The television landscape may be more fractured than ever, but it continues to be dotted with some truly incredible small-screen offerings.
Sure, it’s damn near impossible to figure out where certain shows are available these days. But when you did finally nail down what streaming service or network carried the program you wanted to watch, chances were good in 2022 that it more than lived up to expectations.
With all that in mind, know that if some of your favorite shows aren’t represented on this list, that’s just a function of taste and the fact there’s only so much TV a person can watch in any given year. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 shows of 2022.
Note: Yes, I watched “House of the Dragon” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Yes, I enjoyed them both to varying degrees. No, I don’t believe either of them were top 10 or honorable mention-worthy. That’s how strong of a year 2022 was for TV.
Honorable Mentions: “The Bear,” “Reservation Dogs,” “Hacks,” “The Dropout,” “The Sandman,” “A League of Their Own,” “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”
10.) “Euphoria“ (HBO)
This year started out with a bang when HBO dropped season two of “Euphoria” in January. An already lurid and highly stylized depiction of teenage antics upped the ante in every way as new relationships formed, previously established ones deteriorated and Zendaya rightfully earned her second Emmy Award for the terrifyingly raw places she took the character of Rue in season two.
“Euphoria” is a tough watch, but it’s a rewarding one for fans of intense eye makeup, wild directorial swings and extremely angsty high schoolers going through the wringer on a weekly basis.
9.) “Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu)
Who would’ve thought a little over a year ago that one of the funniest television experiences of 2022 would be watching Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez bonding over their shared love of true-crime podcasts and solving actual murder mysteries that keep popping up around their ritzy New York City apartment complex?
“Only Murders in the Building” was a weekly dose of joy this summer that built up to a satisfying conclusion and an ultra-intriguing tease for where season three will be going. More murders in or around the building, please!
8.) “Severance” (AppleTV+)
Talk about a show that came out of nowhere to blow television audiences craving some expertly made and plotted sci-fi out of the water this year. To be fair, it’s not shocking that a Ben Stiller-directed project starring the likes of Adam Scott, John Turturro and Christopher Walken turned out to be such a fun little mystery box of a show.
The concept of folks literally living separate existences inside and outside of work is genius, and the season finale of “Severance” has a strong case for best individual episode of 2022. It also has the distinction of being the only new show on this list not based on a true story or a preexisting intellectual property. Kudos!
7.) “Atlanta” season four (FX)
I’ve written previously about how masterful I thought the final season of “Atlanta” was. To reiterate, it closed out one of the best and most impactful series of the past decade-plus with the same amount of entertaining surreality and biting social commentary that made its first two seasons (and its slightly less successful third season) such integral parts of the television landscape.
That final shot of LaKeith Stanfield’s Darius grappling with his own existence is seared into my brain as a perfect encapsulation of the fantastic acting and direction — as well as the abject bizarreness — that were always this show’s calling cards. Spoiler alert: “Atlanta” won’t be the only recently departed show featured on this list.
6.) “Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
“Abbott Elementary” had already cemented its place on my top 10 shows of the year list even before:
a.) Lisa Ann Walters, who plays tough-as-nails Philadelphia teacher Melissa Schemmenti, revealed that she considers Primanti Brothers sandwiches to be “PA soul food.”
b.) The show got surprisingly steamy during its midseason finale as the sexual tension between co-workers Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) was turned up to 11.
Again, it’s the best version of a documentary-style network sitcom since “Parks and Recreation.” Hopefully it sticks around for just as long, if not longer.
5.) “Industry” (HBO)
Ah, yes, the only show on TV that somehow manages to be hornier than “Euphoria.” You wouldn’t think that a series set in the world of international investment banking would traffic in this much debauchery, but it does so gloriously while also providing whip-smart commentary on both our modern financial system and millennial/Gen Z restlessness.
“Industry” has carved out a unique style all its own while providing a showcase for Carnegie Mellon University graduate Myha’la Herrold to shine as protagonist Harper Stern. Season two peeled back the layers on Harper’s pre-Pierpoint life while also showing how far she’ll go for her fledgling career. It’s brilliantly chaotic stuff.
4.) “Andor” (Disney+)
Leave it to the least buzzed about attempt at small-screen “Star Wars” action so far to rise far above the pack as quite possibly the best piece of live-action “Star Wars” content since “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s an expertly written show with rich details at every turn chronicling the rise of a nascent Rebellion in a galaxy far, far away.
It’s actually been a decent year for Disney+ MCU shows with the releases of both “Ms. Marvel” and “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” “Andor,” though, is the new shining standard of what these IP-driven shows can accomplish if the focus remains squarely on character and plot rather than just cool fights and general spectacle.
3.) “We Own This City” (HBO)
When David Simon has a new show out, it’s best to pay attention. “We Own This City” continued his gritty and lived-in look at crime in Baltimore by tackling a recent corruption case centering around the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. The amount of ground this show covers in six episodes is staggering, though that’s come to be expected from the guy who gave us “The Wire.”
Jon Bernthal gave the TV performance of the year as the hilariously cocky Sgt. Wayne Jenkins. I’m usually against actors trying out regional dialects, but Bernthal’s attempt at a Baltimore accent is an all-timer. His Sgt. Jenkins reaches borderline psychotic levels of pleasure from asserting his authority over the community he’s supposed to protect. It’s a fun and fascinating performance to watch unfold in one of the year’s best shows.
2.) “Barry” (HBO)
“Barry” had been gone for so long that I almost forgot how seamlessly it blends screwball comedy, Hollywood satire, heart-pounding action set pieces and devastating emotional beats. Name another show that can claim that on its resume. I’ll wait.
If we were being honest with ourselves, all comedy-related acting awards would go to this show. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, Henry Winkler and Carnegie Mellon graduate Anthony Carrigan all had standout moments in season two that were supported by some of the best TV filmmaking around.
It would have easily secured the No. 1 spot on this list if it wasn’t for that pesky lawyer from Albuquerque.
1.) “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Never bet against Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. Landing the plane on “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” was a daunting enough task on its own, let alone how that also meant folding Saul’s rise and downfall into other elements of “Breaking Bad” lore. And yet, they pulled it off with aplomb.
I genuinely believe that the totality of “Better Call Saul” is better than that of its predecessor, which sounds ludicrous but is backed up by what a special project “Saul” was from start to finish. Bob Odenkirk reached new levels of pathos (and depravity) as we watched Jimmy McGill’s slow transformation into criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. One day, someone is going to properly reward Rhea Seehorn for the work she did as Saul’s fiercely independent paramour Kim Wexler.
As final seasons of beloved shows go, it doesn’t get much better than what “Better Call Saul” pulled off this year. No notes. Pew pew.