute gem. [14 Aug 1992]
    • Variety
  31. At its best, it’s big, bloody and downright glorious.
  32. From virtually any angle, though, Downton Abbey is an almost peerless piece of real estate.
  33. Always fun, the first two hours of the FX drama's fourth season are also meandering, introducing several new players, but as yet failing to betray much about how or when they'll intersect. Fortunately, star Timothy Olyphant by himself remains ample reason to tune in.
  34. Despair and hopelessness form the intersection at which Charles Dutton studies a drug-addled world that's painfully real and overwhelming. [17 Apr 2000, p.37]
    • Variety
  35. HBO has the ingredients for a series that puts nearly every other genre offering to shame.
  36. Almost everyone speaks in the same rat-a-tat voice, which, as some discovered with Aaron Sorkin on “The Newsroom,” can begin to yield diminishing returns. The series also remains a bit too precious in sidestepping issues of partisanship, a conceit that has grown somewhat more tolerable over time. For all that, the Emmy-winning Louis-Dreyfus remains an inordinately gifted comedic actress.
  37. Rectify has established itself as a trip worth taking, and for a discriminating few, at least, the protagonist’s slow road to redemption remains an utterly absorbing one.
  38. The new season’s highlights feel more scattershot, and the plot offers less urgency.
  39. The CBS drama continues to provide evidence that quality isn’t necessarily defined by blood, guts or exposed flesh. All it really takes is brains--and in this case, you don’t even have to eat them.
  40. The show keeps delivering the kind of mind-expanding dramatic highs that ought to require a prescription.
  41. Boomtown, which has a debt to "Law & Order's" nose-to-the-grindstone subtlety, could represent a bold move in episodic TV.
  42. he come-on of the title notwithstanding very little about that is groundbreaking, or even surprising. But it is, almost without exception, highly watchable and entertaining.
  43. 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.
  44. Although the program isn’t as showy or heralded as the network’s other dramas, its sixth-season start reinforces a sense that Justified will be sorely missed when it rides into the sunset.
  45. Far from running out of tricks, the fifth season of "24" opens with a bang, incorporating an element of mystery that promises to be more satisfying than the somewhat disappointing fourth day in Jack Bauer's very busy life.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    With faith in its own inspired goofiness, the net's newest Sunday entry reinvents what works --- and mocks what doesn't --- within the confines of the undernourished sitcom world. Critics and viewers clamoring for something unique since the sesh began back in August finally have something to champion ... and boy, is it funny.
    • Variety
  46. Each time-lapse introduces more wrinkles in the show's world, but the premiere offers a sketchy road map of what's to come, and won't expand Men's footprint beyond its solid arthouse niche.
  47. Based on the seven episodes previewed, it's every bit as cynical, riveting and brilliant as the four flights that preceded it--a searing look at the decay of a major American city that puts most of what's on television to shame.
  48. It could be a "Wonder Years" for a new generation.
  49. The show succeeds, to the extent it does, thanks to the braininess of its characters, Mikkelson’s positively reptilian approach to Lecter--taking a character with which the audience is so familiar and making it his own--and the clever use of a bracing season-opening sequence that frames essentially everything to come as an extended flashback.
  50. Series creator Joe Weisberg--who wrote the Thomas Schlamme-directed season premiere along with Joel Fields--and company have done about as well as is possible in keeping the plates spinning while adding new ones to the act. Even so, it’s hard to escape a sense that if this series runs much beyond a second season, it’s less about serving up art than it is about bowing to the needs of old-fashioned capitalism.
  51. Expectations were certainly sky-high for Boardwalk, but the producers have risen to meet them--in a series that grows richer, deeper and more absorbing with each of the six episodes previewed.
  52. For those who have studied the Roosevelts, many of the stories will be familiar. But the beauty of the writing (“No other American family has ever touched so many lives”) and eye-opening video nevertheless make much of this feel fresh.
  53. Mostly, the show deserves to do well because it’s so bloody good--smart, whimsical and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, finding fresh, distinctive avenues into this venerable character, even with multiple incarnations currently in circulation.
  54. The reigning Emmy comedy champ debuts its second season with an episode that may well be its funniest... TV bar's for comedy has been raised again. [5 Nov 2004, p.4]
    • Variety
  55. Captivating from its first minute forward, "24" is the rare example of a television pilot that hits every mark with an aura of excitement and precision, a stellar cast that exudes personality and personal history, and direction that is as taut as it gets. [2 Nov 2001]
    • Variety
  56. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" retains its place as the funniest of the funny on television today. [5 Jan 2004]
    • Variety
  57. Despite mining what appears to be a played-out lode (yet another showbiz-insider comedy, complete with self-effacing celebrity cameos), the pair find hearty laughs in discomfort, elicit riotous turns from their guest stars and even manage a touch of pathos in the travails of the show's hapless hero.
  58. If you're not enamored of jazz, Treme's extended musical interludes will play like something of a slog, and keeping track of the disparate stories is nettlesome at first. Fortunately, the talent on display--particularly Goodman, Alexander, and "Wire" alums Pierce (a New Orleans native) and Peters--is such that watching them read the phone book would be superior to much of what's on TV.
  59. As with any great series, Mad Men is becoming richer as these plot strands grow, establishing an engrossing serialized life beyond the hip, reverberating cultural references that demonstrate the smoking-drinking-closeted '60s aren't necessarily "good ol' days" to be mourned, despite the cheery Norman Rockwell image that cultural conservatives proffer.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Wonderfully irreverent. [6 Jan 2000]
    • Variety
  60. Without giving anything away, the guest cast is unusually strong, offering the prospect of fertile subplots going forward, while some of the regulars don’t figure prominently at first--again, pretty par for the course.
