Summer Tv Winners Losers

Summer TV Winners & Losers: UnREAL, Stranger Things, SYTYCD and More

As the temperatures (finally) start to cool, it’s time to take stock of which summer TV shows are coming away golden, and which got burned.

To be sure, the bar is higher than ever these dog days, now that summer is no longer riddled with reruns but populated by more and more fresh fare. And yet for every small-screen triumph (we’re looking at you, Toothless, Ghost and John Turturro’s feet!), there was an inevitable letdown (UnREAL was a meh second date), so we’ve boiled down the very busy past three months into 21 winners and losers that defined the summer TV season.

Scroll through our gallery below — or click here for direct access — to see the programs we’ve chosen as champs and chumps of Summer 2016, then hit the comments with your own picks!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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88 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    I’m glad you’re finally questioning why A Ryan Seacrest Type is at the Olympics, something I was questioning like 4 years ago. Also, yeah, the motel fight on Preacher was easily one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen

  2. Kevin K says:

    ABC’s Fun and Games are winners in my book. Couldn’t agree more on how bad the Summer Olympics in Rio was but would the next games in Tokyo come 2020 be much better. The Last Ship so far this season blew me away and it hasn’t been the same since the demise of Dr. Rachel Scott and killing off several characters including POTUS (Mark Moses).

  3. AJ says:

    can’t argue that BrainDead is a ratings loser but I think it’s a winner of a show – funny, unique and a wonderful cast full of great NYC theater actors.

    • Doug Henning says:

      The losers are people not watching this terrific dark comedy.. I have a smile on my face as I watch it.. With it likely done at the end of this summer run, I hope they wrap the story… A terrific cast with some funny situations.. My problem will be when season 2 of Mercy Street starts and seeing MEW in her staring role after this.. My favorite bit last night was the Michael Moore cameo.. ha ha..

      • Linda Call says:

        I think CBS’s promo department blew this one — they made it sound not so appealing versus the great show that it is. That really wasn’t M Moore, but that 10 seconds was sooo funny!

    • Jenna says:

      Couldn’t agree more. It’s saddens me that Braindead hasn’t gotten more viewers. It’s such a refreshing show–especially for CBS. It has such a solid cast and such a quirky yet entertaining storyline!

    • HAP says:

      Totally agree. Great show. Great cast.

    • fiberlicious says:

      They lost me at the bugs. Had they been implied, rather than featured, I’d be all in.

      I don’t do bugs.

    • Elena says:

      I know! I love the show’s odd balance of political drama / comedy / sci-fi thriiler. Also, I really think Aaron Tveit and Mary-Elizabeth Winstead’s performances and on-screen chemistry have elevated it past the zany concept. It’s a pity more people aren’t watching.

    • Linda Call says:

      I LOVE Brain Dead! It’s got all the elements, great cast, fun story line, suspense, wit — please save this one!

    • TvWatchingLurker says:

      Agree–fantastically underrated, the big fail was the marketing of this show by cbs–the writing, casting, acting, all top notch–timely subject, hokey kitschy premise, dark fun. I can’t help but think this would have been wildly successful at another network. Despite there being no hope for it, I’m desperately praying for a season 2.

      • Kelly says:

        I love Braindead too, my favorite summer show. I just recommended it to a friend who has been binge watching it and loves it, but hadn’t even heard of it until I mentioned it! Frustrating!

  4. This makes it sound like The Last Ship is doing better this season than last, but the ratings are actually lower. Is this just based on your opinion of the quality? There’s definitely mixed reviews this season. Frankly, I was surprised that it was renewed.

  5. Annie says:

    What about 12 Monkeys?

    • JB says:

      And how about Jessica Jones, it was great!

      • Katherine215 says:

        Jessica Jones wasn’t a summer show…

        • Ally Oop says:

          Maybe not, but a lot of people got to this show in summer, including me. I will say that its the best new show I watched this August (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets my vote for July).

          • Annie Sisk says:

            That may be but that doesn’t make it a summer show. I can watch Grey’s Anatomy during the summer too, but including it in a summer-shows roundup wouldn’t be accurate – and actually could be considered misleading. I agree that JJ is an amazing show, though.

    • Lisa G says:

      My teenage daughter and I watched 12 Monkeys together and loved every single second. We watched live because we were too impatient to wait for the DVR version. :) Anything that a teen and a Gen X can enjoy together is a winner!

