Wall Street Journal's Scores

For 617 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 63% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 34% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 3.8 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 69
Highest review score: 100 Vinyl: Season 1
Lowest review score: 10 Prime Suspect: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 439
  2. Negative: 0 out of 439
439 tv reviews
  1. Television's best drama series is, in short, back with all that was delectable about season one on vivid display again-first-class writing, sterling performances, rocketing suspense.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    What Mr. Lynch does so well is to imbue something as ordinary as small-town America with an inchoate threat, an ax waiting to fall. In short, Twin Peaks is creepy... After two episodes, Twin Peaks is riveting. And it's so cool, it's chilly.
    • Wall Street Journal
  2. This season's "Sopranos" is quite simply dazzling in its inventiveness, its reach, and one other aspect -- its capacity to pound audiences emotionally as the series has never before done.
  3. [The cameras'] sophistication and that of their operators are able to capture animals, their behavior and their habitats with an intimacy previously unimaginable, and breathtaking. With all due respect, Planet Earth II leaves its ancestor in the dust. And seas. And mountains. And jungles.
  4. A season startling in its intensity and its endless probing intelligence--not to mention the raw suspense that hangs over every moment of every scene.... There is nothing that is the equal of The Americans on TV screens now.
  5. In this superbly conceived series, the stakes grow higher, the desperation for victory ever deeper.
  6. The problem with Hulu’s Handmaid is that nothing is dreadful enough. ... Ms. Moss’s Offred comments regularly on her condition with outraged, silent vulgarities, and seems appalled by rituals and outrages that had become routine in the book. ... But the original Offred was almost too terrorized to imagine defiance, much less exercise it. And such calibrated portraiture helped make the novel click.
  7. Perhaps the most glorious Masterpiece Theater of all time.
  8. The new season returns with a full roster of the vivid characters who have distinguished the series from the outset, and in ways more important than the cultural detail for which Mad Men has been rightly praised. They're smart, they're self-seeking, they're recognizably human.
  9. The Americans returns for a third season packed with tension, raw-nerve melodrama and enough levels of ambiguity, moral and psychological, to satisfy the most gluttonous appetite for the stuff. With, in short, all that has distinguished this series from its beginning.
  10. Once you watch the first episode, it's going to be hard standing the wait for the next.
  11. A superbly stylish and scary French drama with no equal in its genre.
  12. As a murder mystery, Broadchurch is satisfyingly complex (even if the accents may take some getting used to). As an exploration of grief it is even better, with Ms. Whittaker and Ms. Colman pointing the way. But in its long, slow unfolding Broadchurch is most magnificent in another sense--as an elegy for the happy innocence of ignorance.
  13. Intricate plots (many updated versions of old favorites), fast pacing and smart, witty writing make Sherlock one of the most dazzling confections on TV.
  14. The subjects of this series, seen in their habitats--a massive Nile crocodile, which gets to eat once a year, lying in wait for herds of wildebeests to come by; a hungry polar bear, stalking seals while struggling in the melting ice--have all the impact of characters whose moments on stage are brief but not easily forgotten. An effect largely due to the talent and enterprise of the photographic team for this endlessly compelling work.
  15. The tapestry of characters in George R.R. Martin's fantasy kingdom has grown so huge now that only the most avid fan can hope to identify them all, let alone keep track of the family ties, alliances and enmities which make this quasimedieval world so dangerous to nearly everyone in it.
  16. There is no mystery about the potency of this series, slathered in wit, powered by storytelling of a high order.
  17. If the series were only about the doe-eyed and inscrutable Naz, it would be interesting enough. But it is bursting with other characters and heart-ripping portraits and morality playlets with a life of their own. The main attraction is the disheveled lawyer Jack Stone (John Turturro, in a mind-blowing performance).
  18. Each week the story unfolds like a tapestry, its intricate stitches slowly creating not just a scene but a whole world. It's a world to get lost in, but not always easy to endure.
  19. The people of Orange offer some of the best times, and company, to be found on TV.
  20. All of which adds up to drama--which includes a fine turn by Bill Murray--of a notably high order.
  21. It is the small things that can elevate Mad Men above the level of ambitious soap opera.
  22. Local stories can have more poetry than grand ones; that is the genius of The Wire. It's not what happens to the characters, or the societal trends the script explores, that matter so much as the authentic and precise way in which events are represented.
  23. What makes it uniquely entertaining are Mr. Rock's and co-creator Ali LeRoi's humorous insights into the terrors of adolescence and their tart observations about harsh realities of the wider world.
