So far in 2022, TV has delivered spectacular series that include alternative historical drama with a race to Mars, a true crime story you may have heard before, a gay pirate adventure, a dystopian nightmare in the workplace and a trilingual epic. And those are just five of the best series of this year.
There are more than ever, which doesn’t always mean there are more quality shows to enjoy. But this year brought, among many mediocre series, 15 that might just be really great. From streaming services to broadcast networks, they range from sci-fi and true crime to romantic comedies, sitcoms and pranks. Some stars are Oscar winners, others are unknown teenagers. What they have in common is an ability to remind us why television is such a powerful storytelling medium.
15. “The Staircase”
Although the story of Michael Peterson, a North Carolina author accused of murdering his wife in the early 2000s, has been told many times before (including in a documentary also called “The Staircase”), the mini -true crime series starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette finds something new in well-trodden territory. It’s also a showcase for young talent, including Sophie Turner, Dane DeHaan, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Odessa Young and Olivia DeJonge, who make up the blended family at the center of the mystery.
HBO Max’s acerbic and daring series is one of many cynical comedies that don’t shy away from mixing darkness with humor. Season 2 — not as hilarious as Season 1 but still a riot — brings its characters to a literal crossroads as veteran comedian Deborah (Jean Smart) takes her new act on the road with the help of writer Ava ( Hannah Einbinder). The heartwarming season finale had the flavor of a series finale, and it would be as good a way out as Deb could have imagined.
Amazon’s near-future comedy where the wealthy can download their consciousness into a digital paradise is a unique combination of sweetness and pessimism – a high-level sci-fi comedy with down-to-earth stories of love and loss. Season 2 has rediscovered charm and mystery with seven sharp new episodes that delve into stories of conspiracy and romance with equal aplomb.
12. “It’s Gonna Hurt”
Cynical and incredibly realistic, this medical drama has none of the gloss or melodrama of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “ER.” Ben Whishaw plays a jaded and exhausted obstetrician in the mid-2000s. Wading through Britain’s National Health bureaucracy and dealing with small budgets, Whishaw’s Adam tries his best and sometimes fails, and spends most of the season haunted by a particularly glaring error of judgement. The actor and writers strike a tone of misanthropy without wallowing in desperation, making “Hurt” a particularly satisfying (and sometimes terrifying) portrayal of modern medicine.
11. “Our flag means death”
Playful, joyful and cheerful (roger), this pirate romantic comedy from Taika Waititi and David Jenkins was a very nice surprise this spring. The series follows hapless “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) as he fights his way through third-rate swashbuckling and eventually catches the eye of the legendary Blackbeard (Waititi). Filled with guest roles from great comedians including Leslie Jones, Fred Armisen and Will Arnett, “Our Flag” easily mixes romance and farce, and has thankfully just been renewed for a second season to follow up on its cliffhanger ending.
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After a four-year hiatus, Donald Glover’s auteur comedy has returned with a stellar third season that’s been worth the wait. The varied, layered episodes run the gamut of what “Atlanta” can be: daring, experimental, and allegorical; comical and artful examinations of the mundane and specifics of black life. They remain singular, exceptional and stimulating as only “Atlanta” can be.
9. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”
One of DC Comics’ more low-key shows aired the second half of what turned out to be its final season this year. Season 7 retained just two original cast members, but each new face in the ensemble played a complex character that matches the show’s unique tone (super fun, dynamic yet sophisticated sci-fi with lots of romance and comedy). It’s hard to say that a series that ran for seven seasons was canceled “too soon,” but “Legends” was so great at reinventing itself that it could have gone on for many more years.
Ben Stiller’s dystopian drama has become one of the most relevant and biting critiques of corporate culture and capitalism, just as many companies have demanded that workers return to the office after two years of working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The “separation” takes place in a world in which people can “separate” their work and personal lives so that their working selves never remember their real life and their real selves never remember work. Adam Scott leads the cast as Mark, a separated worker trying to escape heartbreak in his “outie” life, while his “innie” discovers the evils of the Lumon Corporation.
This charming romantic comedy from New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo follows 29-year-old Jessie (Matafeo) who works dead-end jobs and goes through life when she gets involved with a movie star (Nikesh Patel). Season 1 presented a strong story of meeting and finding love, but Season 2 is an even better chapter about trying to keep love when you come from different worlds and carry the baggage of failed relationships. . Matafeo is a comedic delight, a physical and spiritual master who deserves the attention of Emmy voters.
6. “The Stall”
One in a long list of true crime adaptations this year, “Dropout” is positively illuminated by the performance of Amanda Seyfried who can’t take her eyes off her performance as disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Seyfried turns the enigmatic Holmes into a weird, high-strung, explosive con artist, and her scenes opposite Naveen Andrews as Sunny’s associate and sometimes love interest are the highlights of the miniseries.
Perhaps this year’s most ambitious new series, “Pachinko” is Apple’s first trilingual TV show, featuring dialogue in English, Japanese and Korean. It tells a time-jumping, continent-spanning story about several members of the same Korean family. Set in 1920s Japanese-occupied Korea and 1980s America and Japan, “Pachinko” examines generational trauma and ambition. The breathtaking drama stars Min-ha Kim, Lee Min-ho and Youn Yuh-jung, who won an Oscar last year for his performance in “Minari.”
4. ‘Abbott Elementary’
Creator and star Quinta Brunson did more than just pull off a successful network sitcom in 2022 (an impressive feat these days). She created instantly beloved and classic characters, settings, and jokes with “Abbott.” Brunson plays Janine Teagues, an idealistic and energetic second-grade teacher at a Philadelphia elementary school, often hilariously and harshly confronted with the realities of low budgets, terrible bureaucrats, and other teaching difficulties. There are more TV shows than ever, but there aren’t many hilarious sitcoms with perfectly cast actors and encouraging themes. Heartfelt “Abbott” is well-chosen for a dark year in the news and a fine centerpiece for a comedian like Brunson, who has done a tremendous, if less visible, job for years.
Exhilaration is the best way to describe how you’ll feel after watching Netflix’s young adult romantic comedy about two British teenagers who fall in love with each other. Based on the graphic novels by Alice Oseman (and adapted by the author), “Heartstopper” brilliantly depicts the struggles of being a queer teenager, opting not for despair but for jubilant hope. It uses moving images from the comics which add to the feeling that “Heartstopper” is both reality and fantasy. Her positive take on the story of dating and falling in love seems pivotal.
2. “Life and Beth”
Amy Schumer returns to television in this excellent comedy-drama as Beth, a woman nearing 40 who begins to turn her life around after her mother’s death shakes her from her happy routine. Michael Cera stars as a handsome, neurodivergent farmer who catches Beth’s eye after she moves from Manhattan to her hometown of Long Island. More than a romantic comedy, “Beth” delves into childhood trauma and grief in a real and heartbreaking way, and shows the depth of Schumer’s writing and acting.
1. “For All Mankind”
Apple’s alternate history of the space race, which posits what might have happened if the Soviet Union beat the United States to the moon and the competition for the final frontier never took hold ending, exploded to earn a spot on a list of the all-time great TV dramas. . Season 3, which takes place in a 1990s version where NASA, the USSR and a private company are in a three-way race to set foot on Mars, is just as cleverly written, with action set pieces. captivating. No spectacle but “Mankind” has quite the same knack for setting up and winning, wringing the tension and drama out of every moment.
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