The 30 best TV shows of 2022

The 30 best TV shows of 2022

Behold: the most exciting, ambitious, addictive, heartbreaking, hilarious, and simply stellar series to grace our screens this year

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Clockwise from left: Jeremy Allen White in The Bear (Photo: Matt Dinerstein/FX), Christina Ricci in Yellowjackets (Photo: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME), Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary (Photo: ABC/Gilles Mingasson), Fiona Shaw in Andor (Photo: Lucasfilm), Lee Minho and Jae Jun Park in Pachinko (Photo: Apple TV+)
Clockwise from left: Jeremy Allen White in The Bear (Photo: Matt Dinerstein/FX), Christina Ricci in Yellowjackets (Photo: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME), Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary (Photo: ABC/Gilles Mingasson), Fiona Shaw in Andor (Photo: Lucasfilm), Lee Minho and Jae Jun Park in Pachinko (Photo: Apple TV+)
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

Will 2022 be remembered as the year we all could finally agree that there is too much TV? We’re … not sure. But despite the overload of series (we’re looking at you, Netflix) and how unsustainable the current model feels, we’re not complaining. The last 12 months have gifted us some fantastic television, with newbies like The Bear, that little summer show that could, and the epically priced epic The Rings Of Power, not to mention the final runs of beloved series like Atlanta and Better Call Saul. So here are The A.V. Club’s 30 best TV shows of the year. To be included, a series simply needs to have aired a new episode in, yes, 2022 (so that means you just made the cut, Yellowjackets). And now, as the kids say, on with the countdown.

Advertisement

2 / 32

30. The Dropout (Hulu)

30. The Dropout (Hulu)

The Dropout | Trailer | Hulu

For better or (mostly) worse, 2022 was the year of the scammer show. But there was only one scammer to rule them all: Amanda Seyfried’s Emmy-winning performance as Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout. It was the role of a lifetime for Seyfried, who perfectly embodied Holmes’ awkwardness, her anger, and her blind ambition. But the series didn’t coast on one career-making performance. Instead, it gathered a murderer’s row of a supporting cast, most notably Naveen Andrews as a formidable Sunny Balwani, but honorable mentions go to William H. Macy, Stephen Fry, Alan Ruck, Laurie Metcalf ... the list goes on.

The Dropout cleverly explored perspectives beyond Holmes’, from the belabored Theranos employees on the inside to the journalist trying to take the company down from the outside (shoutout to Hulu golden boy Ebon Moss-Bachrach). The miniseries was empathetic to its villains without excusing their misdeeds, relentlessly focused on the characters’ humanity while also being very funny about their foibles. Credit to showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether, creator of the fan-favorite sitcom New Girl, who proved she could deliver one of the year’s best dramas. [Mary Kate Carr]

Advertisement

3 / 32

29. Mo (Netflix) 

29. Mo (Netflix) 

Mo | Official Trailer | Netflix

In a year full of superhero dramas, big fantasy outings, and star-studded shows, it’s reassuring to see original shows like Mo break through. Co-created by Mo Amer and Ramy Youssef, the half-hour dramedy is based on Amer’s experiences as a Palestinian refugee living and seeking asylum in Texas. Thanks to his perspective on the subject matter, Amer infuses the show with raw honesty as he tackles odd jobs while his family endures complex legal procedures. Mo is also full of absurd twists, but it’s rooted in a narrative that feels especially important in the current sociopolitical environment. It’s an underrated gem that merits a spot on your watchlist. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

4 / 32

28. Ms. Marvel (Disney+)

28. Ms. Marvel (Disney+)

Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel | Official Trailer | Disney+

Ms. Marvel is a breath of fresh air at a time when content overload has caused serious Marvel fatigue—and it’s not just because of the delightful comic book-style animation involved. The six-episode series introduces a new, young, and diverse superhero without engulfing her in life-or-death stakes for most of its run. It’s a lighthearted coming-of-age show that, at its core, is about the bond of an immigrant family. Don’t worry, there are plenty of fight sequences, and a major cameo too. (Marvel’s gonna Marvel in the end.)

