Another Period (Comedy Central): After a meh first episode, Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome’s Downton Abbey/Kardashians parody became bolder and funnier (and dirtier) every week. It’s Wet Hot 1902 Summer.
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Just ended and most likely canceled, ’80s tech drama Halt and Catch Fire really did catch fire in Season 2 by focusing on its women (Kerry Bishé and Mackenzie Davis, killing it). Maybe just skip the first season.
UnReal (Lifetime): And another female-led powerhouse: UnReal’s behind-the-sordid-scenes drama about a Bachelor-esque “reality” show was brutal, discomfiting and, for all we know, completely accurate. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer FTW.
Wayward Pines (Fox): It was obvious that M. Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines meant “limited series” business when it killed off two big-name cast members (no spoilers!) early on. A taut, weird sci-fi conspiracy yarn.
Maron (IFC): No hype, just Marc Maron being Maron in Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Next Generation.
Dark Matter (Syfy): The setup of really, really, really ridiculously good-looking amnesiac fugitives in space didn’t seem sustainable, but Dark Matter rolled out the back-stories (and ass-kicking action) more intelligently than expected.
Killjoys (Syfy): Ditto on the looks and action here, though Killjoys was a bit more complex (read: confusing) and even more low-budget than Dark Matter (which seems impossible). Still, Hannah John-Kamen is the sci-fi heroine to top this summer.
True Detective (HBO): Quit your whining and just watch all eight episodes in a row.
The Brink (HBO): It was sold as a Jack Black comedy, but The Brink (a modern-day Dr. Strangelove via Homeland) belongs to Tim Robbins as the tenacious secretary of state, and Maribeth Monroe as his impossibly loyal assistant.
Mr. Robot (USA): Rami Malek’s mumbling, monologue-ing hoodie-rat hacker isn’t a logical TV hero—which makes Mr. Robot’s Fight Club-meets-The Matrix-meets-Dilbert existence encouraging (especially on a network like USA). Another binge-watch candidate.
Humans (AMC): The biggest surprise from this British import about synthetic “humans” living/serving amongst us? Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) waited four whole episodes before bedding his nanny-bot (Gemma Chan). Humans was creepy, but with a heart—rare combo.
Extant (CBS): Halle Berry’s alien-takeover thriller is still insane—but at least it’s evolved into decent sci-fi, and new Season 2 co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan handily replaced what’s-his-name. Bonus: David Morrissey acting even harder than he did on The Walking Dead!
The Spoils Before Dying (IFC): Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) and his lost crime-noir masterpiece somehow made jazz tolerable. That’s an accomplishment.
Rectify (Sundance): So rich, so moving, so … slow. Ray McKinnon’s Southern-gothic character study isn’t for everyone, but the quality of the performances (not limited to main stars Aden Young and Abigail Spencer) are undeniable.
The Strain (FX): Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire-invasion thriller kicked into high gear in Season 2, thanks partially to letting Kevin Durand’s badass Fet inject some comic relief into the occasionally too-damned-serious affair. Pretty vamps are so over.
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX): Denis Leary’s comic love letter to rock wasn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, but it was loud and fun. That’s rock ’n’ roll, right?
BoJack Horseman (Netflix): You will feel all the feels of a cartoon horse (Will Arnett).
Ray Donovan (Showtime): As if Jon Voight weren’t enough, Liev Schreiber’s titular thug-to-the-stars Ray had to fight for screen-chewing time with new Season 3 guest Ian McShane—and he held his own.
Stitchers (ABC Family): Impossibly pretty 20-something scientists “stitch” into the memories of the recently deceased in CSI: Dead Brains. Sure, it sounds similar to iZombie, but Stitchers was even stoopider—and yet oddly entertaining.
The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail (Comedy Central): Backstage is sometimes funnier than what’s onstage at the comic-book-store stand-up show; comedians, actors and sometimes even porn stars drop in randomly, adding to the anarchic atmosphere of The Meltdown. So all stand-up shows aren’t like this?
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell (Adult Swim): Season 2 of hell as a workplace comedy … not a workplace reality show.
Married (FX): The second season of Nat Faxon and Judy Greer’s domestic comedy may have found a groove, if not viewers. Married is pretty much canceled; proceed at your leisure.
Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): It’s probably best that Community is now dead as a TV show, because Rick and Morty is a far better use of Dan Harmon’s time. There’s not a more off-the-charts science-geeky show out there—sorry, Cosmos—and the funny is relentless.
Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix): First Day of Camp bested the 2001 movie by streamlining the gags and going for ridiculous broke. So how do I get a gig at Rock & Roll World Magazine?