Saturday, November 12, 2022

Jenn’s Pick: The 22 Best TV Series of 2022 [Contributor: Jenn]

A TV critic friend of mine (hi there, Nick!) posed a question on Twitter a while back, asking how many television shows per year — new series and rewatches included — we watched. The point was to ponder whether or not the amount of television he watched was way higher than an average person’s. Because I was curious, I compiled my list.

I clocked in at 75 shows, and I still feel like I’ve missed some. (Can you tell I’m a TV fan?) And in the spirit of being clever, I decided to narrow my list down into a listicle, selecting the top 22 shows from 2022 that I watched. These are all series that aired at least one new episode — most an entire season — this year. They’re in no particular order, but they have one thing in common: They got me through another very strange year in this very strange world.

Loot (Apple TV+)

A well-known fact about me is that I love ensemble sitcoms. So when I discovered that there was an ensemble comedy on Apple TV+ starring Maya Rudolph, I was already interested. Loot is the story of Molly who, after a divorce settlement, becomes one of the richest women in the U.S. Trying to boost her self-confidence, she decides to become more involved in the charitable foundation she forgot she founded. The foundation’s director, Sophia (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez) is rightfully skeptical about Molly’s motives and her involvement with the foundation. Throughout the first season, Molly makes a lot of mistakes and doesn’t do the right thing — even when her heart is in the right place. That’s part of what I love about the show though. 

In addition to a stellar cast that includes Ron Funches, Nat Faxon, and Joel Kim Booster, Loot is a show about learning and trying to be a better version of yourself: sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always doing it with people around you.

Credit: zmia23

Bridgerton (Netflix)

While season one of Bridgerton was arguably a smash hit (and got me through part of 2020), season two truly breathed new life into the show by focusing on the love story between Anthony and Kate (Simone Ashley). It’s a classic enemies-to-lovers romance tale, but the pining and the chemistry between Jonathan Bailey and Simone truly sold the second season and made it, for me at least, better than the first. Their physical chemistry was off the charts, but the connection between their characters around family duties, grief, and expectations was what drew me in closer. I didn’t really like Anthony in the first season, but season two allowed his character to breathe, to evolve, and to become a more fully-realized person/romantic lead. And Kate Sharma, from the very first episode, knew exactly who she was and what she wanted in life but it was beautiful to see her recognize that her own happiness and feelings were valuable and that trying to sacrifice them to please others wasn’t going to make her content.

It was lovely to see a focus on the Sharma sisters, and the depiction of a messy and complex sister relationship between two women where the older sister acts more like a parent was really beautiful. While we have to wait a while for the third season of the series, I fully believe I’ll rewatch season two just to get joy from that Kanthony love story.

Reboot (Hulu)

I’ll watch pretty much anything that Rachel Bloom is involved with, so when I heard about her new, quite meta series Reboot, I had to check it out. The Hulu show focuses on a sitcom called Step Right Up from the early 2000s that gets a reboot on... well, Hulu. Bloom plays the new showrunner for the series who unfortunately gets paired with the temperamental former showrunner Gordon (Paul Reiser). The two clash as they try to establish a modern version of the show and create a new writers’ room. But they aren’t the only ones clashing; the original cast — Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, and Calum Worthy — returns and brings all their drama and history with them.

Reboot is a clever, witty show that perfectly utilizes the cast members. Judy Greer, in particular, is a delight to watch. The one critique is that because it’s a Hulu Original, it feels too short at only eight episodes. However, in the short amount of time, the show managed to give us dynamic, interesting, flawed, and funny characters you actually want to root for. And given the fact that there are so many characters in Reboot, I have to commend the show for how they handle individual and group stories with ease. I’m definitely ready to see what unfolds in season two!

The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

I only watched a season or so of The Big Bang Theory so I mostly knew Kaley Cuoco as a comedic actress. And while she gets to deliver some genuinely funny moments and lines, The Flight Attendant mostly flexes her dark comedy/dramatic acting skills — and she completely delivers. While the first season of the show about an alcoholic flight attendant caught up in a murder plot delivered incredible moments and twists, the second season stepped everything up a notch with Kaley playing against multiple versions of herself throughout a majority of the season. 