A teenage Kamala Khan (the impeccably cast Iman Vellani) makes her remarkable debut in the MCU, bringing warmth and a unique perspective to a world recovering from Thanos’ snap. The show explores how Endgame’s cataclysmic events impacted the lives of a Pakistani American family living in Jersey City. Kamala daydreams about her favorite Avenger, but she quickly discovers that her own legacy is quite magical. Her journey to understanding this takes her, and the audience, down a road hardly traveled on TV before, to events like the India-Pakistan separation in 1947. Ms. Marvel succeeds in depicting facets of a community rarely portrayed as a “hero,” and it does so because of authentic representation both on and off the screen. The earworm of a soundtrack is a bonus. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

5 / 32

27. Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)

27. Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)

Our Flag Means Death | Official Trailer | HBO Max

With Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby at the helm, a comedy about a makeshift group of 18th Century pirates roaming the seven seas under the steward of the much-feared Blackbeard (Waititi) and the ever-foppish Stede Bonnet (Darby) was always going to be must-see TV; their Kiwi comedic instincts are nothing short of extraordinary. That this period comedy slowly evolved into one of the most tender-hearted queer love stories of 2022 was, on top of surprising, a welcome balm amid a genre that often flirts with queer baiting and revels in low-hanging gay panic jokes. Instead, Our Flag Means Death found a healthy balance between blood-splattering violence and dry-witted romance to create the LGBTQ rom-com we all didn’t know we deserved. [Manuel Betancourt]

Advertisement

6 / 32

26. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power (Prime Video)

26. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power (Prime Video)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - Official Trailer | Prime Video

Rings Of Power is unprecedented television. With 20 percent of its pre-planned 50-hour story completed, it’s still a little too early to judge whether Amazon’s massively expensive gambit into Tolkien’s unfinished tales will pay off, but the show has set up a firm foundation. In its brief eight-episode debut season, Rings used its time gathering elements and forging them together, creating bonds between characters imbued with depth and emotion. And it’s still kind of mind-boggling how they did it. Rings Of Power pulled characters from a static timeline and animated their histories, building to reveals that hit hard and spurred debate and conversation. The show honors the mythic structures Tolkien spent his life recreating and the epic romance and adventurous spirit of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy while building upon its own sensibilities, interests, and quirks. Hitting the right tone of sentiment and spectacle, the show strikes a new path for fantasy television, one with wonders far beyond our wanderings. [Matt Schimkowitz]

Advertisement

7 / 32

25. Peacemaker (HBO Max)

25. Peacemaker (HBO Max)

Peacemaker | Official Trailer | HBO Max

The opening credits alone merit giving Peacemaker a place on this list, but the show also deserves credit for bringing a ton of emotional depth to what may be—at least on paper—one of the dopiest and most unlikable characters in the whole superhero genre. Originally introduced in creator James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, John Cena’s Peacemaker incongruously believes that violence provides the clearest path to peace, and while his very self-aware and very funny solo series did have some fun at the expense of the superhero genre, it ended up being a clear illustration of why these stories resonate with people in the first place. [Sam Barsanti]

Advertisement

8 / 32

24. For All Mankind (Apple TV+)

24. For All Mankind (Apple TV+)

For All Mankind — Season 3 Official Trailer | Apple TV+

For All Mankind’s third season was a make-or-break moment. Set some 30 years after the first episode, it pays off arcs from decades ago—and does so with speed and intensity. Though it gets labeled as a “dad show” because it follows fake history about people meticulously solving problems, there have been few shows as exciting or imaginative this year. And for all its interstellar adventure, For All Mankind stays true to its premise. This alternate history has had just as much pain and loss as our current one. The emotional highs were matched by the relentless action set pieces on the edge of spaceships, the surface of Mars, and in the halls of NASA. Still, despite the pain that comes with loss (this show resembles Game Of Thrones in its ruthlessness when dispatching main characters), the show remained steadfast in its optimism, showcasing what human beings are capable of—with or without gravity. [Matt Schimkowitz]

Advertisement

9 / 32

23. Slow Horses (Apple TV+)

23. Slow Horses (Apple TV+)

Slow Horses — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

It’s a real testament to Slow Horses’ charms that none other than Gary Oldman—a standout of an incredibly exciting, young group of British actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Tim Roth back in the ’80s who would go on to more than live up to his promise—may bow out of the whole acting thing with his role in this spy thriller, and I’m … totally fine with that. And not just because Jackson Lamb, the boozy, chain-smoking leader of fellow disgraced MI5 agents, who work in a unit mockingly dubbed Slough House, is a pretty great character for him to play. Or because Oldman is pretty great at crankily spitting out insults, mostly at new addition River (Jack Lowden). It’s because the show, which is already into its second season on Apple TV+ and renewed through its fourth, has flashes of absurdity and humor—like that Coldplay bit I went on about in our mid-year best-of list—that make it funnier than anything accurately described as a “taut, thrilling British spy show” has the right to be. [Tim Lowery]

