The end of each year provides critics the opportunity to construct (or, depending on their temperament, the burden of constructing) a list of their ten favorite shows—such a list is usually carefully constructed, with elements in some semblance of balance between network and cable, between comedy and drama.

This midyear list is every bit as scattered as a year-end list is effortful; with five superlative individual episodes, eight series, and one documentary, it’s not meant to be definitive. Indeed, the shows are placed in alphabetical order rather than ranked. Why? Because the year’s absolute best series could well be ahead of us. Certainly, everyone from the broadcast networks (who recently announced their fall schedules) to HBO and Netflix (with their respective potential critical hits The Night Of and The Get Down) has to hope so. As we wait for those, though, this scratchpad of what’s been great so far this year could provide some inspiration for what to stream in the hot summer months.

Some of these shows will not make it onto a year-end best list; something that already aired well might, given the very best of TV’s propensity to improve in memory. But that’s months from now, anyhow. And the volume of worthwhile TV, from an utterly unexpected cop comedy to a better-than-ever spy drama, that’s aired in the first half of the year is proof that a few months of TV can bear plenty of surprises.

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