The Flight Attendant delivered a central mystery again in its sophomore year, but this time around saw Cassie grappling with a life of sobriety — and it was an incredible, painful look at family trauma too. The season was funny and genuinely heartbreaking at times to watch, especially because there are so many moments where our protagonist is unlikable, says the wrong thing, and/or does the wrong thing. And yet, that’s part of the reason I’m so drawn to the series in the first place: a messy, complex female character who doesn’t always do the right thing but who you still empathize with and want to be the best, healthiest version of herself. It’s a series worth watching and you will not be disappointed.

Dollface (Hulu)

With magical realism at the forefront and a female-centered cast, it’s a shame no one is talking about Dollface more — especially since the world became even more enamored by Kat Dennings in WandaVision last year. The series began as a show about a woman, Jules (Dennings), who realizes that when she got into a long-term relationship, she lost touch with all her female friends. Her breakup forces her back into the world of female friendships and navigating a new sense of self. Also starring Brenda Song, Shay Mitchell, and Esther Povitsky, Dollface has some of the most silly, inventive episodes on TV (“Feminst” from season one remains one of my favorites) about women trying to navigate life and their identities together.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

In the last few years, there has rarely been a bigger global hit than Stranger Things. From its debut, the show was wild, twisty, sometimes scary and creepy, and also a chance for us to be transported back into the 80s. At its core, it’s a show about friendship and found family. In reality, it’s a sci-fi series about the Upside Down, monsters, and their keepers. 

Between the smash success and resurgence of “Running Up That Hill” (with a stellar Sadie Sink acting performance), the nervousness among fans over Steve’s fate (spoiler alert: he’s fine), the introduction of a new character that took the Internet by storm (howdy, Eddie), and the return of your favorite characters, Stranger Things didn’t disappoint me this year. Even when we all rolled our eyes at the long runtimes for the final two episodes (seriously), we still sat glued to our devices to see how this season would end. 

As we prepare for the final installment in our story about Eleven, her friends and family, and the battle between good and evil, I’m excited (and admittedly a bit nervous) to see how the journey actually ends.

Trying (Apple TV+)

Apple TV+’s marketing is stellar because it convinced me that I needed to watch three seasons of a show that no one I knew was talking about. And it was totally worth it because Trying is the streamer’s hidden gem that will have you cackling one minute and bawling the next. The premise is pretty simple: British couple Jason and Nikki want to have a baby, but are unable to conceive. So they decide to pursue adoption. And that’s the series in a nutshell. The episodes are a mix of the two learning to be parents, dealing with their eccentric friends and family, and with Jason and Nikki figuring out who they are as individuals. It’s a heartwarming, sweet, and fun series about what family and love looks like, even if that picture is not traditional. If you are scrolling through Apple TV+ awaiting the next season of Ted Lasso, I highly recommend this lovely little show for a good cathartic, happy cry.

I wish more people knew and talked about Trying, but you can enjoy all three seasons (and it’s been renewed for a fourth) on the streamer now. Then please report back to me about how much you love it too!

Abbott Elementary (ABC/Hulu)

So much has already been written about this Quinta Brunson-fronted sitcom that was said far better than I could, but let me just say that if you’re not watching it... please do. Abbott Elementary is in its second season currently, and the fact that it was granted a longer episode count proves how impeccable it is. Witty, funny, heartfelt, and character-centric, Abbott Elementary is an absolute gem. There’s a reason why this is an award-winning series, and it’s because Quinta and the writers know the characters so well already and did a great job of establishing who each person was from the get-go. Any way you pair up the ensemble is funny and also unearths more layers of development (I’m thinking about Ava and Janine’s unexpected connection in season one, or how Gregory and Barbara have had such great moments together). 

Abbott Elementary knows exactly who it is, who its characters are, has incredible writing, and trusts the actors implicitly. Not many shows do all of that with this much effortlessness and consistency — which is why the series is so beloved and deserves to continue to win awards both now and into the future.

Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)

It’s not a secret that I love Mythic Quest and have loved it since the very first episode. When the series got renewed for seasons three AND four, I was ecstatic to have my favorite dysfunctional coworkers back. Season two ended with everyone moving into a new phase of their work (and lives): Ian and Poppy left MQ to start their own company, Rachel left to study writing, Brad left for prison, and David... well, David was just left. Season three is off to an impeccable start as the group deals with new work dynamics (Ian and Poppy’s is particularly fun to watch unfold), love and loss, and character growth. 

Mythic Quest is a pearl among the crop of Apple TV+ series — it has some of the most inventive episodes on TV, an amazing and talented ensemble, and wonderful writing that is character-focused, genuinely funny, and will also make you cry on more than one occasion. If you’re not watching it yet, take my word for it and binge it immediately.

