During the past few months, television has given us so many reasons to ignore the nice summer weather and instead remain planted in front of a TV set — or a computer. Even though the 2013-2014 TV season officially ended in May, there has been no shortage of programs to fill up the DVR. Many of the shows were surprisingly good considering they were relegated to summer months, but, of course, many of them were pretty bad. Here’s a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the summer television season.
Best New Sitcoms: FX’s new Wednesday block features the one-two punch of Married and You’re the Worst. Both shows deal with relationships — though in very different stages — and both are darkly funny, anti-romantic, and tell new versions of old tales.
Best Second Season: Orange Is the New Black didn’t just refuse to fall victim to the sophomore slump; it refused to even acknowledge there was such a thing. Season 2 took a deep dive into the pasts of new characters, took on the tough topic of a prison’s racial divide, and even made Larry into a bigger asshole. It was all great.
Best Individual Episode: Though I like The Leftovers, I can readily admit that it’s nowhere near being a perfect show. Still, out of all the episodes of TV I’ve watched this summer, its third episode, “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” is the one I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a blazing, disorienting episode focused on Matt Jamison (and expertly acted by Christopher Eccleston) that showcases the highs The Leftovers can achieve. (A necessary runner-up: Masters of Sex‘s “Fight” was absolutely perfect.)
Biggest Surprise: NBC’s Running Wild With Bear Grylls has all the makings of a shoddy summer burnout: a reality show with a rotating roster of celebrities who hang out in the woods. But it’s actually a fun watch! It’s not a hard-hitting drama or anything, but hey, Zac Efron is shirtless and Channing Tatum does a back flip out of a helicopter. What else do you need?
Best Shocking Finale: Orphan Black! The season finale aired back in June, but I still have regular conversations about “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” — and not just about that amazing clone dance scene. It was an episode that catapulted the series to a new place by introducing a group of male clones. Who knows what will happen next?
Biggest Disappointments: FX launched two new dramas this summer: the Middle Eastern political thriller Tyrant and the gross-out vampire drama The Strain. Both were major disappointments from a network that has been steadily releasing great programs. Tyrant is at best boring and at worst tone deaf and offensive. The Strain just has no idea what the hell it’s doing.
Worst New Sitcom: There are so many to choose from — Backpackers, Mystery Girls — but the one that takes the cake is definitely FX’s Partners. The “comedy,” which is totally devoid of jokes, tries to coast on one question: What if Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence were buddies? The answer? Nothing funny.
Worst Mistake by a Network: A few weeks ago, The CW attempted to bring back scripted comedies after spending years primarily focused on (supernatural) dramas (and the occasional Whose Line Is It Anyway? episode). Backpackers and Seed only existed for two weeks before CW checked out the ratings and swiftly yanked them off air. It was almost embarrassing to watch.
Worst Execution of a Great Premise:Finding Carter managed to take the unique and inherently interesting and drama-filled story of a kidnapped child returned to her biological parents after over a decade and turn it into something so trite and desperate. There is too much happening — love triangles, affairs, high school BFF drama, etc. — to the extent that the actual good narrative often fades away.
Dumbest Unscripted Show: It would be too easy to hand this one over to Dating Naked, but there were actually so many worse reality shows to air this summer. Lifetime’s The Ghost Inside My Child, which is somehow in its second season, tells the “true” story of children who died violently in a past life and are now reincarnated. In the premiere, a toddler recalls his time murdering Native Americans while a 12-year-old girl informs viewers she died in the 1945 Empire State Building plane crash.