    • TvWatchingLurker says:

      Also Killjoys!! Syfy really brought it with season 2 of both shows.

  6. Ken says:

    Was Wayward Pines renewed for a season 3? I haven’t seen anything about that yet, but the text next to the picture kind of indicates that there is a season 3 coming.

  7. Nick says:

    Haven’t watched PLL this season yet, pleasantly surprised to hear it’s getting better. Also really excited to check out Stranger Things!

  8. Dave Rudd says:

    My biggest worry is that SYTYCD has jumped the rails so badly that they won’t come back for another season in hopes to get their ratings up by returning to the original formula. They really did a disservice to their fanbase this season, and if they go off the air they will have effectively cut off a key route for up and coming dancers to be discovered by quality choreographers regardless of geographical limitations. A great shame if this happens.

    • Ruffy says:

      I took SYTYCD completely off my DVR because the kids gimmick not only isn’t working for me, I find it difficult to make it through an episode. The dancing is not great, the critiques are boring and the soundbites with the kids are beyond groan-worthy.

      • Peachy says:

        I want Nigel Lithgoe and Paula Abdul to be given their walking papers.

        I know that “SYTYCD” has/had some meaning to certain viewers, but it’s time to move on.

    • bridyyc says:

      Anything less than a miraculous turnaround in ratings from the last several seasons pretty much meant sure-fire cancellation. Just the fact that they kept Jason Derulo doomed the show…not to mention turning it into a Toddlers and Tiara’s rip-off. I think the former winners should sue them, for reducing their victories into nothing but a punchline of a bad joke. I believe it will linger as one of TV’s great mysteries, how, after deciding to adjust the show and give it one more chance, this is what they came up with. I mean, there’s bad judgement and then there’s complete and utter malfeasance.

    • Temperance says:

      I’m a huge fan of SYTYCD, but I lasted exactly 10 minutes with the first episode with the kids and never watched again. Bring back the adults, or I’m out.

  9. Debora says:

    i disagree about The Last ship.They lost too much losing Rachel Scott. The show was deep and there were great perfomances. But now it’s a boy’s toy, the typical bing, bang, kaboom! very graphic but without a soul. Personally i believe Rachel MUST come back just to balance the storyline

  10. RD says:

    UnREAL was barely watchable this season. They turned the obnoxious,loud stupid and ugly dial up to ten. I’ve yet to watch Preacher but i’m looking forward to it.

  11. abz says:

    Sad about Dead of Summer. I watched the last seven episodes last week. Of course it’s not great, but it was still somewhat entertaining although I have no idea how they’d keep it going unless it’s like some anthology type show like AHS. I liked Cricket :(

    Also I think you guys missed adding Devious Maids on this list. I hope it gets renewed. I need more Evelyn Powell! Her hysterical laugh at finding Adrian with Zoila as his date is probably one of the highlights of TV watching for me this year. I really think Rebecca Wisocky deserves a Comedy Emmy/Golden Globe nomination at the very least

    • Tiffanie Orr says:

      Yeah Devious Maids was way better this season and never get enough recognition i hope it gets renewed cause Unreal was renewed before its new season started and its 2nd season was horrible

  12. bluji says:

    Dead of Summer did find a nice balance in storytelling after a very shaky start, though. It might not be amazing, but it’s definitely watchable… and I still find it better than Under the Dome’s last season. Hmm.

  13. abz says:

    Is Power a good show? I keep hearing about it as well as Stranger Things.

  14. MMD says:

    Feed the Beast – I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts please. I have the entire show dvr’d but haven’t watched it yet. Winner or Loser and why?
    THANKS!

    • It’s always a matter of taste, but the first half hour was so blatantly bulging with cliched characters and tropes that I couldn’t last beyond those painful minutes. Was really disappointed that Schwimmer had reverted to his sad puppy dog persona after a fairly adequate performance in the OJ series.

  15. Amy J says:

    Scream didn’t rank for either list? Though I would have put in in as a winner – the rating might be tanking but for everyone talking about 80s nostalgia with Stranger Things, Scream is a great dose of 90s horror.

