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The Best Show on Sunday Night Is …

‘Big Little Lies’? ‘The Good Fight’? ‘Making History’? The Ringer staff weighs in.

(Ringer illustration)
(Ringer illustration)

Perhaps you have noticed that there is an unusual amount of television on Sundays right now — an unprecedented amount, possibly, even for a historically significant TV night. Do you feel overwhelmed? At sea? Unsure where to invest your time? Worry not. We polled the Ringer staff, and it turns out the best show on Sunday night is … any of the below. Allow us to make our cases.

‘Big Little Lies,’ HBO, 9 P.M. ET

Alyssa Bereznak: As much as I love a procedural law drama or a counterterrorism plot, they are not particularly soothing to experience the night before I start my work week. Big Little Lies, on the other hand, is near therapeutic in its pacing without sacrificing substance. Interspersed between the Monterey elite’s confrontations are atmospheric stretches of bright pink ocean sunsets, windy beaches, and drives along the 101’s jagged cliffside roads — all set to a dreamy playlist chock-full of Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac. (Thank you, musical prodigy Chloe Mackenzie.) Sure, the show’s plot — which intermixes deliciously petty parental feuds and serious issues of domestic violence and infidelity — builds upon a low hum of tension that we already know culminates in a PTA fundraiser murder. And as we’re desperately guessing who will be the one to snap, Reese, Nicole and Co. cut no corners in embodying the emotional highs and lows of suburban privilege. But at its darkest moments, those brief montages of pure Californian pixie dust make the show feel just a little less heavy. In terms that our dear Monterey mommies would most definitely understand: It’s like pairing a pungent wheel of Cowgirl cheese with a crisp pinot grigio.

‘The Good Fight,’ CBS All Access

Ben Lindbergh: The Good Fight doesn’t seem like a spinoff so much as a beloved, long-running series that continued without its main character after slapping her aside. The show’s links to The Good Wife don’t surface sporadically, in sweeps-week cameos. They’re woven into every episode in ways that must be mystifying for anyone in the sliver of the TV-viewer Venn diagram that contains CBS All Access subscribers who weren’t Good Wife watchers. The Good Fight lets us feel the fabric — and, for Diane Lockhart lifers, the warm, fuzzy familiarity — of The Good Wife’s seven seasons of character-building backstory.

That lineage manifests itself in moments that might look like fan service if the Kings’ characters weren’t well drawn enough to make their allusions to old cases and lingering looks at photos of killed-off cast members convincing. In addition to those explicit references, The Good Fight brings back the best of its progenitor’s tone and production design, borrowing its fashions and sets, its soundtrack’s fusion of strings and singer-songwriters, its character quirks, and its unmatched ability to blend social commentary and courtroom drama while pivoting between physical comedy and emotional moments.

Thanks to its semifresh start, The Good Fight is free of the unsightly scaffolding that props up the plot on long-running series. Unburdened by the questions that cluttered The Good Wife’s late seasons — what to do with Kalinda and Cary; who was with which firm — the Kings can experiment. For all its homages and deep pulls from The Good Wife’s IMDb page, The Good Fight has already established a distinct identity, and not only because its characters can curse.

The Good Wife had TV’s best bench, but in Alicia’s absence, The Good Fight distributes its minutes more evenly. Christine Baranski is the ostensible star, but The Good Fight’s Diane is different: Formerly a model of serene self-possession, she’s displaced and out of her depth, bankrupted by a Ponzi scheme and forced to find work in an ageist market. Her move to a largely black firm that specializes in police brutality cases, and the additions of Delroy Lindo, Erica Tazel, and Rose Leslie, allow the show to address age, race, sexism, and sexual orientation with a deftness that The Good Wife didn’t always manage. And in keeping with the culture, The Good Fight’s depiction of politics is oppressive and even more rooted in reality: The Good Wife began with a speech from a fictional politician, but The Good Fight gives Donald Trump dialogue before Diane.

The Kings have kept their fastball, and through The Good Fight’s first four episodes, they’ve paired it with improved command and secondary stuff. Will Gardner would approve.