Severance (Apple TV+)

Severance is a weird show. And I say that with affection. I adore Adam Scott and that’s what convinced me to give the series a chance. It’s hard to classify Severance — it’s part dark comedy, part sci-fi, part mystery/thriller about a company called Lumon. Scott plays Mark S., a worker at Lumon, who is part of the “severance” program. Essentially what that means is that Mark S. works at Lumon but when he leaves, he becomes Mark Scout who has no memories of what happened at work, and Mark S. has no memories of who Mark Scout is. Mark is in a division with coworkers who are also severed and... well, I wish I could say more than that but anything else is essentially a spoiler!

This Apple TV+ series is an outlier of the ones I’ve recommended from the streamer: a dramatic ensemble series as opposed to a lighthearted comedy, but I do think it’s worth watching. Even though the show didn’t win awards this year, it was nominated and deserved those nominations. And if you’re looking for a show where Adam Scott plays a character other than what you’re used to seeing, this is the series for you. It’s weird, captivating, and every cast member truly delivers. But be warned: it will leave you on a cliffhanger, anticipating season two.

Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)

Season one of Only Murders in the Building brought us a trio that we didn’t know we needed but are now better for knowing: Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. The trio plays neighbors in a building called the Arconia, bonded by the murder of one of the tenants and their obsession with true crime podcasts. Season two finds our trio in hot water after Mabel is discovered over a dead body, covered in the victim’s blood. And thus begins a new mystery that the group needs to solve. If you haven’t watched Only Murders in the Building, it’s a witty comedy and murder mystery rolled together. The first season has one of the most captivating episodes of television I’ve seen in recent years (“The Boy From 6B”) and each episode builds on the mystery. 

The show works because Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are just magic together. The series is creative, finding new ways to tell character-based stories while also keeping us guessing — and throwing red herrings our way — the whole season. This year’s “Flipping the Pieces” is an incredible example of why, even though Martin and Short have worked as a duo for decades, Gomez is an integral piece of the series; it just doesn’t work without her.

If you have Hulu and haven’t yet watched Only Murders in the Building, stop reading this listicle and remedy that immediately.

Starstruck (HBO Max)

I wish more people talked about Starstruck because it’s the very rare rom-com TV series that we desperately need, want, and deserve to have. The second season dropped in 2022 and my only complaint with it was that it was too short. Starstruck’s first season follows Jessie, a normal woman, who gets into a relationship with movie star Tom. The British show, created by and starring the impeccable Rose Matafeo, is exactly what I need in my life: a romantic comedy condensed into a few episodes — with the first season taking place over the course of a year and each episode devoted to a different season. It’s silly, funny, sweet, romantic (Nikesh Patel is the perfect romantic lead), and will constantly leave you wanting more. (It also had one of the funniest moments on TV this year for me.) This is a show that not enough people are talking about and I truly want it to rise to the top of collective TV consciousness soon. Give Rose Matafeo awards!

Acapulco (Apple TV+)

In the 1980s in Acapulco, Mexico, Maximo dreams of working at Las Colinas Resort — a fancy resort. He gets a job as a pool boy and his best friend Memo gets one in the laundry room. They work hard to support their families while also navigating the complex dynamics of work life (and their individual love lives). Meanwhile in the present-day, an older Maximo (Eugenio Derbez), now rich and successful, narrates the stories to his nephew and we begin to learn more about the connections between the past and present. 

A Spanish-English comedy, Acapulco is genuinely one of the most underrated shows at the moment. It’s a charming coming-of-age comedy with an incredibly talented young cast (and Derbez is just a hilarious narrator in present-day). This is one more show to add to your watchlist on Apple TV+.

The Resort (Peacock)

Question: Why aren’t Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper starring in everything these days? Relatedly, The Resort finds them cast as a couple — Emma and Noah — celebrating their ten-year anniversary. Though “celebrating” might be the wrong word, as the pair are struggling with whether or not they will stay married. A cloud of grief and pain hovers over both of them as they arrive at a resort in Cancun. After an ATV accident, Emma falls down a hill and discovers an old cell phone. Curiosity piqued, she begins going through it. As it turns out, the cell phone belongs to a teenager who disappeared 15 years prior. Sam, and another teenager named Violet disappeared without a trace. A freak hurricane happened shortly after they disappeared, making their disappearances a massive mystery. Emma and Noah take it upon themselves to figure out what happened to the teens — and trust me when I say that it gets really wild from there.

