TV.com's Network Power Rankings, Early May 2013: Game of Thrones and Mad Men Make It Hard to Topple HBO and AMC

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Obviously Robb = HBO and Karstark = everybody else. 

Happy May, boys and girls, and welcome back to TV.com's Network Power Rankings, the only power rankings on the internet that use real science and stuff. I'm here to rank and discuss recent network buzz, goings-on, and programming news. As always, the formula: Using a complicated methodology including ratings (Nielsen overnights, DVR numbers), business matters (pilot orders, scheduling, personnel decisions), buzz (social media, "viral" moments, other goodwill), and quality (good shows, episodes), I evaluate the performance of an ever-changing variety of networks based on what they've been up to recently.

Last time, cable powers HBO and AMC duked it out at the top of the rankings. This time, however, there a number of little things happening. We're even closer to the broadcast networks' Upfronts, which means more renewals and cancellations are trickling in, as are new-show pick-ups. Meanwhile, cable channels are hosting their Upfront presentations intermittently. And we're also closer to finale time, which means big cliffhangers, hook-ups, and deaths.

Oh, and I considered putting CNN at the top of the list simply for its unfortunate coverage in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attacks, but it's probably for the best if we just suppress some of the things that happened during those strained hours of live coverage, right?

1. HBO (previous rank: 1)

Hard to knock HBO out of the top spot. In its third season, Game of Thrones has grown into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Episode 4 set a viewership record, and then Episode 5 topped it. (GoT continues to do well on social media, of course.) Even better news is that the series' ratings triumphs are helping Veep garner all-time numbers as well. I'd never have guessed that those two series would fit together particularly well, but hey, it's working enough for HBO to give Veep a Season 3 renewal

In other cool HBO news, the network is working with Guillermo del Toro to bring an adaptation of the Japanese manga Monster to life. HBO develops a lot of projects that never see the light of day, but you have to think that the success of Game of Thrones is at least making them think about appealing to vastly different audiences. HBO is also shepherding a Sarah Silverman comedy special, which is something that some people out there care about, as well as a Frank Sinatra doc, which is hopefully something a few more people care about.

Oh, but if you're still thinking you might one-day grab HBO GO access without a cable subscription? Think again, apparently.

2. AMC (previous rank: 2)

Again, despite a lot of fascinating things happening in the industry right now, it's difficult to push AMC down much further than the number-two spot. Mad Men's sixth season is more divisive than usual (or maybe it always seems that way at the beginning of each run), but I hope we can agree that A.) Stan's beard is the best thing about television this spring, and B.) Sunday's episode was a true delight. It was nice to see the series force characters to engage with the real-world terrors and traumas happening around them, and the results weren't particularly hammy. The ratings are fine, and the internet chatter is as good as ever.

But the power rankings must pay attention to more than just one show. AMC just ordered yet another pilot, this one from Brotherhood creator Blake Masters. Line of Sight is a sci-fi thriller involving governmental conspiracies and probably aliens, so go ahead and get your "watered-down X-Files" epithets ready. Also, can I admit something right here, right now? The trailer for The Killing's third season? It looks kind of awesome. Sarsgaard! I'm back in. Until it's terrible again by Episode 3.

3. Sundance Channel (previous rank: N/A)

What a move from true obscurity to near the top of the internet's most successful power rankings! More seriously, Sundance deserves this. I'm still catching up on Top of the Lake, but that and Rectify make quite the one-two punch, particularly for a network's first two original drama offerings. Although Rectify has only been on for a few weeks, Sundance has given it the go-ahead for a second season. The ratings surely aren't big, but AMC Networks made a smart decision by airing Rectify after Mad Men on AMC. That will bring more eyes to the series, even if it doesn't immediately or necessarily bring more eyes to Sundance. 

Point is: If you go from absolutely zero buzz or audience awareness to part of the larger conversation in like 4-6 weeks, you deserve the big push to the top of the power rankings.