Making History,’ Fox, 8:30 P.M. ET

Sam Schube: There’s basically one joke on Fox’s Making History: The past was terrible. It’s funny because it’s true — the 18th century definitely smelled more like poop than the 21st. But I also think it’s a medium-subversive take for a television show that is literally about time travel. (Steampunk is indeed trash. Can you imagine riding one of those bicycles with one giant wheel and one tiny one?) Adam Pally stars as Daniel, a sort-of janitor at Not Harvard who’s discovered that his dad’s old human-size gym bag is actually a time-travel machine. So he’s been popping into Revolutionary War–era Massachusetts to hang out with John Hancock and seduce Paul Revere’s daughter (played winningly by Leighton Meester). For a minute, you get the sense that cracking jokes about how terribly lame our ancestors were is all the show wants to do. This being Sunday night, though, we need (at least minor) stakes. So it turns out that Daniel’s screwed up the revolution (in the present, Starbucks is a tea emporium), and has to conscript history professor pal Chris (a joyfully pedantic Yassir Lester) to set history right. The show is produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys who gave us the “literally one thousand jokes stacked on top of each other” style of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street. Making History is way less antsy, and willing to coast on the considerable charm of its three leads. It’s an extremely likable way to end the weekend.

‘Crashing,’ HBO, 10:30 P.M. ET

Alison Herman: Crashing is the most redundant show on the Sunday-night lineup, if not all of television — which is why it needs enthusiastic word of mouth like mine to overcome its yawn-inducing premise: a straight white male comedian has made a semi-autobiographical half hour about his stand-up career, featuring guest appearances by his IRL friends. But those familiar with creator and star Pete Holmes’s work, especially his popular podcast You Made It Weird, know there’s plenty to his perspective to differentiate him from Louie, Maron, Lady Dynamite, and the like. For one thing, he grew up Christian and retains a sincere spirituality that’s unusual among entertainers, particularly the corresponding lack of cynicism. For another, Crashing isn’t about a misanthrope who happens to be a stand-up. It’s about stand-up: the craft, the culture, the long and painful series of indignities comics endure to claw their way above open mics. That level of detail is absorbing, drawing the audience in rather than taking their interest for granted. Holmes and collaborator Judd Apatow have a knack for making Holmes’s fictionalized self neither depressingly talentless nor unrealistically accomplished, fitting in plenty of jabs at comedians’ self-importance and Holmes’s own failings to buy goodwill on the way. The result is surprisingly sweet and, often, genuinely moving: The inciting incident for Holmes’s stand-up career is his wife leaving him for another man, an event that’s treated as painful, inevitable, and ultimately better for both parties — never a punch line.

‘The Arrangement,’ E!, 10 P.M. ET

Andrew Gruttadaro: I don’t think the moon landing was fabricated. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, that David Stern never put an envelope in a freezer, and that Stevie Wonder is blind. In general, I’m not a conspiracy theorist — except when it comes to Hollywood. With the advent of stunt advertising, viral pranks, and the Kardashians, who often reverse engineer reality from a TV show, my brain is utterly unable to take anything that happens in Hollywood at face value. (Psst: They gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope on purpose.) Every new issue of People magazine turns me into Tom Hanks from The Da Vinci Code.

So of course The Arrangement, E!’s scripted drama about an unknown actress who signs a contract to date Hollywood’s hottest actor (who is also a member of a church that toootally isn’t supposed to be Scientology), is the best show on TV on Sunday nights. Forget about the show’s obvious attempts to cultivate Sex and the City vibes among the main character, Megan, and her gal pals (you can spot the Samantha from a mile away). Forget about the inadvertently hilarious lines that dot the show, like when famous actor man Kyle West states, unprompted, “I bought [my house] from one of the guys in Foreigner.” Forget that it stars Autumn Reeser (a.k.a. Taylor Townsend from The O.C.) as a pregnant Hollywood agent. Those are all delightful things. But what’s so great about The Arrangement is the way that it confirms and indulges your suspicions about Hollywood, how it allows you to enjoy a fantasy at the same time you scoff at its fabrication. Plus, it’s really fun to watch the show and guess when it’s obliquely referencing Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. There’s a rather pointless scene in the pilot that features Kyle West running, and I am convinced it was included only to evoke thoughts of Mission: Impossible.

‘Feud: Bette and Joan,’ FX, 10 P.M. ET

Allison P. Davis: Consider the following: Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina, classic camp, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Ryan Murphy, aging starlets freaking out over Coke vs. Pepsi, lowbrow fodder that is actually a sharp discussion of aging in Hollywood, STANLEY FREAKING TUCCI, classic Hollywood gossip, A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP COLUMNIST, and the use of the most delicious curse word: cunt.

