Here are our favorite TV shows of 2022, a collective list based on our individual top 10s from our 2-parter podcast episode you can check out below.
12. Irma Vep
Part meta commentary on the state of the film and TV industry, part ethereal meditation on artists’ lives, Irma Vep is a triumph of the streaming era bubble. We may never get another show quite like this as all the streamers realize that pouring unlimited funds into the dream projects of European auteurs may not yield a great return on investment. Weirdly hilarious and insightful, with fantastic performances across the board, this is the rare show that you won’t really hear about anyone watching, but those who have will sing its praises. And rightfully so.
While Survivor may be due for another refresh just 3 seasons into its accelerated 26-day #BrandNewGame, this year offered a really entertaining crowd of contestants with the above group being a pretty captivating race to the finish line. The trouble this year came from the seemingly cryptic editing style the producers are attempting, intentionally obscuring important details for the sake of surprise, only to leave us confused and disappointed with the final outcome. As Survivor fans, we get attached every year to these people and only wish we could some influence the vote, or at least have more insight into what goes into it. Mr. Jeffrey Probst, any chance we can get the Ponderosa spin-off on Parmount+?
10. Andor / The Boys / We Own This City
I don’t think anyone expected the show based on the third most interesting character in Rogue One to be a better Star Wars show than the one centered on Obi Wan Kenobi, with the beloved Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprising their iconic roles. And yet here we are. Thanks to the talents of Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Beau WIllimon, and the rest of the creative team, new life has been injected into this world. No longer are we seeing a path forward defined by retracing our steps and revisiting our favorite Skywalker friends.
Andor is not just a really effective and thrilling espionage show. It’s also a heist movie, and a prison break movie. The creators of this show were not burdened with a nostalgia or toy sales quota. They were allowed to make a profoundly well-written story with compelling characters, performed splendidly by the likes of Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Alex Lawther, and many more. It’s a massive and expansive tale with grounded stakes that feel human. It’s a promise fulfilled of what Star Wars could be as a TV show for adults. It feels like a miracle.
Check out our full review of Andor:
Now in its third season, The Boys is only competing with itself with how gruesome, shocking, and vile it can get it. It’s on a challenge to top itself, and somehow it continues to do just that. While the novelty may not be there anymore, we are able to further expand our understanding of this world and these characters, with plenty of room for hilarious jokes riffing on the industrial superhero complex, pulling in takes on right-wing gun culture, MAGA freaks, and the Kendal Jenner Pepsi commercial. This show seems to have the ability to go as far as it wants with its violence and critiques on our modern culture, and I can’t wait to see how much further it goes.
Happy Wayne Jenkins Day everyone. From the minds that brought us previous HBO gems like The Wire and The Deuce, comes the real-life account of Baltimore police corruption in We Own This City. Jon Bernthal gives what has to be the best performance of his career so far as Wayne Jenkins, the leader of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Taskforce, a group of real-life crooked cops that ran a widely overambitious operation involving stealing cash from both crime scenes and unlucky local residents, as well as supplying drugs to dealers.
Largely a tough and demanding watch, this show gives us a detailed account of every angle of this story in just six episodes. Nearly every step of the way is Bernthal’s electric performance, a black hole of charisma and terror, the source of inspiration for all these cops to turn bad. This show is the antidote to everything from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Law & Order. This is the response to years of cop-aganda on TV. It’s not as simple as just A.C.A.B. It’s and actual examination of how easily corruption happens and how hard it is to be a good cop. Above all else, this is an exceptional and necessary work.
9. Reservation Dogs
One of the joys of being a lover of TV is the hope that one day we’ll be lucky enough to discover something truly special. Sterlin Harjo’s Reservation Dogs is beyond just a great story about people whose stories are not commonly in the spotlight. It is a gorgeous celebration of youth, even when it is defined by loss and trauma. These actors are giving us so many beautiful and tender layers in their performances, breathing so much life into an already vibrant world.