Advertisement

10 / 32

22. Minx (HBO Max)

22. Minx (HBO Max)

Minx | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Ellen Rapoport’s Minx is a titillating adventure. Brace yourself for lots of wonderfully filmed phallic imagery, but that’s what happens when you switch from the male to female gaze. Minx is a period-piece set in the ’70s, but feels relevant to how we consume media even today, especially when it comes to discussing female pleasure: The topic still seems oddly taboo on a wide scale. But Minx spins it with Joyce’s (Ophelia Lovibond) idea to create an erotic magazine for women. She teams up with a greasy publisher named Doug (a scruffy Jake Johnson) to make that dream a reality. The show is a standard workplace comedy at times when it explores how a team of misfits bands together in the office. But its underlying appeal lies in Joyce and Doug’s mentor-mentee relationship, their power dynamics, and how differently both of them want to capitalize on the notion that sex sells. Minx is a fun and audacious entry into the TV, and specifically HBO’s, landscape. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

11 / 32

21. The Rehearsal (HBO)

21. The Rehearsal (HBO)

The Rehearsal | Official Trailer | HBO

“Do you want to feel something real?” It’s the question at the heart of Nathan Fielder’s tricksy, hyper-meta parody/homage/approximation of “reality” TV, one of the most deliberately head-spinning shows of 2022. Like so many of Fielder’s stunts, The Rehearsal begins as a fairly simple premise, with the Nathan For You star hiring actors to help people “rehearse” difficult life encounters. Time and again, though, Fielder blurs the line between real and unreal, creating queasy, hilarious, fascinating television out of what should be simple or life-affirming moments. It is, after all, an actor asking Fielder that all-important question up top, in a literal rehearsal of a rehearsal: Do you want to feel something real? After six episodes of The Rehearsal, how would you even be sure you knew? [William Hughes]

Advertisement

12 / 32

20. The Boys (Prime Video)

20. The Boys (Prime Video)

THE BOYS – Season 3 Official Trailer | Prime Video

The Boys is one of the most cathartic TV shows in recent years. It sounds odd, but it’s true. Its satire offers a cutthroat analysis of how the superhero franchise has taken a life of its own (for the worse). It’s a wickedly meta takedown of everything, from blind worship of world leaders to how the media manipulates viewers. Yes, it’s a cynical approach to how our world is today. But that’s exactly why it’s fun to watch when Homelander (Antony Starr), a Superman of sorts, finally publicly embraces how cruel he truly is at the end of season three. The new season continues to be grotesque and weird (mostly thanks to everything Chace Crawford’s The Deep does), serving up notable twists and additions like Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy. For all its silliness, The Boys also delivers plenty of action, strong performances, and bloodshed. It might just be the best superhero series we have right now. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

13 / 32

19. The White Lotus (HBO)

19. The White Lotus (HBO)

The White Lotus Season 2 | Official Trailer | HBO

Don’t come married to an Italian White Lotus if you plan to stay that way— more importantly, don’t come to Mike White’s biting, endlessly apt social satire if you plan not to reflect on your own relationships. Season two of the Emmy-winning series muses on infidelity, independence, and gender through the intertwining stories of multiple guests: couples, families, friends, and strangers. This season, a similar mystery to season one unfolds, but each character is drawn more sharply and embodies more contradictions. In short, all of the stakes just feel higher. None of it would be possible without a powerhouse cast anchored by the brilliant Aubrey Plaza, who should certainly be in the Emmys conversation next year. [Hattie Lindert]