I’m sorry, why is this even a conversation? But since it is, my real argument is: Why spend your Sunday night suffering through testosterone-filled slogs (The Walking Dead) and whiny Brooklyn bildungsromans (Girls) when you could escape into a beautiful campy, diabolically petty world of bitter feuds? It’s like all the best parts of Twitter — people you don’t know slinging totally gloriously meaningless shade at one outer with — but the costumes are better.

‘Girls,’ HBO, 10 P.M. ET

Rob Harvilla: You will miss the hell out of this show when you don’t have this show to kick around anymore. Girls is on the short list of the most polarizing and embattled cultural phenomena of my lifetime, in any medium. Over five seasons and change, it has been thinkpiece’d, hot-take’d, and backlash-to-the-backlash-to-the-backlash’d at a greater volume and ferocity than every other show currently airing on Sunday night on any channel on television, combined. It’s just exhausting. That Girls is still standing, in its current sixth and final season — that it has not been wrung dry and sapped entirely of the ability to provoke or even merely entertain — is an accomplishment in and of itself. That it’s still pretty fantastic is, somehow, just an odd little afterthought.

You know these people by now, even if you wish you didn’t. Whether you hate to love them or love to hate them, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna are rendered with delicacy and sympathy even at their least sympathetic. I care about these people even if I never want to see most of them again. Few shows, from the characters to the overall vibe, are so defiantly themselves. There are still gargantuan quantities of nudity, reams of lovingly rendered terrible behavior, off-kilter and wildly discomfiting bottle episodes, and pinned-tweet-worthy one-liners for days, weeks, months, years. (“He looks like someone in, like, the Pacific Northwest knit a man.”) Girls is still genuinely funny in a way that its many competitors and disciples, from the great (Broad City) to the good-enough (Search Party), rarely manage.

And with more than a half-decade of accumulated history to work from, you can revel now in the slow-burn evolution or (in poor Marnie’s case) devolution, the accumulation of detail, the rogues gallery of delightfully hideous women and men. (Elijah doing a spot-on Shoshanna impression while wearing an “I survived the third season of Ally McBeal” T-shirt with no pants counts here as a totally satisfying reward.) So consider the advice of Riz Ahmed, playing a boho-knucklehead surf instructor: “It’s so much easier to love something than to hate it, don’t you think? Love’s the easiest thing in the world.” Give this maddening and monumental show the send-off it deserves, even if — and maybe even especially if — you’re thrilled to see it go.

‘Billions,’ Showtime, 10 P.M. ET

Chris Ryan: Every line of Billions is an advertisement for the show itself. You could just clip it and make a social video out of it. Here, this is Mike Wagner, the current belt-holder for Most Ridiculous Person on TV, talking about nomadic tribes and hedge funds.

The whole show is that. In its second season, Billions has fully settled into being Billions. The ceiling is fixed, and so is the basement. Do you need to watch the first season of Billions to enjoy this season of Billions? Billions is a show about some guys who have billions, and some guys who want to take those guys down, but also want Billions. It’s also about nice restaurants, no-limit poker, gender-nonconforming stock analysts who play no-limit poker, NFL ownership, pizza, and making faces while wearing deep-necked henleys. There are no stakes, and there is nothing more pleasurable on TV.

‘Homeland,’ Showtime, 9 P.M. ET

Mallory Rubin: This Sunday night, my household DVR will record 10 programs, and Homeland will definitely not be the first one I watch. It probably won’t even crack the night-of rotation. But that’s actually a credit to how good the show has been this season. I spend Sunday evening watching The Walking Dead because I feel obligated to beat the Twitter spoilers; Last Week Tonight because our current political climate instantly outdates news programs; Girls and Big Little Lies because I know that they’ll dominate the conversation at Ringer headquarters on Monday morning the way Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline dominates her fellow Alpha Moms.

But for the first time in years, I want to save Homeland for me time. I want to savor it in a quiet moment, to partake without fear of interruption or distraction. Because somehow, Homeland got good again. First Carrie said goodbye to Brody, then to Germany, then finally to the painfully contrived narratives that hamstrung the series in recent seasons.

Amazingly, in its sixth year, Homeland has rediscovered the calculus that made its freshman campaign such a stunner: The lead is unpredictable but empathetic; the character interplay is crackling and biting; and, most crucially, the intrigue is electrically captivating. The showrunners remembered how to craft a genuinely compelling, sprawling mystery, and they did so while also helping us remember why we should care in the first place about the characters caught up in that conundrum. They’ve made me believe that you really can go Homeland again (sorry), and on a night of TV as crowded as Carrie’s wall of wonders, that knowledge is as powerful as Saul’s beard.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.