4. Comedy Central (previous rank: N/A)

This is another one that commenters suggested I take a deeper look at and you were right. OKAY, YOU WERE RIGHT. The Futurama cancellation was a bit of a bummer, but the batch of new comedies CC aired this winter/spring went over mostly well with viewers, as well as with the all-important Tim Surette. Nathan For You is especially buzzworthy; I've had a few people recommend it to me on Twitter, plus a number of people I know IRL (ew) have mentioned it. Good news for fans of both Nathan and The Jeselink Offensive is that Comedy Central recently gave them both second-season orders. So, more funny white dudes on Comedy Central.

Speaking of that: Comedy Central also announced Chris Hardwick's 48th television project, this one a late-night talk show (no way, really?) to air after The Colbert Report, and be run by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant. I'm really happy for Hardwick, he desperately needed a job. 

And even more funny white guy stuff: John Oliver's stint at the head of The Daily Show begins on June 10. That should be very interesting/entertaining. Jon Stewart and the team have done a magnificent job over the last few weeks, but I'm pretty confident that Oliver will do just fine in the anchor's chair.

5. CBS (previous rank: 4)

Just a slight drop for the Eyeball (which, full disclosure, owns TV.com's parent company) this time. Ratings-wise, you know how CBS do. The Big Bang Theory and NCIS are killin' it as usual, but Survivor is also doing very, very well this season even though we worried at the start that the tank was pushing a little further toward empty. Criminal Minds is also making pretty big ratings jumps once the DVR numbers are factored in.

Most importantly: Our longest national nightmare is over, as Two and a Half Men will be returning for an eleventh season, though without Angus T. Jones, who prefers to go to college and make "Skrillex style music." I hope Skrillex is offended by the assumption that his music is such trash that Angus T. Jones can just do it, apropos of nothing. Heck, I'm offended for Skrillex. Anyway, more Two and a Half Men, more of Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher cashing otherworldly sums of money, and more of the rest of us making fun of them like our opinion matters to people who can burn kiddie pools full of hundred-dollar bills.

Other CBS nuggets: Noel liked The Good Wife finale, and we should all trust Noel's opinion on The Good Wife. And hey, the network deserves some dap for The Young and the Restless leading the Daytime Emmy nominations with a rousing 23. It's like the Mad Men, or the cheating American Horror Story, of the Daytime Emmys! My mom is going to be so psyched. 

6. FX (previous rank: 8)

The Americans ended its glorious first season this week with a tremendous finale. This is both good and bad news. The good news is that it was another fine season of television from FX. The bad news is that FX is going to be a little light on new content until June, when the likely-good The Bridge debuts. It won't be long, but we might not see FX on the power rankings for a bit, so I wanted to give the cable power its due.

On the business side, FX cast hot property Corey Stoll in its Guillermo del Toro vampire outbreak pilot The Strain. FX seems invested in making more "genre"-oriented programming work, and with Powers trapped in development hell until the end of time, this is its best bet, especially with del Toro so heavily involved with the pilot and Carlton Cuse already in line to run the series should it get picked up. FX is also developing a period drama about Hollywood tabloid culture in the 1950s based on some James Ellroy work, and it just got Nat Faxon to sign on as the lead in an upcoming comedy pilot. 

On second thought, maybe FX won't go anywhere. 

7. A&E (previous rank: 7)

Annnnnd here's your bi-weekly reminder that people freaking love charming hillbillies with beards re-enacting old sitcom tropes. Duck Dynasty's season finale drew 9.6 million viewers (scoring it a 4.3 in the important demo). 9.6 million! That was, obviously, the highest-rated episode of TV on cable last week, but there were two other episodes of the series right in the top 15 as well. Something called American Hoggers also appeared on the cable top 25 last week. I don't know what that is, nor do I want to. I'm just happy that it's so popular.