Advertisement

14 / 32

18. Los Espookys (HBO)

18. Los Espookys (HBO)

Los Espookys Season 2 | Official Trailer | HBO

Los Espookys broadened its scope in its long-prayed-for, well-worth-the-wait sophomore season, introducing Renaldo and his faux-haunting friends to the world of international politics, beauty pageant intrigue, and, in the case of Julio Torres’ Andres, the horrors of potentially paying rent. Through it all—and despite the false specter of rising stakes—the show never lost sight of its cheerful, positive approach to creativity, whether that meant giving us a brief peek inside the mental workings of Ana Fabrega’s Tati, or at a national election that ultimately got decided by a well-timed tube top pull. The sadly just canceled Los Espookys operates on a logic all its own; we can only hope we won’t have to wait another three years to acquire another dose. [William Hughes]

Advertisement

15 / 32

17. Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities (Netflix)

17. Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities (Netflix)

The Outside Official Trailer | GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES | Netflix

Guillermo del Toro knows there is no shortage of fresh voices in contemporary horror. And with his clunkily titled Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities, the master behind the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and Cronos has assembled a killer roster of horror fiends to prove his point. Structuring this anthology series around the metaphor in its title, this Netflix series boasts work from Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks At Home At Night), and Panos Cosmatos (Mandy), among others. Individually, some of these gory and ghostly tales are exhilarating examples of the exciting work being produced by a new generation of horror filmmakers. As a collective, they’re a reminder of the continued fertility of the genre to tackle pressing contemporary issues while conjuring up truly terrifying scenarios. (We’ll never look at an office secret Santa the same way again.) [Manuel Betancourt]

Advertisement

16 / 32

16. Documentary Now! (IFC)

16. Documentary Now! (IFC)

Documentary Now! Season 4 Trailer | ‘53rd Season’

Season 53—which is to say, season four—of IFC’s Documentary Now! completed the fascinating transformation the show started back in 2019, when it began shifting away from being a show strictly about Bill Hader and Fred Armisen imitating various documentary subjects and became a much looser collection of 20-minute short films from a much wider array of stars. (It’s mostly still shot, with intimidating attention to detail, by regular directors Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas.) This season’s fictional non-fiction highlights included Lilian Rovere as an ersatz Agnès Varda and a returning Cate Blanchett as a sweetly silly hairdresser. But the undisputed standouts were Alexander Skarsgård and a script by John Mulaney, which came together for the deliriously funny “Soldier Of Illusion,” quite possibly the greatest Werner Herzog/Three’s Company mash-up ever committed to film. [William Hughes]

Advertisement

17 / 32

15. Industry (HBO) 

15. Industry (HBO) 

INDUSTRY Series | Season 2 Official Trailer (HD) HBO

HBO’s Industry may not boast dragons or media empire families. But make no mistake, this London-set drama centered around an investment bank (and the young go-getters getting their bearings amid an ever-volatile financial sector) is one the network’s most assured series. Industry’s fresh-faced cast and its inside-baseball dialogue—not to mention its killer score and soundtrack—make it one of the best workplace dramas around. With season two tackling a post-COVID world that set the stage for an ongoing season-long arc around the health industry (including a requisitely vain and self-serving American hedge fund manager played by Jay Duplass), Industry may well have also pulled off the unimaginable: a nuanced and thorny storyline around sexual harassment that asked (and seldom answered in pat or didactic ways) questions around power politics in the workplace. [Manuel Betancourt]

Advertisement

18 / 32

14. Harley Quinn (HBO Max)

14. Harley Quinn (HBO Max)

Harley Quinn Season 3 | Official Trailer | DC

Harley Quinn has been consistently excellent, but the show stepped up its game by pairing Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) and sending them on their “Eat Bang Kill” tour. HBO Max’s animated comedy refuses to rest on its laurels: it remains raunchy and outrageous, but it also devotes time to developing its characters in surprising ways. Harley and Ivy don’t just ride off into the sunset, but instead have to work through serious relationship issues as well as a growing divide on how they view villany. Both King Shark (Ron Funches) and The Joker (Alan Tudyk) have to step up and take on new roles in their communities. (The latter is shockingly one of TV’s most prescient and progressive political storylines.) And Batman (Diedrich Bader, an A.V. Club favorite) is dealing with grief and abandonment issues that require all of Harley’s therapist skills to dissect. This latest batch encompasses all of this without sacrificing any of its laugh-out-loud hilarity. DC’s film universe may be floundering, but Harley Quinn is only getting stronger every season. [Mary Kate Carr]

