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The Best Summer Television Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked

As the summer days drift away relive the best memories of TV's best summer nights.

Best Summer TV Shows Ever Breaking Bad OITNB Mr Robot


In the not-so-good old days, summer used to be a break for more than just students. It was time off from great TV, as broadcast networks aired reruns, sports, and reality competitions while they assumed people were outside having fun. But since the new golden age began, all these TV shows have had to fit in somewhere, and many networks chose to run them during the less competitive summer months.

That’s led to a boon of TV’s best shows popping up when no series dared debut before. So, to honor the latest summer sensation — Netflix’s “GLOW” — we’ve gathered the elite qualifiers below and ranked the seasons by overall quality, summer spirit, and re-watchability. To be eligible, seasons needed to be released in the months between June 1 and August 31 during the 21st century. After all, there’s plenty of new options to consider, but sometimes you want to beat the heat by bingeing the best.

READ MORE: ‘GLOW’ Review: The Series of the Summer is Netflix’s ’80s Wrestling Comedy

15. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” – Season 2

Debut: June 29, 2006
Episode Highlights: “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare,” “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom,” “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass”

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is an ideal summer show in that heat drives people crazy, and no one is crazier than this gang of drunken hooligans. Plus, Season 2 was when the gang fully came together — Danny DeVito joined the cast — and a number of iconic, endlessly re-watchable episodes were released. Grab a cold one and go a little cuckoo.

READ MORE: ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Supercut Brings Together Every ‘God Dammit’ From All 134 Episodes — Watch

14. “Mr. Robot” – Season 1

Debut: June 24, 2015
Episode Highlights: “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov,” “eps1.7_wh1ter0se.m4v,” “eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt”

When you’re laying in a field watching the fireworks or catching some rays on the beach, you need something to talk about. Few shows fueled conversation as well as “Mr. Robot” in its debut season, with its intriguing mysteries, striking visuals, and oh-so-juicy twist(s). “Mr. Robot” put Sam Esmail, Rami Malek, and USA Network on the map. Dark skies on a hot summer’s day have never been such a welcome sight.

READ MORE: ‘Mr. Robot’ Season 3: Why Sam Esmail Couldn’t Ignore Trump’s Victory When Writing New Episodes

13. “Californication” – Season 1

Californication Natasha McElhone David Duchovny

Debut: August 13, 2007
Episode Highlights: “Pilot,” “California Son,” “The Devil’s Threesome,” “The Last Waltz”

The dark knight of California relationships was never more honorable than in his first season, as Hank Moody’s (David Duchovny) valiant efforts to win back his departed wife and daughter were charming, sincere, and not-yet-overstretched. In fact, the arc of Season 1 is ideal for the three months of summer: 12 episodes, an endearing start, and an ending more fitting than the series finale.

READ MORE: ‘The Larry Sanders Show’: Want to Understand Its Genius? Start With David Duchovny

12. “Review” – Season 2

Debut: July 30, 2015
Episode Highlights: “Brawl, Blackmail, Gloryhole,” “Curing Homosexuality, Mile High Club,” “Catfish, Haunted House,” “Murder, Magic 8 Ball, Procrastination,” “Conspiracy Theory”

Honestly, “Review” Season 2 is a highlight from start to finish. Forrest MacNeil’s quest to evaluate an array of experiences from being buried alive to granting wishes has applicable lessons for every season, but creative possibility peaks during the long days of summer, and no one grabs a hold of life like the man who reviewed happiness itself. Let his sacrifices inspire you, and don’t let his ending become yours.

READ MORE: ‘Review’ Review: One of TV’s Best Comedies Kicks Off Its Farewell Season with Some Greatest Hits

11. “Six Feet Under” – Season 5

Debut: June 6, 2005
Episode Highlights: “Singing For Our Lives,” “Ecotone,” “All Alone,” “Everyone’s Waiting”

For some, all the life on display during summer’s green, glowing months brings to mind the opposite: the dark release of death. “Six Feet Under” embraces these ideas in imaginative ways, encompassing the frustrating and the fascinating elements of what we’ll all face one way or another. And the final season is oft-heralded as the best finale of any series — a fitting end for a show about the ultimate goodbye.

READ MORE: ‘Six Feet Under’ Anniversary: The 7 Episodes Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall Remember Best

10. “You’re the Worst” – Season 1

YOU'RE THE WORST -- "Spooky Sunday Funday" --Episode 208 (Airs Wednesday, October 28, 10:30 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Aya Cash as Gretchen, Chris Geere as Jimmy. CR: Byron Cohen/FX

Debut: July 17, 2014
Episode Highlights: “Pilot,” “Sunday Funday,” “Constant Horror and Bone-Deep Dissatisfaction,” Fists and Feet and Stuff”

After a season of wedding after wedding, it’s healthy to take a skeptical look at monogamy from a couple who can’t help but embrace it. Stephen Falk’s modern romantic comedy can be the perfect goodbye to summer love, or a healthy perspective to push new coupledom into fall, winter, and beyond. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) may not be the most well-adjusted individuals, but it’s hard to find a pair better suited for one another; love may be a fool’s game, but it’s one you can’t refuse when asked to play by the right person.

READ MORE: ‘You’re the Worst’: Why Sunday Funday Had to End, According to Aya Cash, Kether Donohue and Stephen Falk

9. “Louie” – Season 3

Debut: June 28, 2012
Episode Highlights: “Miami,” “Barney/Never,” “Late Show: Part 2,” “New Year’s Eve”

Summer in New York is very much its own thing, and few are better suited to guide you through its limitless possibilities than the free-thinking mind of Louis C.K. Whether you’re taking a vacation during your summer vacation or walking the streets of a city flush with noise, movement, and life itself, “Louie” offers a tweaked, inviting perspective thanks to stories like Louie’s peculiar Miami adventure and auditioning for the “Late Show” gig at home in NY (with special guest David Lynch). Everywhere you turn, there’s something new — embrace it.

READ MORE: ‘Better Things’ Finale Review: Pamela Adlon Dedicates a Perfect Season to Her Daughters, But It’s For Absolutely All of Us

8. “The Leftovers” – Season 1

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Debut: June 29, 2014
Episode Highlights: “Pilot,” “Guest,” “The Garveys at Their Best,” “The Prodigal Son Returns”

Like a combination of the crazy from “It’s Always Sunny” and the darkness of “Six Feet Under,” Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s initial whack at the novelist’s work feels like a meditative recovery through persistent insanity. Summer is meant to be a time of leisure, for family vacations and group barbecues. But when tragedy strikes at the worst time, as it’s prone to do, the hot months’ relaxing vibes warp into unending anxiety. A long day is stressful; a calm night is a mind-trap. Who better to sweat them out with than a sweaty Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and an uncensored Nora Durst (Carrie Coon)? Manhattan vacationers can’t escape a mad New York summer in Mapleton — nor should they try.

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’: The Best Shots of the Final Season, Chosen by Director Mimi Leder

Continue reading for the top seven series of the summer.

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