Do we have time to look back at some of the best TV shows from 2022? Or is it one of those Lot situations where looking back will impede our revenge recovery from lockdown and turn us all into a pillar of Ivermectin?
In any case, here are the series we loved a lot this past year.
Severance. Brilliant, scary and full of relatable office moments, this Dan Erickson/Ben Stiller office black comedy explores liminal spaces (hallways, stairwells, elevators) and the people who occupy them during the day, only to forget their surreal 9-5 reality when they clock out at night. Mark S. (Adam Scott) and Helly R. (Britt Lower) get closer to the mystery of Lumon Industries in Season 1, distracted by employee treats and perks (Waffle Day! Dance Party!). Can’t wait to see what’s next. (Streaming on Apple TV+)
Andor. Diego Luna returns as rebel Andor Cassian in a prequel series to Rogue One, also scripted by Tony Gilroy, who has a knack for showing us the layers of the Star Wars world we never get to see, never dwelling in broad strokes and simple good-evil dualities. Andor does way with all that, delivering the franchise’s most adult series yet: a galaxy far, far away from light sabers and cackling villains. Not just for geeks, Andor is actually the first Star Wars outing that seems like it’s written for grownups. Here, politics matter, as Andor tries to get away from rebel rabble-rouser Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and just lead a simple life (maybe even take a vacation). No such luck. Marked by two exciting action set pieces (a heist, a prison break), the show is an exercise in complex, layered world building. (Streaming on Disney+)
White Lotus. Somewhere between Season 1 and the unexpected ending of Season 2, Mike White’s White Lotus turned into a cultural moment. A twisted take on Fantasy Island set at a different resort locale each season, it manages to intertwine its dozen characters in believably weird ways, this time exploring sex more than the class struggles of Season 1. Like Agatha Christie in reverse, we are led from a mystery death down narrow paths and overlaps in striking Sicily, where Michael Imperioli, Aubrey Plaza, F. Murray Abraham and Jennifer Coolidge try to find elusive happiness. Where will the White Lotus pop up next? (On HBO Max)
Yellowjackets. Mixing Mean Girls with survival thriller Alive, the audaciously directed Yellowjackets (created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickeron) arrives big out of the gate — introducing a girls soccer team crashed on a remote island on the way to a South American match, and their unexpected paths of resilience. And it reintroduces us to the brilliant work of Cristina Ricci, Juliette Lewis and Melanie Lynsky, juxtaposing their younger selves with the flash-forward mystery of all their little grownup secrets. (On Showtime)
The Sandman. The world building of Netflix’s The Sandman takes its time, but rewards your patience. Tom Sturridge, in sullen Robert Smith mode, compels as Dream/Morpheus/Sandman, his kingdom fallen into disarray when he’s trapped by a necromancer for nearly a century. Highlights include a duel with Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie), a showdown with sardonic wish-granter David Thewlis (“24/7”) and an encounter with a happy-go-lucky Englishman who wants to live forever (“The Sound of Her Wings”). Most of it enhances the best parts of Neil Gaiman’s storytelling gifts. (On Netflix)
Better Call Saul. The show beloved by critics and Breaking Bad fans put the looong in “long con,” and its final season rewarded us for hanging with Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman this long. Each episode is a mini-masterpiece of Rube Goldberg construction and patience rewarded. Stellar supporting players Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito made this a slow-burn masterpiece, while Carol Burnett had a standout role and a cameo by Walter White (Bryan Cranston) provided yet another withering Greek chorus to Goodman’s slide down and partial redemption. (On Netflix)
The Bear. Christopher Storer’s tale of obsessive food creation takes us into a space as claustrophobic and chaotic as Adam Sandler’s jewelry store in Uncut Gems: all toxic energy and flying cutlery, set in a Chicago sandwich shop where
Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) tries to save his dead brother’s restaurant business from going under, while injecting a bit more fine cuisine into the typical hoagie sandwiches. Ebon Moss-Bachrach stands out as cousin/agent of chaos Richie. (On Hulu)
The Offer. You’d think a series about making The Godfather, 50 years later, would have few secrets to tell us. But through the eyes of fledgling Hollywood producer Al Ruddy (Miles Teller), The Offer is a fascinating tale of a time when risks were still possible in La La Land. We see the million ways that this mob movie almost refused to get made — from gangsters and unions to studio reshuffling and drug problems, to finding a convincing horse’s head for the film — all enlivened by Matthew Goode as wired-up Paramount Studios head Robert Evans, and Dan Fogler as a needy-but-determined Francis Ford Coppola. (On Paramount+)
This is Going to Hurt. Based on Adam Kay’s medical intern days under the British National Health Service, Ben Whishaw delivers a Fleabag-like running commentary to the camera that takes us through some truly horrifying medical (and life) challenges. Heading far beyond Grey’s Anatomy, this is a master class in droll British humor and cutting delivery — both in and outside the operating room. (On BBC)
Hacks. Jean Smart as acerbic standup icon Deborah Vance meets Hanna Einbinder’s vaping, cancelled TV writer Ava, and try to come up with some real laughs. The generation gap is not just gaping, its Grand Canyon-esque, but Hacks eschews easy sentimentality in showing how these two opposite sides of the comedy coin really have each other’s numbers. And it’s as spot-on at LA takedown as Jon Heder’s Barry. (On HBO Max)