I won’t spoil too much of the series for you because I think it’s best you discover the twists the way I did, but I really enjoyed the fact that the show jumped back and forth in time to parallel Emma and Noah’s journey with Sam and Violet’s. I can’t emphasize how great Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper are as a couple dealing with lots of pain and resentment. The Resort crafts a wonderful story about how that can drive wedges in relationships, and I think the resolution to the story — and the way it intersects with the mystery — was such a lovely, cathartic thing to watch.

Please enjoy this series on Peacock and then report back to me!

Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)

Twitter was abuzz over this pirate show and since it was a quick binge, I decided to check it out for myself. I finished the whole first season in a day and regret nothing! As with most of the series on this list, Our Flag Means Death works because it’s a seamless ensemble — with a major focus on Stede (Rhys Darby) and Ed (Taika Waititi) of course and their growing relationship. 

With a diverse cast, queer characters and stories, laugh-out-loud moments, and some genuinely heartbreaking character development — all while boasting guest stars like Fred Armisen, Leslie Jones, Will Arnett, and more — I can definitely see why people got hooked on the show. I did! It’s a fresh look at a story about pirates (especially a take on the character of Blackbeard), stars an incredibly talented group of individuals, and definitely needed the second season that it was granted. It’s an HBO Max gem that y’all should check out immediately.

Home Economics (ABC/Hulu)

I feel like Home Economics is an oft-overlooked sitcom that has been putting out consistently funny content for the past few seasons. It centers around a trio of adult siblings — Tom, Connor, and Sarah — as they navigate their lives and families, as well as their complicated dynamic as siblings. Tom is an author, writing about his family for his novel. Connor is the rich, youngest sibling, and Sarah is the middle child and a therapist. The ensemble is rounded out by the Hayworth siblings’ families and spouses, and when all is said and done this is one of the most fun ensemble sitcoms out there right now. 

Starring Topher Grace, Jimmy Tatro, Caitlin McGee, Sasheer Zamata, and Karla Souza, the adults consistently get their chance to shine in an array of pairings while the kids in the show also have so many wonderful stories and moments. If you’re looking for a Single Parents-sized hole to fill in your heart, this sitcom is the one for you!

Selena + Chef (HBO Max)

There’s one reality series entry on my “best of” list and it had to be this one. I’ve loved Selena Gomez since her days on Wizards of Waverly Place so watching Selena + Chef in 2020 was one of the highlights of an otherwise crappy year. Because everyone was quarantined, the series actually had a brilliant premise: What if Selena could learn to cook from renowned chefs without anyone leaving their homes? With camera equipment set up in the kitchen and the ingredients shipped to her, Selena got cooking lessons from some of the best of the best, proving the motto of the show accurate: you can still learn cook a good meal together, apart. 

Over the seasons, we’ve gotten to meet more of Selena’s friends, family, chefs, and see just how far her skills have evolved in the kitchen. It’s a great, fun, lighthearted series that I highly recommend. Plus, each episode the show donates money to the charity of the celebrity chef’s choice which is just lovely! And bonus: the recipes are available on HBO Max’s website for you to try yourself so you can embark on your own culinary journey alongside Selena.

Ghosts (CBS/Paramount+)

American remakes of British series often get flak, but I have to imagine that very few could find fault with CBS’s delightful remake of the British series, Ghosts. Ensemble sitcoms are some of my absolute favorites, and Ghosts delivers an array of incredibly funny, nuanced characters. Sam (played by Rose McIver) inherits a mansion that she and her husband Jay (the always funny Utkarsh Ambudkar) plan to turn into a bed and breakfast. But when Sam falls down the stairs and technically dies for a few minutes, something happens: she realizes they’re not alone in the house. It’s actually inhabited by an array of ghosts of people who died there. The ghosts themselves have their own distinct personalities and various time periods they existed in, which only lends itself to hilarity. Every combination of characters of ghosts just works, and I love that Jay desperately wants to be able to see and interact with the ghosts too. 

Ghosts is one of those series that I feel gets overlooked because it’s not as bold or flashy as other ensemble shows on TV these days, but it’s worth checking out because it’s one of the most consistently funny series not enough people watch or know about.