  24. The new season--suspenseful as ever, more brutal in its violence, perhaps, and more expansive in its reach into history--easily upholds the standard of the first.
  25. The PBS series is more marvelous, and thrilling, than ever.
  26. A tartly written number, (by Paul Feig) that is amusing and frequently hard-eyed in its look back at certain not so dear old school days. [27 Sept 1999, p.A32]
    • Wall Street Journal
  27. It is even more excruciating -- which in this case means better -- than last year's.
  28. The best parts of Treme are breathtaking. And then it exceeds that.
  29. All are reintroduced in a premiere episode that lumbers along, overpopulated, burdened by the weight of its ambitions, flattened by misbegotten detours--but one, nevertheless, that surges to life in the end.
  30. While the documentary doesn't view the day through rose-colored glasses, it lets us approach that time in a new, less painful way.
  31. This is Southland, where the emotional underpinnings of the main characters give the show its outstanding grace and depth.
  32. The narrative is so intense and the details are so rich that you can forget to breathe.
  33. The drama unfolds in a series of flashbacks separated by many years. Hart and Cohle, no longer young, end up reporting on the past in separate interviews—a formula carried off with subtlety and high intelligence, like everything else in this detective story.
  34. The cast--including Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy and Regina King--is perfection. No ensemble of actors on television is more stunning or exciting to watch.
  35. Stunning in a different way are the three Marines at the center of the series. In their true stories and, more importantly, their individual responses to the demands of warfare, we find a perfect trinity of action, emotion and intellect.
  36. Taken together there is in these 5 1/2 hours, breathtaking in their scope and detail, nothing approaching a dull moment.
  37. It takes some while before the immensity of the history it covers dawns on a viewer of this extraordinary series, so deftly is that history--the reign of Henry VIII (Damian Lewis), Henry’s court, the dawn of the Protestant Reformation in England--woven into drama here.
  38. For their part, Messrs. Levitan and Lloyd set their ambitious sights on a rare kind of comedy, and they have, it appears, found the gold.
  39. As charming as all that is amid the macabre, Pushing Daisies is a show that only a grown-up can fully enjoy.
  40. It was impossible to imagine anything like the gripping power of Life According to Sam.... Not long into the film, it becomes difficult to look at anyone but Sam--who has by sheer force of his intelligence, his unmistakable assurance, become a magnetic presence.
  41. Although the first few episodes can be slow going and are inert in spots, the series finds a rhythm by episode four, as it develops characters and side themes to remind us just how dark those dark ages were.
  42. The question of whether Malvo is a Satan or some kind of avenging angel is what helps elevate Fargo above the realm of merely clever black comedy.
  43. The stories are complex and contemporary, with references to a remembered past. But it's easy to forget the past--the present Sherlock, droll yet naive, is so wonderfully weird.
  44. Beautiful, painful, almost lovingly languid but never, ever boring.
  45. It would be grim if it were not for the poetry itself, and Mr. Hollander’s soothing approximation of the way Thomas declaimed it on recordings he left behind.
  46. One welcome aspect of all this is that some of the plot threads which became so distracting last season, threatening to tip Big Love into crazy-flatulent "L.A. Law" territory, seem to be gone. There is more than enough left, along with consistently brilliant acting all over, to keep the show as mesmerizing as it ever was.
  47. A hard-charging, unfailingly suspenseful mystery whose tonnage of side dramas and veritable school of red herrings don’t, miraculously enough, undermine its strength. Though it is, on occasion, a close call.
  48. Ms. Fisher’s often naked honesty on the page and in person, made her beloved to her many fans, as the flow of tributes proved last week. Her mother, conversely, represented an old-style “show must go on” tenacity that got her through the Fisher-Taylor scandal with poise and class, and perhaps made her beloved to another kind of fan. Both camps will find much to move them in Bright Lights, especially the profound bond between its subjects and the obstacles that were overcome to make it last.
  49. The vibrant brew of upstairs-downstairs relationships is more savory now, the characters more complicated.
  50. In a film directed by Ryan Murphy and with strong performances, including those by Mr. Ruffalo, Ms. Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Alfred Molina, Mr. Mantello's anguished lament ["...can't you see how important it is for us to love openly...without guilt?"] may be the most haunting.
  51. The script by Sarah Treem, the show’s co-creator with Hagai Levi, can be murky. Then again, Noah and Alison are telling their stories to a detective, apparently in the aftermath of a major event or crime. It will be a jaded viewer indeed who can resist coming back for more after the first episode ends.