The balance of tone is exemplary here, as the dire circumstances of living in a Native American reservation in rural Oklahoma are presented with real humanity, always focusing on the humor and positivity. The sadness that runs through the core of this story is always present, but every episode makes sure to make feel happy and warm. I hope this show goes on for many years, and that we get many more like it.
8. The After-Party
A murder mystery, a romantic comedy, a car chase action movie, a musical, a Fincher-esque thriller, a high school teen comedy, an animated movie, a police procedural, and kids’ show. This is all one show. From Chris Miller, one half of the duo who gave us 21 and 22 Jump Street, comes one of the most ambitious and overlooked shows of the year.
A stellar cast delivers on all fronts, always maximizing the intrigue and the comedic value of every scene. The mystery is perfectly plotted and paid off, and the genre parody is fully realized, with every episode committing to the bit in visual style and tone.
The After-Party is packed full of all kinds of jokes, and swings for the fences with its themed approach to each episode. You come for the classic whodunit murder mystery, and you stay for the absolutely genius success of Miller’s directing every single episode. It’s a real feat of high concept comedy. Among the best to ever do it.
Check out our full discussion of The After-Party:
7. The White Lotus
In Mike White’s world, no one is safe. The initial concept of a death at The White Lotus Sicilian resort means that any of the characters we follow could end up in a body bag. But that’s only half the fun. The promise of a big death at the end is just a hook to guarantee both a green light from HBO and viewers to tune in. What writer and director Mike White is really interested is micro-interactions between people who are consumed by their own vices.
In season 1, it was money, wealth, and greed. And now in season 2, White is exploring sex, lust, and relationships. He is fascinated by the power that gender dynamics and sexual attraction have over us, and he wants his characters to suffer through it all. This show is lush with Italian romance, and the slow descent to a mortal finale is packed with highly uncomfortable and awkward scenarios that make us all wonder how’d handle it ourselves. It’s TV at its finest.
Check out our full discussion of The White Lotus S2
After being gone from our lives for three years, Barry is back. Bill Hader’s genius project finds new depths and lower lows for his titular hitman turned aspiring actor as he struggles to find redemption for his sins. There is no show quite like this, somehow managing to maintain a grip on its comedic roots as its drama gets pushed to such unimaginable highs.
There are more moments of pure magic in this season, from Noho Hank’s forbidden cartel romance, to Gene’s masterclass, to Sally’s attempts at streaming TV auteur success (shout out to weirdo network exec Venessa Bayer). This show soars unlike any other, and at its core is the one and only Bill Hader, forcing us to witness the darkest depths of his creative power.
So long, farewell to one of the most unique and influential pieces of art that television has ever given us. Much like Barry, Atlanta has also been absent for about three years. Donald Glover’s opus returned to a much-changed television landscape with somewhat puzzled reactions. The third season in early 2022 centered about half of its episodes on stories completely separate from our core characters and world. It became an anthology show, sidelining the main cast in favor of exploring absurdist themes myths that only a show like Atlanta could. In between those episodes we got the gang in Europe, now in a post-success context, exploring themes of what changes when you become a successful person, specially a successful black person.
In its final season, Atlanta continued this through line, now back home in its titular city. It goes out on a high note, reverting us back to basics and away from the artsy swings of the third season. There are significant depths and layers to the ideas in this show, and the fact that it scales it back makes it so it’s able to infuse its story with these complex concepts without much struggle. We get an episode riffing on the Tyler Perry studio complex outside of Atlanta, and another one on a fictional documentary about the making of A Goofy Movie. All the hoops it’s trying to jump through are made to look so easy, as we get really important and tender moments with every main character that leave us satisfied in the closing chapters of one of the most special shows of all time.
I was a huge fan of Ben Stiller’s previous directorial effort, Escape at Dannemora. His follow-up is Severance, a massive level-up at nearly every opportunity. This is a gripping and suspenseful thriller with stilted vibes that are just off the charts. The mystery is similar to something like Lost or Westworld, but with a thousand times more promise right out the gate. The handle on tone is exceptional, with a weird balance of terror and plain office humor.
The premise of splitting yourself completely into two entire separate personalities, an innie and an outie, to cope with the drone banality of work is a fascinating starting point, especially when viewed from our reality, a world that has become defined by remote/hybrid work.