Under the Banner of Heaven (FX/Hulu)

When I got COVID this summer, I apparently gravitated toward darker and grittier shows. As someone who adores Andrew Garfield, I decided to check out the critically-acclaimed true crime miniseries, Under the Banner of Heaven, based on the book by the same name. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Garfield is stunning in the role of Jeb, a devout Mormon whose faith slowly unravels after he begins investigating the brutal murder of a young woman and her child. The further he goes into the case, the more he learns about the darkness and extremism of the FLDS, and the desire for the Mormon church to keep abuse and corruption completely covered up. And the more he begins to question what he believes in. Garfield was deserving of so many awards for his intense, nuanced, heartbreaking portrayal of this character.

Under the Banner of Heaven is intense because of its unflinching, deep dive into the way that women are treated in religious cults, the way people use religion and God to justify extremism, bigotry, abuse, and so much more. It is harrowing, heartbreaking, and disturbing on so many levels. But you cannot look away.

In addition to Garfield’s dynamic presence as the series’ lead, Gil Birmingham, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, and Sam Worthington are really impeccable in the show, the latter two for how chillingly they portray terrifying men in power. So if you’re the kind of person who wants to dive deep into an intense religious-based true crime show, then Under the Banner of Heaven might just be for you.

Credit: rzephyr

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Disney+)

I love Tatiana Maslany and I love meta, fourth wall-breaking comedies, so it should come as no surprise that I really loved She-Hulk. Focusing, of course, on Jennifer Walters and her alter ego, She-Hulk, this Marvel show was hilarious and women-centered. It wasn’t just a show filled with Easter eggs for fans of the MCU (though they definitely exist and I’ll never complain that we got the return of one of my favorite Marvel TV actors); it was a show about a woman trying to live a normal life and realizing that a lot of people prefer her Hulk identity to her real one. Maslany is what really drives the series — as a fan of her impeccable work on Orphan Black, I never doubted that she would be able to convey everything necessary to make Jennifer Walters work. She delivered such a lovely performance in the first season, excelling at comedic timing and also heartfelt, sadder moments. She proved, once again, that she is a force to be reckoned with.

She-Hulk is a series worth watching for Maslany alone; come for her but stay for Ginger Gonzaga and Renée Elise Goldsberry.

Reservation Dogs (FX/Hulu)

I watched the first two episodes of Reservation Dogs a while back and then unfortunately got distracted with life and other television, so the series got put on hold. But while recovering from my COVID bivalent booster (and thus immovable from my couch for a solid 24 hours), I decided to pick the series back up again — and I was not disappointed. Following a group of Indigenous teens — Elora, Bear, Cheese, and Willy Jack — who are desperate to leave Oklahoma, Reservation Dogs is both groundbreaking and also intimate. It’s a look at identity, grief and loss, generational trauma, family, and friendship. While the parents and familiar characters are threaded throughout the episodes, there are a few that fixate more on certain characters (“Wide Net,” “Stay Gold Cheesy Boy,” and “This Is Where the Plot Thickens” are some great examples of this from season two) than others.

Reservation Dogs is a really incredible show that features an Indigenous cast, writers, directors, and Indigenous people at all levels of production. It’s a show about the complex dynamic between families and friends. It’s sometimes just a show about teenagers being silly, and it’s sometimes a show about trying to find your place in the world. Not only is it funny and heartfelt, but it’s also just so beautifully produced. There’s a reason Reservation Dogs is on everyone’s “Best Of” lists, and it’s definitely on mine for the same reason — it’s a can’t-miss series.

Ms. Marvel (Disney+)

While there was a lot of Marvel content produced and distributed in 2022, one of my absolute favorites across the board was Ms. Marvel. The show follows the story of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager who loves Captain Marvel, and gains her own set of powers from a magical bangle that’s been in her family for generations. This Marvel show doubles as a coming-of-age tale and a superhero series, navigating both with earnestness and ease. Iman Vellani is the perfect Kamala, depicting the thrills and fears of a young Muslim woman who suddenly acquired superpowers. The supporting cast is fabulous but I truly love Kamala’s parents — played by Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur — who love and support their daughter, who always try to protect her, and who are resilient and humble people. Family is such a huge foundation of the show, and I loved the way the writers were able to weave Kamala's story with stories of her family members. 

Ms. Marvel was a breath of fresh air for Marvel, in my opinion, developing a beautiful story about a girl wanting to make her mark on the world. It was honest, earnest, and something we all needed in 2022.

Which shows captured your attention this year? Sound off in the comments below.


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