Advertisement

19 / 32

13. Atlanta (FX)

13. Atlanta (FX)

Atlanta Season 4 | Official Trailer

There were huge expectations for Atlanta’s return after a four-year break, and the team took some experimental swings in its third season. Half of the 10 episodes were standalone allegories on current events, while the others included Earn, Al, Darius, and Van’s fish-out-of-water adventures in a new continent. While the divisive European tour turned off some fans, the series quickly returned with a hilarious homecoming and stellar final season. Donald Glover and Brian Tyree Henry took the spotlight in season-long arcs about legacy and longevity, as the show’s surrealist commentary touched on Tyler Perry, the yodel kid, “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy),” and The Goofy Movie. The show’s last two seasons came and went within eight months, but they left us with a run of excellent episodes to rewatch, and solidified Atlanta’s place as one of the most creative shows to grace TV. [Quinci LeGardye]

Advertisement

20 / 32

12. Better Things (FX)

12. Better Things (FX)

Better Things | Season 5 Official Trailer | FX

Pamela Adlon ended her masterpiece with an unforgettable final chapter. Adlon, who created Better Things and has directed every episode since season two, based it on her own life experiences—and it’s clear she poured her heart and soul into it. Better Things has always aced the balance between of melancholia and merriment, and the fifth season is no different. It remains just as soul-stirring, deepening the bond between the Fox women as Sam (Adlon) tries to learn more about her and Phil’s (Celia Imrie) lineage. The show’s insightful writing about female relationships (mothers, daughter, granddaughters) sets it apart from anything else on TV—and the heartfelt series, indeed, will be missed. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

21 / 32

11. Heartstopper (Netflix)

11. Heartstopper (Netflix)

Heartstopper | Official Trailer | Netflix

Netflix’s Heartstopper is too pure for this world, so it’s a good thing we get to relish it. The sweet and poignant adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novels is the kind of TV show that leaves you with a smile from start to finish. The blooming romance between students Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) is sensitively developed as both characters deal with personal struggles as well. Charlie is openly gay, while Nick figures out over the course of season one that he’s bisexual. Heartstopper is endlessly charming and uses rom-com tropes effortlessly to flesh out their relationship. It helps that Connor and Locke deliver breakout performances and share potent chemistry. The series sets the blueprint for how inclusive stories should be told, especially for a younger and more impressionable audience. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

22 / 32

10. Yellowjackets (Showtime)

10. Yellowjackets (Showtime)

YELLOWJACKETS Series | Official Trailer #2 (HD) SHOWTIME

“A lesbian cannibal suspense story.” That succinct description alone stirs intrigue, and Yellowjackets more than delivers on this promise. Showtime’s thriller is a grisly blend of a teen show and survival drama. It garnered word-of-mouth praise with each passing episode, and by the time of the season one finale in January, everyone was justifiably hooked. (Twitter went wild with memes and theories.) However, the Karyn Kusama-directed pilot itself establishes the show’s twisted motifs that build on everything from Lord Of The Flies to Lost. The show is a feral representation of female teendom, as witnessed once a New Jersey high school’s girls soccer team gets stranded in the Canadian wilderness for 19 months. While jumping between timelines can get tiresome, Yellowjackets’ impact doesn’t waver because of the pitch-perfect casting of the young adults and their older counterparts. Much like Severance, this show capitalizes on audiences theorizing, and nothing will get you more hooked than wondering who the goddamn Antler Queen is. Now that’s how you build suspense. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

23 / 32

9. Pachinko (Apple TV+)

9. Pachinko (Apple TV+)

Pachinko — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s expansive novel is an astounding achievement on several fronts, from the filmmaking to the moving script to the soulful performances. Pachinko spans generations, languages, cultures, and cities, highlighting specific times in Korean and Japanese history, yet feels universally relatable. What’s more, Kogonoda and Justin Chon’s direction cements Pachinko as one of the most beautifully shot TV shows of the year; their craft expertly brings a scene to life, whether it’s a crowded market in a fishing village or a Pachinko parlor in modern-day Osaka.

