There was a lot of great TV in 2022. As the number of networks and streaming services continues to grow, it can be a challenge to decide what to watch, so we’re singling out 14 shows that caught our attention this year. With a mix of new and returning series, comedy and drama, cable and streaming, there’s something on the list for everyone.
“Abbott Elementary” (2021–)
After premiering on ABC last December, “Abbott Elementary” has quickly emerged as one of the best comedies on television. Inspired by the upbringing of creator, writer and star Quinta Brunson, the sitcom follows the everyday lives of teachers at an underfunded, predominantly Black public school in Philadelphia. The series tackles real-life issues that public schools face in an honest and refreshing way, and its characters are complex but instantly likable. “Abbott” benefits from an exceptional cast, led by Brunson, Janelle James and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who make the show a joy to watch every week.
Back after a three-year hiatus, Bill Hader’s dark comedy embraces the darkness in its third season. Once again, Hader shines in his role as Barry Berkman, a hitman-turned-actor who struggles to escape his troubled past. And this show has everything: incredible visuals, complex action sequences and Henry Winkler’s character teaching a hilarious acting master class. Sarah Goldberg and Anthony Carrigan give terrific performances as Sally Reed and NoHo Hank, respectively, and Hader’s direction brings an intensity to the series that culminates in an incredible season finale.
“The Dropout” (2022)
The Hulu miniseries chronicles the astonishing true story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried), the CEO of Theranos, whose revolutionary blood testing device was revealed to be a scam. Seyfried’s performance is a tour-de-force, nailing Holmes’ mannerisms without turning her into a caricature. The series turns 12 years of Holmes’ life into seven hours of television with a talented supporting cast and a jaw-dropping script that is more true to life than your average TV biopic.
It’s no surprise that a show about comedy is one of the funniest things on TV right now. “Hacks” really hits its stride in season 2 as legendary stand-up comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her young writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) embark on a tour. The emotional stakes are higher, the characters are more fully fleshed out and the dysfunctional bond between Deborah and Ava deepens in season 2. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and the writing is smart (get it?) and consistently hilarious.
“Irma Vep” (2022)
A delightfully postmodern limited series, “Irma Vep” follows a young actress, sick of meaningless franchise roles, as she tries her hand at an irreverent remake of an early 20th century French silent serial. Sounds confusing and boring? That’s kind of the point. Star Alicia Vikander is magical, and writer and director Olivier Assayas is staggeringly brilliant. To top it off, Assayas’ former collaborator Kristen Stewart makes an awesome last-minute cameo in a series that is subtly yet palpably about her own artistic plight.
“Only Murders in the Building” (2021–)
Hulu’s critically acclaimed mystery-comedy returned for season two this summer with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as a trio of sleuths teaming up to solve another murder in their Manhattan apartment building. “Only Murders” is anchored by comedy legends Martin and Short, who find moments of humor in every scene. The show’s whimsical vibes and sharp dialogue make it an enjoyable watch, and this season presents another well-crafted whodunit that will keep you guessing until the final episode.
“Our Flag Means Death” (2022–)
The swashbuckling HBO Max series tells the tale of Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), a real-life 18th century aristocrat who abandons his predictable life to become a pirate. Packed to the brim with raucous humor and likable characters, “Our Flag Means Death” is more than meets the eye. The series subverts viewers’ expectations by injecting the story with moments of introspection and romance and looks at historical events through a contemporary lens, bringing characters of color and queer relationships to the forefront in an admirable way.
“Reservation Dogs” (2021–)
After a critically acclaimed first season, the FX dramedy returned for an even brighter second run this year. Following the lives of four Indigenous teenagers living on a reservation in Oklahoma, season 2 of “Reservation Dogs” offered poignant explorations of grief while retaining its lighthearted energy. It’s funny, it’s moving and it offers new and important perspectives that we need more of on TV.
This brilliant new Apple TV+ show from Ben Stiller turns workplace drama into a dystopian thriller, exploring the dilemma of ‘work-life balance’ with a dark twist. Adam Scott delivers a strong performance as Mark Scout, an employee at Lumon Industries, a powerful biotech corporation that allows its employees to separate their work memories from their non-work memories. The well-crafted story effortlessly jumps back and forth between the office and the outside world, and the technical elements of the series disconcert viewers and make them constantly wonder what’s coming next.
“Station Eleven” (2021-2022)
Another show-stopping HBO miniseries, “Station Eleven” is a beautiful adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel of the same name. The show follows a traveling troupe of Shakespeare actors in a dystopian world some 20 years after a pandemic wiped out society as we know it. Admittedly, the first episode feels a bit too close to home in light of our own pandemic, but this show’s apocalypse is beautiful, meditative and heartwarming.
“Stranger Things” (2016–)
The Netflix juggernaut expands beyonds the boundaries of Hawkins in its fourth season, splitting up its main cast between Indiana, California and Russia. Generally longer in runtime and darker in tone than its predecessors, the new season introduces several compelling new characters and shines a spotlight on fan favorites, like Sadie Sink’s Max. The result is a sprawling, action-packed story that pays homage to films and music of the ’80s while diving deeper into the mystery of the Upside Down.
“What We Do in the Shadows” (2019–)
There’s no better way to describe “What We Do in the Shadows” than by saying it’s like if “The Office” were about weird vampires living in Staten Island. This season’s triumphant batch of episodes saw our heroes explore everything from psychoanalysis to parenthood to extravagant nuptials. In Emmy’s view, the best single episode of TV this year was “Shadows” season 4 episode 8, which parodized home-improvement shows to a point of absurdity remarkable even for a mockumentary about vampires in Staten Island.
“The White Lotus” (2021–)
The HBO hit returned for season 2 this fall, swapping the first season’s Hawaiian resort for a hotel in Sicily and introducing a new cast of characters. A dark comedy and a murder mystery wrapped into one, the show’s social commentary is just as sharp and its ensemble cast just as talented (what would we do without you, Jennifer Coolidge?) While we still don’t know how the season will end, the shocking twists and intricate plot are worth tuning in for every week.
“ZIWE” is the future of the talk show. The eponymous comedian has become known online for her provocative questions (e.g., “Marry, f*ck, kill: money, happiness, the working class”), satirical music videos (e.g. “Am I Gay?,” a stab at queerbait-y pop stars), and iconic guests (including, this year, Chet Hanks, Emily Ratajkowski and Julia Fox). “ZIWE” is hilarious, insightful and brilliant.
Honorable mentions: “The Boys” (2019–), “The Crown” (2016–) (if only for a flawless Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana), “House of the Dragon” (2022–) (if only for the cultural embrace of the negroni), “Peacemaker” (2022–), “The Rehearsal” (2022–) (Nathan Fielder is a genius) and “Somebody Somewhere” (2022–).
Our year-end favorites:
Emmy: “The White Lotus,” but tying for an extremely close second place are “Station Eleven” and “Irma Vep.” HBO Max knows what it’s doing!
Nate: So hard to pick a favorite this year, but the incredible first season of “Severance” is the show that really stood out, followed by “Abbott Elementary” and “Hacks,” two of the funniest shows on TV.