The cabler dominated this summer’s pop-culture conversation with the addition of Mr. Robot, a critically acclaimed, mind-bending drama that proved the network could handle darker fare. Combine that with a creatively strong fifth season of Suits and the return of the underrated comedy Playing House, and you’ve got a summer TV champion.
LOSER: TRUE DETECTIVE
Although the HBO drama’s ratings didn’t suffer terribly in Season 2, the series’ sophomore run took an astonishing creative nosedive (too many characters, not enough actually happening each week), leaving most viewers with one big question: “Huh?”
WINNER: DONALD TRUMP
We hate to admit it, but the reality star-turned-presidential candidate was everywhere this summer. Regardless of the deplorable things he’s said in the last few months (some of which got him fired from his role as Celebrity Apprentice host), Trump has never failed to make headlines — and he’s even gained political traction along the way.
LOSER: NBC’S THURSDAY NIGHT LINEUP
The ratings for NBC’s “killer” lineup of Aquarius and Hannibal were so low, both shows were moved to Saturday, aka TV’s No Man’s Land. (Considering Aquarius‘ early Season 2 renewal, the Saturday reshuffle was extra puzzling.)
It may not have won the ratings game this summer — something that Bachelor host Chris Harrison would be happy to remind you! — but Lifetime’s dark, addictive, fast-paced drama played a huge part in the network’s overall rebranding efforts.
LOSER: I AM CAIT
Though Caitlyn Jenner remains a terrific ambassador for the transgender community, her E! reality series — in which she deals with the highs and lows of life as a transgender woman — has consistently lost its audience (and buzz) week after week.
WINNER: THE BACHELORETTE
Creatively, the 11th season of The Bachelorette was a total snooze. (May the Shawn vs. Nick rivalry go down as one of the lamest in TV history.) But you can’t argue with the reality staple’s ratings, which ended on season highs with the July 27 finale. Plus, the fact that Kaitlyn and Shawn haven’t broken up yet must count for something.
Although Big Brother remains a winner for the Eye Network, its scripted summer fare — including Extant and Under the Dome — has been on a steady decline, thanks in part to convoluted, are-the-writers-serious? storylines.
WINNER: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD
Say what you will about the Walking Dead spinoff’s creative choices, but the facts — for example, “the No. 1 series premiere in cable history” — don’t lie.
LOSER: NEW REALITY SHOWS
Sure, reality staples like America’s Got Talent and Hollywood Game Night have performed decently in recent weeks. But none of the newbies — including Knock Knock Live, Boom! and Home Free — have gotten audiences talking. Or watching, for that matter.
In its six-episode first season, this delightful Amazon comedy — which stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan as a couple that decides to be together after their one-night stand leaves Horgan’s character pregnant — perfected the art of the small-screen romantic comedy.
LOSER: THE CW’S SUMMER PROGRAMMING
Did you even know The CW was airing a show called Significant Mother this summer? Anyone? Bueller?
WINNER: RAY DONOVAN
Despite (or as a result of?) a major behind-the-scenes shakeup that saw EP David Hollander replace series creator Ann Biderman as showrunner, Showtime’s dark family thriller is in the midst of its most tightly plotted and emotionally resonant season yet. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Ray‘s Sunday companion…
LOSER: MASTERS OF SEX
The once-great drama saddled Lizzy Caplan’s Virginia (and viewers) with an unwanted pregnancy and a boorish teenage daughter, and then made her go to first base with a monkey. In short, the Sex has been bad in Season 3. Luckily, the welcome addition of Josh Charles (as Virginia’s new, human love interest) and the satisfying return of Sarah Silverman (as Betty’s significant other) serves as a reminder that there’s still a great show in there somewhere. But, to put this in terms Bill and Virginia would understand, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find that sweet spot.
WINNER: JAMES CORDEN
From Carpool Karaoke with Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, to a Dirty Dancing tribute with Idina Menzel, late-night rookie Corden has generated plenty of buzz for his Late Late Show by consistently winning the viral video game.
LOSER: SHARKNADO 3
Fans of the first two fish tales were reeled in expecting the clever, tongue-in-cheek camp that was especially on display in No. 2. Instead, what they got was waterlogged dialogue and a whale of a sales pitch for NBCUniversal theme parks.
WINNER: PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
After five-and-a-half seasons, the ABC Family drama finally unmasked its Big Bad this summer. And while not every fan viewed the pAy-off in a positive light, the episode delivered the series’ highest ratings in two years.
LOSER: THE WHISPERS
The ABC drama began with an off-putting premise — “Why are young kids being convinced by an imaginary friend to kill their parents?” — and failed to find its creative footing (or a consistent audience) in the weeks that followed.