Protagonist Sunja’s journey from age 8 to old age is the anchor for telling macroscopic tales of intergenerational dynamics, immigration, and assimilation while managing to find joy in the hardships. The show features incredible talents like Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung and K-drama superstar Lee Min-ho (who are both excellent), with a breakout performance from Minha Kim, who brings both immense strength and vulnerability to her take on Sunja. (She should be flooded with offers from all over the industry.) And let’s not forget: Pachinko also gave us 2022’s most joyful opening theme song, with visuals that perfectly encapsulate the show’s overarching message. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

24 / 32

8. Andor (Disney+)

8. Andor (Disney+)

Andor | Official Trailer | Disney+

As Star Wars struggles to maintain its relevance post-Skywalker Saga, Andor seemed like it would be just a weird novelty—a tie-in to a spin-off movie, explicitly designed not to give fans the kind of fan-service-driven Star Wars story that Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book Of Boba Fett ended up being. But with a surprisingly harrowing story about standing up against fascism, something George Lucas baked into the saga from the very beginning, Andor ended up feeling more like Star Wars than almost anything else produced in the franchise’s Disney era. Stripped of the Jedi and Grogu, Star Wars can still be a vehicle for surprisingly deep and surprisingly human stories. [Sam Barsanti]

Advertisement

25 / 32

7. Somebody Somewhere (HBO)

7. Somebody Somewhere (HBO)

Somebody Somewhere | Sam’s Song | HBO

Somebody Somewhere is a little gem of a show, just as charming, quiet, and unsettling as the Kansan lives it chronicles. At the beginning of the show, Bridget Everett’s Sam is one year out from the death of her sister and has made almost no progress in putting her life back together. When a chance encounter leads her to “choir practice,” Sam begins to open herself up and form a community with the other lonely people around her, including folks played by the likes of Jeff Hiller, Mike Haggerty, and Murray Hill, who all expertly tap into an ultra-specific brand of Midwest weirdness. Rarely has a series taken so much care in the lives of Americans who live in the so-called flyover country, and, arguably, never has one been so funny while doing it. The characters all live, on the surface, sad, little lives, but Somebody Somewhere has the patience to sit with them, learn about them, and grow bit by bit with them. And in case this sounds preachy, don’t worry—the “church” they all attend is just an excuse for them to hang out and perform. [Drew Gillis]

Advertisement

26 / 32

6. Abbott Elementary (ABC)

6. Abbott Elementary (ABC)

Abbott Elementary Season 2 Trailer

Abbott Elementary’s acclaim and viewership has rightfully skyrocketed since its debut, which is reason enough to name it one of the top shows of the year. Quinta Brunson has crafted a genuinely cozy and hilarious workplace sitcom exactly when we needed it most. ABC’s comedy revives the love for network TV mockumentaries in the vein of The Office and Parks And Rec, but Abbott accomplishes what these classics didn’t: The show achieved success in episode one itself—and now in season two, Abbott hasn’t missed a beat. The entire ensemble is in top form, whether it’s Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Emmy-winning turn as Barbara Howard or Janelle James’ star-making turn as Principal Ava. Abbott is a wholesome comedy because of how it uses humor to shed a light on the importance of teachers and the plight of underfunded public schools. Brunson and her team clearly have a ton to say on these issues, so it’s a good thing that Abbott’s reign is only just beginning. (And yes, sign us up for the slow-burn journey of Janine and Gregory’s impending romance.) [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

27 / 32

5. Reservation Dogs (FX)

5. Reservation Dogs (FX)

Reservation Dogs Season 2 Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV

Reservation Dogs proved it was a sublime comedy when it debuted in 2021 (it charted high on The A.V. Club’s best shows list last year, too). But this year’s sophomore run clinched its status as must-see TV. There’s not a single weak moment in the 10-episode second season. Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi’s FX comedy evolves into a profound version of itself, proudly reveling in Indigenous culture. Res Dogs might seem like just another coming-of-age show about four friends, but in reality, it’s a wistful yet dryly funny meditation on legacy.

Elora, Bear, Cheese, and Willie Jack spent season one desperately trying to escape their rural Oklahoma town, but season two forces them to reconcile with what they’d truly leave behind. In the process, Res Dogs unravels their ancestral roots and the meaning of “home” and friendship in resonant ways. There are some remarkable performances, including Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, and the ever-reliable Zahn McClernon. The show is a confident celebration of the Native American community and has quickly found its voice in an expanding pop-culture landscape. Simply put: There is nothing like it on TV right now. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

