The 12 Best TV Shows of 2022
From ‘Abbott Elementary’ to ‘Yellowstone,’ we name names
In a year when TV overtook movie houses as the center of our entertainment world, there were more terrific shows than ever — and even broadcast TV showed signs of creative resurgence. Our critics name the 12 best of the best for grownups, listed here in alphabetical order. See if your list matches ours, and discover gems you may have missed the first time around.
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Talk about a find! It’s a prestige sitcom (on a broadcast network!) about an important social topic — underfunded school teachers heroically giving their students a chance in life, with an all-funny, mostly Black cast. It took Emmys for best comedy writing, best comedy cast, and hilarious best supporting actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who got her first Emmy at age 65.
Bad Sisters (Apple TV+)
Comedy doesn’t get much blacker than 52-year old Sharon Horgan’s whodunit about five Dublin sisters who lose their marbles and moral bearings in their repeatedly thwarted attempt to kill the abusive husband of one of them (Claes Bang, 55, who should win an Emmy for “Most Satisfyingly Rotten Villain of the Year”).
At first a terrifically amusing show about a hitman (Bill Hader, 44) who discovers a new talent in the acting class of a washed-up star (Henry Winkler, 77), it grew into an amazing dark crime story that still managed to crack us up, and its bravura motorcycle shootout chase scene made it one of TV’s best action shows too.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Breaking Bad prequel that chronicled slippery lawyer Jimmy McGill’s descent into evil as Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, 60) outdid the original classic show, and it got even scarier and greater by showing his law partner and lover, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, 50), go from Jimmy’s conscience and better half to his morally ruined partner in crime.
Dead to Me (Netflix)
Married… with Children’s Christina Applegate, 51, and ER’s Linda Cardellini, 47, are TV’s top female comedy team on a show that’s also a mystery drama with a soap opera’s worth of car crashes, betrayals, furtive burials, identical twins and bizarre plot twists. It’s fast, funny, and nimble in dealing with issues like infertility, bereavement and self-esteem. Applegate’s MS diagnosis did not rob her of her gifts, and her strong bond with her costar shines through in their characters.
The English (Prime Video)
Sorry, Kevin Costner, yours is not the deepest revisionist Western on TV. This twisty revenge saga has the gravitas of No Country for Old Men or Unforgiven. Emily Blunt, 39, was never better as an 1890 English noblewoman who is hunting her son’s killer — and gets mixed up with a Native American U.S. Army man who’s out to reclaim his land. The villains are spine-chillingly superb, especially Ciarán Hinds, 69, and Rafe Spall, 39.
House of the Dragon (HBO)
In the big-budget smackdown of the year, the Game of Thrones sequel outdid Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The civil war called the Dance of the Dragons, between the heir of King Viserys (Paddy Considine, 49) and his second wife, who were childhood besties turned deadliest enemies, is set hundreds of years before the first series, but it bears a bloody family resemblance to the original.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
In the second season of the hit about true-crime-obsessed residents of a fancy Manhattan apartment building (Steve Martin, 77, Martin Short, 72, and Selena Gomez, 30), Tina Fey, 52, and Amy Schumer, 41, add to the fun, as the satirical plot gets more complicated, and the sleuths are persons of interest in a new killing. Martin’s character faces another mystery: What the heck are people under 30 talking about? “It’s like I’m watching Squid Game without subtitles!”
Reservation Dogs (Hulu)
A comedy about Native American slacker teens yearning to escape Oklahoma, it also tackles subjects as deep as grief, and the second season got even better partly thanks to excellent grownup actors like Zahn McClarnon, 56, Gary Farmer, 69, and Wes Studi 75.
The White Lotus (HBO)
The show about bad behavior at a spoiled rich folks’ resort got more brilliantly dark in its second season: A lonesome zillionaire (Jennifer Coolidge, 61, at the peak of her peculiar powers) gets befriended by men with a sinister plan to steal her money and/or her life; two young couples’ marriages fray; and a father (F. Murray Abraham, 83), his son (The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli, 56) and grandson (Adam DiMarco, 32) look for love they scarcely deserve.
Yellowstone (Paramount Network)
Out of nowhere, 67-year-old Kevin Costner’s modern Western about a violently dysfunctional Montana family became TV’s top hit (sort of a cowboy version of Succession). It’s fun to root for the two-fisted Duttons from the heartland, and their ranch hands who can ride, rope, shoot, spit, cuss and brawl against the suits.
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.
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