  16. Bernadette says:

    Why did “The Night Shift” not get a mention? It has been improving its ratings and winning Wednesday night all summer? I love it! It has not stop action, characters you can attach yourself to and a bit of romance. It is like they are embarrassed to admit that a more traditional show is doing well. If they is not an audience for this they way are all the re-boots doing so well and all the “cutting edge” angst ridden shows flopping after one season?
    I also feel badly about Aquarius. It is a dark show and I guess maybe too much work for people who have no memory of the era however it is very compelling. I hope to see more seasons as the best ones are supposed to be after the Manson murders actually occur. The first two seasons are just the lead in,

    • grazelled says:

      I like Night Shift too. ER type show for 2016 with a diverse cast that shows people from so many different walks of life just living their lives. Has drama, comedy, balance with action packed storytelling.

    • Temperance says:

      I’m a huge fan of SYTYCD, but I lasted exactly 10 minutes with the first episode with the kids and never watched again. Bring back the adults, or I’m out.

    • Temperance says:

      Night Shift is somewhat of a guilty pleasure.

  17. Ashley says:

    I actually enjoyed Guilt this summer. I do not watch Freeform. The plot was slowgoing out the gate but when it got moving it really got moving. The plot got going and the characters were established. I hope the show gets another season to prove itself.

  18. WenRaz says:

    NBC needs to realize the Olympics are about the Olympics, not NBC. All they care about is ratings, which they would definitely get if they would actually air the Olympics minus all the crap. And that crap includes Seacrest and Lauer, among others.

    Also, Stranger Things was the absolute best thing to watch this summer. Excellent job, Netflix and Duffer brothers.

    • Lisa G says:

      Yep. I watched sports I cared about live with online streaming (projected to the Apple TV.) Prime-time was bloated with commercials and puff pieces. A lot of the puff pieces were rehashes of neverending pieces from the Olympic trials, commercials, etc., so they didn’t even give new information. Then they wouldn’t show events they listed in the guide if Americans didn’t do well. It was a mess. I think I watched less of the Rio games than any Olympics of my life.

    • grazelled says:

      The only way to watch the olympics this year for me was on live stream with just straight coverage of events. Also not too bad watching live events on cable channels if possible but the NBC broadcast coverage was horrible with mostly filler stuff and hardly any actual athletic events and terrible editing.

    • Ally Oop says:

      I watched my Olympics in Canada where it was played all day long on our public national network CBC plus national sportsnets TSN and Sportsnet and it was all about the athletes and the sports. I tried turning to NBC a few times but they were always so behind, showing things hours after they actually happened and only showing parts of events.

  19. Lala says:

    Unreal was a real disappointment this season, it was a complete mess. They really did a great disservice to their male characters,they were just horrible; Chet, Jeremy, Coleman, Darius and Ioan Gruffudd’s character was as exciting as a piece of wet bread. Adam’s character just showed up to appease the masses but did nothing really and he was just gone, just like that. They brought up issues character development issues for Quinn & Rachel and it was all swept under the rug and never really dealt with.

  20. Jordan says:

    Preacher was a big disappointment with ratings. It was supposed to be a big hit I don’t know what this site is talking about.

  21. LADY_in_MD says:

    I would include Devious Maids on this list as a winner this season was so much better than 2 & 3
    And Evelyn Powell is the best! I hope they renew it for another season espicially after that cliff hanger

  22. ScottJ says:

    The only thing wrong with Mr Robot has been people’s ideas of what the show is about. Most of the comments I’ve seen have been whining about the lack of hacking. Its not a hack-of-the-week show and never has been.

    • TvWatchingLurker says:

      You’re right but season 2 amounted to nothing more than a self indulgent tangent that as a story vehicle should have wrapped and moved on by the end of the first episode. Instead what we got was way too much of Elliot inside his own head and writing, acting, direction, and editing by a team of people who had read too much good press about the work they’d done for season 1. Season 2 was a vanity project and if after 5 episodes they could pull their heads out of their arses to course correct–they deserved the loss of ratings season 2 has delivered.

  23. Boiler says:

    Should add TNT to the list. Every new thing they have done has flopped and they cancel their most watched and popular show.

  24. Nikki says:

    I think this season of Mr. Robot is really good and would not call it a ‘Loser’.

  25. Brian says:

    Suits should be on the loser list. I don’t know how their ratings are doing, but this season is as flat and boring as as a pancake. Rachel is the most interesting character this season…which is REALLY saying something.

  26. Temperance says:

    What a terrible summer for TV. Preacher and Stranger Things were it, and they were… different TV that I’d guess many wouldn’t like.