28 / 32

4. Barry (HBO)

4. Barry (HBO)

Barry Season 3 | Official Trailer | HBO

Bill Hader, much like his eponymous hitman protagonist, never misses. At least that’s what it’s starting to feel like. With a COVID-belated third season that leaned heavily into the former SNL star’s penchant for “cinematic” tour de forces (look no further than its killer season finale, “starting now”), Barry has firmly established itself as a modern classic. Upping the ante on the story of everyone’s favorite killer-turned-aspiring-actor and throwing plenty his way in a bigger and bolder season (Bike gangs! Panthers! Press junkets! Too many double-crossing MF-ers to count!), Barry’s 2022 return was well worth the wait. And that’s mostly because we all got to witness Hader and co-creator Alec Berg continuing to seamlessly weave in a scathing satire on a gritty and grimy Hollywood into what feels like a hopeless narrative about ill-fated redemption. [Manuel Betancourt]

Advertisement

29 / 32

3. Better Call Saul (AMC)

3. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Official Season 6B Trailer | Better Call Saul

For a show with such a singular, methodically patient pace—we won’t say slow, but a HOTD plot-fest this is notin retrospect, it’s pretty amazing how much happened in the Breaking Bad spinoff’s swan song. (You shouldn’t read on unless you’ve seen the show—that’s obvious, yes?—but it’s kind of crazy that both Nacho’s end and Marion’s confrontation unfolded in the same season, not to mention Lalo’s trip abroad and sabotaging Howard and Kim’s lame Florida boyfriend and Saul in the slammer on and on and on.) And even more unbelievably, somehow, over those seasons, Gilligan/Gould & Co. turned Saul, who came into Breaking Bad with guns blazing as basically a caricature of a slimy attorney, into a fascinating character study and the perfect springboard for an ambitious, visually stunning, and emotionally resonant TV show about the decisions we make. [Tim Lowery]

Advertisement

30 / 32

2. Severance (Apple TV+)

2. Severance (Apple TV+)

Severance — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Who knew we were primed for an exemplary TV experience when Apple TV+’s Severance premiered in February 2022? It secured an early spot on this list because of how Dan Erickson’s superlative slow-burn thriller dials up the tension with each passing episode. The show is aided by an enviable cast, background score, and chilling production design. But that’s only scratching the surface. Severance uses its workplace facade to paint a compelling, often heartbreaking narrative about grief and the lengths humans go to avoid dealing with it.

The four lead characters working at the esoteric Lumon conglomerate voluntarily sever their memories while in the office to escape real-life trauma. They forfeit their identity for a job they don’t know all the details about—until they get curious, elevating the suspense. Is Lumon a business venture, a creepy cult, or something else entirely? Severance builds this mystery (along with “what the hell is a ‘waffle party’?” The answer will surprise you) as adeptly as it does its protagonists’ internal struggles and surprise romances.

It’s a testament to the team for threading emotional heaviness with a felicitous takedown of a corporate culture that benefits only a chosen few and takes advantage of the employees at their disposal. And season one’s victory lies in this well-timed scrutiny and twisted yet original storytelling that closes with an edge-of-your-seat finale. [Saloni Gajjar]

Advertisement

31 / 32

1. The Bear (FX)

1. The Bear (FX)

THE BEAR Series | Official Trailer (HD) FX

If you haven’t gotten the message yet after reading my colleagues’ ever-so-thoughtful writeups, 2022 was pretty damn stacked with great TV shows. (In fact, narrowing this thing down to just 30 series proved quite a chore.) But as we compiled titles and shuffled the order for this list over the last few weeks, The Bear didn’t budge from its top spot. Is it because it’s clearly the best, untouchable by those lowly series below it? No, of course not. Or because it was such a delightful surprise to see something without stars or ties to a franchise or a big budget or well-known creators or pre-premiere buzz become that show that everyone we know suddenly talked about over the summer? Yes, sure, but that’s only a small part of it. It’s more that Christopher Storer’s Chicago Italian beef joint-set series, not unlike chef-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown Carm (Jeremy Allen White), goes for it—and in the process, cooks up something more ambitious, original, deep, funny, and visually striking than it needs to be, with characters I genuinely care about and want to spend time with (yes, even Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s foul-mouthed, capital C Chicago-accented Richy). It’s the kind of show, in other words, I want to see more of in 2023—or, put another way, it’s kind of like that unassuming sandwich that turned out to be the best, most memorable meal you ate all year. [Tim Lowery]

Advertisement

32 / 32