Severance is full of perfect performances, lathered in obscurity due to the fact that these people only get to know their innie selves, as do we. The exception is Adam Scott, who we follow back home to his outie life. He proves that he is much more than just another funny guy. Much like Stiller, the man has range.
The season finale might be the best television episode of the year. It ratchets up the tension to the extreme, and leaves us in an all-time great cliffhanger that automatically makes the second season the most anticipated show of 2023. Or 2024. Greatness may take a minute.
3. Better Call Saul
To follow up one of the best shows of all time is no simple task. To attempt to surpass it is beyond daunting. Now, the argument of whether or not Better Call Saul is better or worse than its predecessor, Breaking Bad, is a silly one. Saul would not exist without Bad. Everything that this show is built on is owed to the greatness of what Vince Gilligan and his team did with that incredible show. And now that Saul has wrapped, we can add Peter Gould and his team to that pantheon.
Everything about this show is pure perfection. Every decision is the right one. Every sound cue, every camera placement, every glorious Cinnabon montage. The rise and fall and rise again and fall again of James McGill aka Saul Goodman aka Gene will forever be remembered as one of the great achievements in the world of storytelling. Bob Odenkirk’s performance is a masterclass in tragedy, soaked in pain and twisted charisma.
But at the end of the day, this was always a love story. Throughout all the ups and downs of this amazing show and the great characters we met along the way, there was always Kim Wexler, played by the one and only Rhea Seehorn. The constant question of this show was always “what happens to Kim?” and the writers knew that. They knew that we wanted and needed a satisfying ending to that story. What we got was beyond perfection. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.
2. The Bear
“Yes, chef. Heard that, chef.” Words that will live in infamy. The Bear is at its surface a classic TV show. It’s a cast of wacky characters that we get to know in a workplace setting. We’ve seen it done before. But never quite like this. Never this energized and frenetic. Never this heartfelt and heart-pounding.
Above all else, what The Bear does the best is it perfectly captures the feeling of working at a busy restaurant. A feeling that so many of us that have worked service industry jobs know all too well. The panic of food tickets being printed out non-stop. The grime that you can never get out from underneath your fingernails. The dreams in the middle of the night of unfinished side work. The constant harassment.
This show is a sublime and layered meal, broken up into just eight half-hour episodes. There are as many laughs as sweat-inducing sequences, all supported by a tragic backbone of a lost loved one. Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White, is grieving the loss of his brother, who has left him this Chicago sandwich shop. Also in mourning is Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie (who is also tremendous in Andor, by the way), as are the rest of the restaurant crew, all forced to carry on with the weight of this loss at every step.
The Bear has everything you could want in a show. All the comedy and thrills and the cooking montages. And it does it all in just about four hours. It’s worth every single second.
1. The Rehearsal
Nathan Fielder is a special guy. He’s really creative and unique. He’s also a sociopath who will stop at nothing to manipulate everyone he encounters and bend them to his will. It’s all for our entertainment. Or for his own selfish desires. Whatever works for you.
The Rehearsal is a new type of thing. The closest descriptor would be a reality show, or a documentary, but it’s so much more than that. It is experimental filmmaking of a flavor only Fielder could concoct. The show begins in relatively simple place, similar to Fielder’s previous show, Nathan For You. He is setting out to help someone use his particular set of skills to improve their lives. In this case, by allowing them to rehearse a tough conversation many times before actually having to go and do it for real.
Very early on, this premise gets completely derailed (by the pandemic form the looks of it). And thus begins a descent into Fielder’s mad genius, locking us in a perverse rehearsal of his own life, stepping in to be a co-parent to a pretend child, played by a series of child actors of increasingly older ages. Along the way is Angela, one of the most bizarre and brazenly problematic people we’ve had to pleasure of getting to know this past year.
The Rehearsal needs to be seen to be believed. It is not a show for everyone, but if you want your understanding for what is possible in this medium to be pushed to new extremes, it is a must-watch sensational piece of art.
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