  27. JEF says:

    Oh no! Does that mean Braindead will be cancelled? I love this quirky show.

    • Linda Call says:

      I love it, too!
      I think they initially marketed it incorrectly. I got some friends to watch who love it, too, but based on the promos, thought it was going to be something different — that they didn’t want to watch.

    • TvWatchingLurker says:

      Bob and Rochelle need their own spin off. The comedic chemistry they have together is bar none one of the best things on TV right now. It’s like they’re on an entirely different show but just drop in to hang a bit with Laurel (this could a bad thing in most cases but with these two actors they just make it work and elevate already good material to something else altogether).

  28. matraupach says:

    I couldn’t agree more!
    Never heard of Stranger Things before, never expected anything… and it is truly the biggest hit this year!
    I have never seen a show this good in years!
    On a rating from 1 to 10 it deserves an Eleven! ;)

  29. showtvpl says:

    So you totally forgot about Animal Kingdom?

  30. JMark (formerly JM) says:

    Rio Olympics coverage was terrible. They kept harping on the girl’s gymnastics, Phelps and Bolt, yet showed very little of anything else. Besides Bolt, if Americans weren’t winners, that sport just wasn’t shown. I love watching the sports whether Americans win or not. They even had cable channels showing repeat viewings of soccer and basketball matches while barely covering the triathalons, lesser known track and field like pole vault, etc., archery, fencing, wrestling, etc. Just made no sense whatsoever. I really wish another network would be given the chance to show the Olympics.

    • MC says:

      I enjoyed the Olympics on NBC (omg, I’m not cool at all). Swimming, gymnastics and track have always been the staples of network coverage (and it doesn’t matter which network it is). Soccer, volleyball, diving and rowing also received extensive coverage. The late night live coverage of midnight beach volleyball was pretty awesome. I didn’t hate Seacrest, except for maybe the one night he went without shoes. I tried to avoid spoilers, so the tape delays did not bother me much. The puff pieces were started many years ago by ABC (they called them Up Close and Personal segments). They can sometimes be superfluous, but Gwen Jorgensen’s victory in the triathlon became much more meaningful after the “puff piece.” The coverage of rhythmic gymnastics was great, as Nastia Liukin gave her unique perspective on the competition. I don’t think many people are heavily into archery, fencing or wrestling, but that’s why the live streams are available.

  31. Ally Oop says:

    Since the ends of Orphan Black, Outlander and Reign I haven’t watched a ton of tv this summer but I binged Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Game of Thrones and Wynonna Earp and am in the midst of all four of Orange is the New Black, Mr. Robot, Playing House and Jessica Jones. I won’t include in this comment all the shows I tried and dropped but this past week I cut a few shows from my pvr including the past seasons of Arrow and Bitten which I realized I just didn’t want to slog through. My dvr is almost clear save for seasons of Underground, Colony, The 100, Containment and 19-2 which I still intend on watching. UnReal is also on my pvr and I am very close to deleting it.

    • Jenna says:

      Ohhhh, shout out for ‘the 100’, I love that show!!!! Such an amazing show and such a pity not many are aware of it. Also annoying that FTWD stole one of my fave characters from it seeing as I’ve never seen such a terrible spin off in all my life. Hope it gets cancelled soon or a least a major character wipeout and storyline facelift, then I will be very very satisfied.

  32. maregolden says:

    I loved Mr. Robot last year. This year I found it dull, repetitive and confusing. Maybe it was because they made the episodes so long. I think I made it through four episodes before I stopped watching it.

  33. Karen says:

    And why no love (or ANYTHING) for Devious Maids? It was a great season, albeit too short, with 10 episodes rather than the usual 13. No word on renewal yet, but I fervently hope it returns — and how about a full season of 22 episodes? The cast is brilliant and so are the writers and the creative team! Viva La Lucci!

  34. Pat L says:

    Some of my favorites are missing from your list. How about the series finale of Hell on Wheels? There is also the series finale of Rizzoli and Isles. What about Motive, Major Crimes and Night Shift?

  35. Kiwi3 says:

    I would also add to the winners list:
    Outlander(unless it’s not considered a summer series) and Killjoys.

  36. Helena Handbasket says:

    Stranger Things is a no brainer, I’m sure everyone knows it’s a hit by now (and it is terrific). I am stunned that Mr. Robot is not doing better; this show is amazing! It’s well written, well acted and is just fresh, innovative and current. People need to be watching this show!