  61. From these visits spin every Soprano tale --- some morose, some wickedly funny, all uncommonly personal --- and its distinctive tone will capture a patient audience looking for an intelligent episodic that isn't sex and shoot-'em-ups. [4 Jan 1999, p.67]
    • Variety
  62. Foremost, the series operates on a number of levels, beginning with its effortless, nostalgic cool and subtle re-litigation of the culture wars -- revealing how the pre-Vietnam era wasn't always so grand for women and minorities. Those tiers smartly coexist with big-business shenanigans and sudsy family drama--an intoxicating stew for demanding viewers, but one likely forever destined to blunt the show's broad mainstream appeal.
  63. 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.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Through the radiant Russell, the show astutely transmits the conflicting blend of giddy anticipation and neurotic dread that defines the early college experience...If this is a "My So-Called Life" knockoff, then Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have obviously done their homework. All glorified clones should be so fresh and enchanting. [28 Sept 1998, p.2]
    • Variety
  64. A member of the top of the class of the fall season. Offering more comedy than drama, the show is quirky, with feel-good sentiments lingering beneath clever writing. [6 Oct 2000, p.24]
    • Variety
    • 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.
  65. If "Tiny Furniture" filmmaker Lena Dunham's series is in places too mannered, it's also fresh, honest and raw.
  66. The storytelling is spare, with few of the by-now customary compromises to reality-TV (or dramatic expectations weaned on "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy"), other than the oncamera interviews and musical flourishes that close each hour.
  67. The innovative blend of form, mood and tone in Jane the Virgin continues to be an accomplishment of the highest order. It is envisioned, edited and curated with great deftness and economy, and the fact that it is so entertaining and accessible should not preclude it from being at the center of conversations about the best the medium has to offer.
  68. Rich and absorbing, this eight-part drama quickly vaults into elite company, offering a singular voice that’s unlike almost anything else on TV.
  69. There have been many great war films, and any number that have vividly evoked the tension, tragedy and terror of battle. But due to the exceptional amount of time lavished on this story, the fluid manner in which men come and go and the drastic changes that mark them, it's doubtful that any film or TV venture has ever come close to "Brothers" in presenting "What Men Went Through" over the long haul. [4 Sept 2001, p.6]
    • Variety
  70. Veep remains pretty well defined by its protagonist’s inherent plight: noteworthy, yes, but still a significant step away from true greatness.
  71. What the production most sorely lacks, though, is a strong sense of cohesion, which often makes the hours play more like loosely assembled snapshots of the war without a compelling hook to pull the audience along. Nor do any of the key performers really distinguish themselves, dwarfed as they are by the general sense of pageantry--the sound and fury--that usually surrounds them.
  72. Silicon Valley has impressively built into its storyline a real-life development that struck the show, and come away not only unbowed but with perhaps a renewed sense of vigor.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Sutter, a writer and producer on "The Shield," fully understands the power of violence in getting a point across, yet the premiere's closing sequence runs a very fine line between demonstrating the neo-Nazis' brutality and a gratuitous display.
  73. [It manages] to be extremely entertaining, packed with amusing details and highly relevant to today's politics.
  74. It’s a showcase for Tyson.
  75. Anchored by Mark Rylance’s towering central performance, Wolf Hall is a very quiet “Masterpiece.”
  76. 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."
  77. Standing head and shoulders above this fall's other seedlings.
  78. While enthusiasts of the genre might warm to the idea of an open-ended mystery, it's suspect how well the show will hold up without a more concrete sense as to what's really happening, barring Gilligan and the Skipper showing up to whisk them away.
  79. For Leary fans, it's a treat to have him back on the air in a smartly drawn, non-PC drama with a heavy comedic element.
  80. While Masters of Sex might not be a great show as yet, viewed strictly in terms of giving consumers something worth paying for--or at least an experience they couldn’t receive in quite the same way in many other places--it’s the equivalent of a master class in pay-TV development.
  81. Like its vague title, Men possesses a certain charm that's not always easy to characterize, but is, thankfully, easy to watch. And based on season two, the show, at least, is aging quite gracefully.
  82. Michael C. Hall's portrayal of the title character remains a towering achievement, one that eclipses the show's other shortcomings and rough patches.
  83. Directed by Adam Bernstein, the 90-minute premiere is particularly taut and effective, with three subsequent episodes slightly less so; nevertheless, there’s enough going on (indeed, almost too much) and such a weird string of dominos that it’s hard not to imagine those sampling the opener won’t want to see things through to the finish.
  84. Clearly, there are few more durable figures in fiction, but capturing the fundamental appeal of Holmes is quite another matter. And on that level, Sherlock cannily cracks the case.
  85. Cast is uniformly sound and sufficiently distinct without forcing oddballs into the mix. Show's strength in the pilot is its reliance on the ensemble over displaying individual talents but it might well have two secret weapons. One's Rogen, who plays the cool cat who's easily tripped up and has to work on regaining his composure; and Keena, who appears to have a good sense of how to play simple emotions convincingly and might well be on to bigger things. [25 Sept 2001, p.17]
    • Variety
  86. It builds on last year’s strengths capably in season two. The Knick has what tamer period dramas lack: A spark of life and sense of danger.
  87. A timely, nuanced look at class and race through the prism of events that transpired more than a quarter-century ago, Show Me a Hero is a sobering, spare and meticulously crafted HBO miniseries.... The performances are uniformly strong, although Isaac’s is particularly interesting as almost a primer on the psychology of politics, and how much Wasicsko’s identity is derived from his desperate thirst for validation from voters.
  88. Crisp and tense, this Sci Fi Channel staple looks destined to make a headlong plunge toward the finish line in pursuit of that elusive place called Earth.

Top Trailers