8. NBC (previous rank: 11)

NBC moves up a few spots thanks to a handful of drama renewals for next season, none of which are surprising. Revolution has tanked this spring (the DVR ratings are somewhat assuring), but there was absolutely no way that NBC wasn't going to bring it back. As I mentioned in the last power rankings, the big question now is where NBC will actually put it. Grimm earned its third-season renewal by doing well on Fridays, and the recent move to Tuesday suggests NBC's confidence it moving forward. SVU and Chicago Fire aren't overwhelmingly exciting to most of us, but they're stabilizing forces in an otherwise horrible, hole-filled schedule. 

But really, this is all about Parenthood. Not only is the tear-producing drama back for another year of liberal in-fighting, but it's also getting a full 22 episodes for the first time since Season 2. I don't know if NBC asked the cast to trim their episode commitments or found some extra money lying around, but it doesn't matter. I'd still love for it to be placed in a better timeslot—especially since Grimm is currently in its old Tuesday spot—but the ratings were solid this season. Bravermans! 

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about NBC's schedule once more pilot news comes in and we get a better sense of what exactly the network might want to do, but the comedy side is bound to get blown up pretty substantially. Parks and Recreation is, quite rightfully, the only comedy almost guaranteed to survive. 

And hey, The Voice is still the most popular show on television right now. That means something. (I promise NBC did not pay me to write that last sentence.)

9. E! (previous rank: N/A)

E! E!? Yeah, E! I'm always on the lookout for a new network or channel to add to the power rankings, and with a slew of newly announced series, I figured, "Why the hell not?" E! is bringing us a show about WWE's Divas (the wonderfully titled Totally Divas), another "reality" program about Denver Broncos Wide Receiver Eric Decker and his country singer ladyfriend Jesse James, a show about boy band The Wanted, and The Soup Investigates, an investigative journalism spoof hosted by Joel McHale. That's a pretty solid slate of new programs, many of which I will only watch clips of when I watch McHale's other Soup gig, but still. 

OH, ALSO: What Would Ryan Lochte Do? is probably The Great American Reality Series of Our Time. If you're not DVR'ing it, just give your DVR back to your cable overlords. This is my favorite sequence of clips in a very long time


10. The CW (previous rank: N/A)

You will notice that The CW is here and both Fox and ABC are not. Frankly, I'm just bored with Fox and ABC at the moment. The two of them are clearly waiting until the Upfronts to make their big, splashy announcements, and that's fine. But other than Mike Kelley's exit from Revenge, or how god-awful The Following is, there isn't much to talk about, so I deem it fair that the lesser-rated, lesser-respected CW takes a spot because at least it's making some moves we can talk about. 

I'm still working out my feelings about the Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals, but there was certainly enough intrigue in last week's back-door pilot to convince me that it's a worthwhile investment going forward. The network clearly agreed, and ordered the full series only a day after the episode aired. This is not surprising. 

The CW also renewed Hart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast for third and second seasons respectively, signaling either a commitment to more programming in 2013-2014 or an admission that the pilots it has in development are kind of shoddy. I would really love for the former to be true rather than the latter (I especially think shows like Nikita and Beauty and the Beast might work even better with 10-13 episode runs), but it's probably the latter. 

Per usual, The CW is doing well on social media. It's the small things. 

11. TNT/ESPN (previous ranks: N/A)

The two basic-cable powers share the final spot mostly for their coverage of the NBA Playoffs. I'm much more privy to TNT's crew than ESPN's, but the World Wide Leader does good production work with its live coverage. Ratings are pretty good for both networks' coverage.

TNT deserves a spot here for its renewal of Dallas (where's that Southland renewal, though?) and a couple of additional episodes ordered for Major Crimes and Perception (which is apparently a show that still exists). Seriously though, that Southland finale was damn good; if TNT and WB can make the money work, they should. 

And I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge ESPN's successful airing of the NFL draft (even if Chris Berman is really one of the worst people in the world to regularly appear on camera) and the rock-solid quality of its latest 30 for 30 documentary about the 1983 NFL Draft. 

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