Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul star in “Breaking Bad” on AMC. Photo courtesy of AMC.

Summer television means one of two things. Reruns and reality competitions or the season of cable television’s highest quality shows. With minimal competition from the major broadcast networks, cable gains the opportunity to air some of its most critically acclaimed shows while the networks take a hiatus. In case you spent your time watching “America’s Got Talent” or “Jersey Shore” and its recent spin-offs or even if you just didn’t have time to watch television over the summer, this is what you missed.

Breaking Bad – AMC
Returning for the first half of its fifth and final season, “Breaking Bad” has no intention of ending quietly. After killing the main antagonist last season, the show has started to fill that spot with Walter White, the show’s main character. With many popular cable series centered around an antihero, this may not be as compelling anymore, but Breaking Bad has made us observers of the entire transformation, beginning to end, and the results are thrilling. If you or someone you know has been meaning to catch up on this incredible series but hasn’t gotten around to it, now more than ever, with so few episodes left in the entire series, is the time.

Political Animals – USA
A departure from the typical USA lineup, “Political Animals” is one of the great new shows of the summer. A political drama with a main character and surrounding family based on the Clintons, the show provides a provocative take on Clinton’s presidency and the resulting impact on his family. At times the show delves into the realm of soap opera, with as much politics going on without clothing than with it, but for the most part the show is an engaging look into the backroom antics of DC and the entirety of U.S. politics.

Game of Thrones – HBO
After becoming a cultural phenomenon in its inaugural season, “Game of Thrones” returned early this summer for its second season. Building on the hype from last season, the show continued to broaden its storytelling, bringing in more characters, locales and even more shocking moments. Specifically the second-to-last episode “Blackwater” exhibited this improvement, narrowing its scope to a single event for an entire episode resulting in one of the most compelling hours of television in recent history. When your friends or classmates insist you catch up with this show, their recommendation is a strong one.

The Newsroom – HBO
Aaron Sorkin’s (The Social Network, Moneyball, The West Wing) return to television is set behind the scenes of a fictional cable news show. Whether you strongly support, passionately despise or have no opinion on the political messages that underwrite the show, the dialogue and character interactions on the show are first-rate. Many critics may not recommend it, but I argue that between the dialogue, production values and strong characters, “The Newsroom” is one of the most enjoyable hours currently airing on TV.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra – Nickelodeon
Sequel to the wildly popular “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the series may be a strange recommendation for a college audience. Although animated and airing on Nickelodeon, it drew over a million viewers ages 18-35 and, similar to its predecessor, maintains that adult following. With a talented voice cast, adult themes and relationships, plus an extensively fleshed out world, the show deserves all the appreciation it gets. Even if you haven’t watched the original, this series is worth checking out and is one of the best dramas that aired this summer.