  52. "House of Cards" is not without its flaws -- the occasionally heavy dribblings of symbolism, for instance, as exemplified by the regular appearance of gnawing rats. We could have figured out, without the rats, that this is black comedy. The last episode, further, is so written as to produce an Urquhart of considerably flattened character. By this time, however, it has been a superb ride for so long that no one will care. [25 Mar 1991]
    • Wall Street Journal
  53. Its vivid, cliché-free writing has always been In Treatment's singular strength. That's even truer in its riveting new season--no small accomplishment.
  54. Despite the music in James Lapine's documentary, Six By Sondheim, it is archival clips of Mr. Sondheim describing how he writes that make the film a treasure.
  55. Whether you come away seeing Scientology as a cult that ensnares vulnerable people or as a faith of self-empowerment, the film leaves a terrible taste of too much information. This must be its point, but take heed just the same.
  56. What distinguishes this drama from countless mysteries about missing young women gone to terrifying deaths is the unrelenting focus, complex and haunting, on the family left behind. A riveting tale with a hunt for the killer that's no less compelling.
  57. Watching Messrs. Hopkins and McKellen in the full expression of their powers--in a TV setting but stagelike enough to be a stellar showcase--is a treat as good as the play itself.
  58. Silicon Valley, the latest creation of Mike Judge ("Office Space," "King of the Hill"), gets off to a rough start Sunday night; one might say it tries too hard. But it's certainly worth the 30-minute expenditure, because well before Episode 5 it's in a comedic groove and seems destined to run beyond the eight-week run HBO currently has planned.
  59. Downton has returned with all its powers intact, not least its power to mesmerize its armies of devoted fans.
  60. It consistently pokes fun at our culture and foibles in ways that are clever and sometimes sharp but never mean.
  61. This is a more intimate series, with extended looks at the personal relationships of the characters (the connection between Kizzy and her master’s niece, who grew up together, is just one example). It’s also a gorier series—yes, showing all the abuse put to slaves, but also showing many of the perpetrators of that violence getting their comeuppance. Added to flashbacks and spiritually charged dreams, this lends the show an occasional shade of magical realism.
  62. It's not often that television with a scope so novelistic--so ambitious--comes along, and not often, either, that it yields drama so sterling.
  63. Season three's In Treatment [scripts are] entirely original. That may partly account for the so-far stagey quality of the episodes involving Jesse (Dane DeHaan), a 16-year-old gay male adoptee confronting a birth-mother problem....There is, otherwise, little that can detract from this series now roaring back with its old miraculous suspense and flinty intelligence.
  64. Behind the Candelabra, a snapshot from the last decade of the pianist and showman Liberace, is sublimely entertaining.
  65. For all its emotional agony and slow pacing at times, Happy Valley is always moving forward and the fifth episode explodes off the screen.
  66. As painful as it is to see a fallen dog's body draped in the American flag, what Glory Dogs also does is deepen our appreciation for the servicemen who train them.
  67. Although the film ends on an odd note that seems to endorse near-subsistence farming as the only moral and sustainable form of agriculture, it makes an important record of a receding era.
  68. The series couldn't have arrived at a more timely moment for such subject matter, but there's no point looking for even-handedness or a lack thereof in a work that offers only--give or take a caustic political observation or two--exhilarating drama.
  69. What makes The Walking Dead so much more than a horror show is that it plays with theatrical grandeur, on a canvas that feels real, looks cinematic and has an orchestral score to match. For all its set pieces, however, Walking is most breathtaking in its small moments, in which the pain and glory of being human are conveyed with only the flick of a filmmaking wrist.
  70. Marc still has all the bite he did in the past, still doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and still neurotically struggles with pride, masculinity and maturity; all this tinged with a new sadness that comes after a fall from success. For those who don’t know the show but appreciate comedy that doesn’t shy away from reality’s occasional harshness, add Maron to your watchlist.
  71. Rectify is an ambitious and eloquent series, vivid in its portraiture of family and local citizens who don't know quite what to make of Daniel (a proclivity the film seems to share)--assurance enough of an engrossing six hours.
  72. The Night Manager is a treat. ... For all its locations, the storytelling canvas is somehow small. And there are some ludicrous plot holes and twists which nudge the The Night Manager in a campy Bond direction. But it never strays near comedy, which makes the six episodes pretty much a nonstop fear-fest.
  73. For all the campy craziness of Feud its message is one about the wrong people being mad at each other--a formulation with bottomless appeal and no end of examples.
  74. Director Liz Garbus conveys much of the excitement and turmoil surrounding the subject of her documentary, Bobby Fischer Against the World.
