The 10 best and worst TV shows this summer

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Summer TV used to be a barren wasteland. Those days are long gone, but the season is still trying to prove itself.

Fans have showed that they'll tune in to great content no matter what time of year it is. And in the face of declining ratings and more competition from online and streaming video providers, TV programmers are looking for viewers whenever and wherever they can find them.

From the resurgence of game shows to the return of last year's big drama hits, which shows stayed on top and which ones sunk?

Here's a look at what worked and what didn't from TV this summer:

Best: "O.J.: Made in America" (ESPN)

AP Photo/Sam Mircovich/Pool

Whether by luck or by genius planning, ESPN tapped into the renewed public interest in the O.J. Simpson murders. While FX's "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" successfully stoked those fires, ESPN's series delved deeper into the flames. It satisfied the public's interest for more and delivered aspects of Simpson's alleged crimes and motivations beyond what we thought we wanted.

Worst: "Wayward Pines" (Fox)

Sergei Bachlakov/FOX

With M. Night Shyamalan attached to the series, we prepared ourselves for the unfounded twist he's so known for in his movies, which became increasingly clumsy after "Unbreakable." Instead, season one was an intricately woven and entertaining experience.

All that fell away with its second season. Story holes and expedient character demises littered the series. Gone was the careful elegance of it first season. In its place was a terrible 10-hour version of the third act from his later movies.

Best: "The Night Of" (HBO)

Barry Wetcher/HBO

Leave it to HBO to give us something to really sink our teeth into as TV hits its slower months. "The Night Of" has become an addictive part of the summer for many viewers and its examination of the American criminal justice system couldn't be more timely.

Worst: "Maya & Marty" (NBC)

Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

How many failed variety shows does it take before NBC stops trying to make it a thing? Clearly the ratings show that there isn't a lot of demand for musical variety series currently, yet they keep trying.

This is coming from someone who has fond memories of being young and watching Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett, and Dolly Parton's variety shows. But they had their time. It was then.

Best: ABC's retro game shows

ABC

Where NBC has failed in bringing back the variety show, ABC is enjoying much success with its revitalized line of game shows: "Celebrity Family Feud," "The $100,000 Pyramid," "Match Game," and "To Tell the Truth." It has found a real interest from viewers, and that may have something to do with the charming hosts they've rounded up: Steve Harvey, Michael Strahan, Alec Baldwin, and Anthony Anderson. So successful is their night of game shows, ABC renewed the entire slate for more seasons earlier this week.

Worst: "Feed the Beast" (AMC)

AMC

AMC's "Feed the Beast" fails terribly at melding several genres into one drama series. The series really should've picked a couple big elements and stuck with those. Instead, we wonder if this is a buddy series, a mafia drama, about a dysfunctional family, or about the challenge of opening a restaurant. It could be all those things if it didn't feel so jarring. "Feed the Beast" bit off more than it could chew.

Best: "Stranger Things" (Netflix)

Anna Armatis/Netflix

Where "Feed the Beast" fails in crossing genres, "Stranger Things" excels. There is really nothing else like it. It seamlessly crosses genres, ranging from supernatural, coming of age, and horror. And while it is its own crazy thing, it's also a tribute to the best movies of the '80s. Plus, there's Winona Ryder, queen of the '80s.

Worst: "UnReal" (Lifetime)

Sergei Bachlakov/Lifetime

To tell you the truth, we only kind of saw the attraction of "UnReal" during its first season. The vision seemed solid and the interest in what transpires behind a reality dating show like ABC's "The Bachelor" was strong. But in its second season, the character dramas are becoming more central and so the writing falters, the editing misses, and the story holes are becoming more apparent.

We won't say it has hit a sophomore slump, because we think the show wasn't that great to begin with. For those who did like the first season, the behind-the-scenes novelty has worn off.

Best: "Mr. Robot" (USA Network)

Peter Kramer/USA Network

As with "UnReal," the buzz from season one has become quieter during its second season. But unlike "UnReal," "Mr. Robot" doesn't skimp in the quality of its storytelling after it revealed that much of the story was being distorted by Elliot's mental illness. It's still a very strong production from its writing to its singular visual sense. That's to be expected with the show's creator, Sam Esmail, directing all of this season's episodes.

Best: "Game of Thrones" (HBO)

HBO

There was huge pressure on "Game of Thrones" coming into this season. Aside from what to do about Jon Snow's corpse (Kit Harington), the show also had to find its own way as it surpassed George R.R Martin's books. It found a thrilling pace, a somewhat more humorous set of character exchanges, and some huge story beats that will be paid off in the two final seasons.

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