USA's Mr. Robot and Lifetime's UnREAL were the two biggest TV surprises of last summer: dark, complicated, incredibly well-acted dramas that both seemed wildly off-brand for their respective channels.

One year later, and... well, it's obviously very early in Mr. Robot's second season (and I liked last week's premiere), but UnREAL has gone badly off the rails for most of its second. The two apparently diverging paths prompted a conversation between myself and HitFix's editor-in-chief, Richard Rushfield, about where both series stand, and the reasons why some shows slump in their sophomore years, while others soar. It's embedded at the top and bottom of this post.

Also: during the Mr. Robot discussion, we get into a fan theory I've heard about what Elliot is up to at this point in the season, and why I very strongly hope it isn't where the show is headed.

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at