  75. We’re clearly meant to see the duke as a wastrel with heart. It doesn’t quite come off--Mr. Jennings is far too convincing as an empty-hearted scoundrel--but it’s a minor flaw in this superbly sustained work.
  76. Mr. Gervais has in no way lost his touch.
  77. This three-hour production, starring most of the cast of the 2004 Broadway revival, flies by with lightning speed--and that cast led by Ms. Rashad, superbly authoritative, impossibly attractive as Lena, is no small part of the reason. Ms. McDonald is heartbreaking as Ruth, desperate to understand her husband's descent into misery, and Mr. Combs, who portrays that husband, delivers a sterling performance.
  78. Impressive... Ms. Mirren leaves her authoritative stamp on the role of Elizabeth.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    It's genuinely hilarious and smartly written (Mike O'Malley), its observations are keen, its atmosphere warm but with a saving flinty undertone. Add to that a preening vulgarity that shows touching evidence of restraint.
  79. Five Came Back aspires to the grandness of a ’40s Hollywood production, with its star lineup, Ms. Streep’s narration, the kind of period animation that adorned Capra’s epic “Why We Fight” and Thomas Newman’s heroic music--which is a bit, shall we say, insistent. But overall, the series is much like its story: mythic, adventurous, romantic. And real.
  80. Wry, smart, culturally immediate, it takes great delight, on the one hand, in skewering that vaunted sociological/real-estate phenomenon one might call Insufferable Brooklyn. On the other, it consistently mines laughs and melancholy out of a smattering of sympathetic characters drawn from the ranks of the self-absorbed, the newly arrived, the mendacious and the medicated.
  81. This immensely absorbing drama is worth any trouble it takes to catch up with its singular pleasures.
  82. It is not very often that a TV series invents a new look, or even a new genre. After only two weeks on the air, it may be too soon to gush that way about FX's new drama Justified, but this is one cool show.
  83. Vide Shakespeare and all the other roles, Mr. Branagh has never been better cast.
  84. It's best to get quickly past the confused and shapeless first episode and on to the rest, where the characters become individualized.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    The exceptional writing and pitch-perfect acting of Southland is not to be missed.
  85. Some of this can be hard going. Even viewers racked by curiosity about the life, loves and early adventures of Gloria Vanderbilt--an audience that may not be as great in number as might be imagined--would have trouble maintaining their fascination while watching prolonged scenes like the one in which Ms. Vanderbilt and son trudge around poking into piles of old belongings in storage. ... The film, directed by Liz Garbus, is alive with color.
  86. This hour [is] packed with Mr. Brooks at his most endearing.
  87. There is scarcely a central figure in American film, whether Cecil B. DeMille, Darryl Zanuck, Frank Capra, William Wyler, Orson Welles or a legendary star--that list is far too long to recite--who doesn't come to life here, in fresh perspective. It's entertainment for grown-ups all right, and you won't find that at the multiplex.
  88. All good stuff, plus a brief but powerful moment at the end that will leave longtime "Morse" fans in an agony of nostalgia
  89. It is neither a cheap thrill or too painful to watch these lost souls being drilled in first impressions.
  90. The unit's work was top secret, its members' experiences, recounted in this film, fascinating above all for what they tell about the determined inventiveness, the all-out ambition to try everything, characteristic of that war effort.
  91. The production has a satisfyingly brooding, ominous look and it's possible to see the basic appeal for role-players and other fans of a realm that provides a limitless playing field for their own imaginations. Thrones also has wolf pups, which is always cool. But then we're back to the familiar favorites of the infantile.
  92. The performances by the likes of Mr. Biggs, Ms. Mulgrew and, especially, Ms. Schilling are so convincing, and the dialogue so sharp, that none of this feels like prurience for its own sake.
  93. [A] splendidly written work whose surprise ending is the kind worth waiting for.
  94. The good stuff: To the music that nobody can take down or chip away at. To the energy and excitement and drama of a James Brown performance, from the footwork and the sweat to the drama of the moment when Brown, apparently near death from exertion, was draped with a cape and lead shuffling slowly offstage until, UNH! he would turn around, spring back to the microphone and the whole frenzy would begin again.
  95. It's clear that all that has made "24" so huge and deserved a success is on display again in these first smashing episodes.
  96. It's quickly clear that this skillfully sustained, sharply plotted series is a fighter saga you'll want to follow to the final bell.
  97. The family is Cuban-American. The single mom, Penelope (the excellent Justina Machado of “Six Feet Under”), is ex-military. Hispanic culture is one of the show’s founts of humor--a painful one, in the case of Rita Moreno’s live-in grandma, Lydia. Otherwise, the show is recycled Norman Lear.

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