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The 20 Best TV Shows of 2022

Incredible farewells. Miraculous debuts. Expensive high-concept franchises and intimate character studies. A whole lot of outstanding TV defined 2022.

TV 2022

Guy D'Alema/FX; Shane Brown/FX; Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television; HBO

PERHAPS THE YEAR in television should be defined by goodbyes, as three all-time classic series all wrapped up their runs in beautiful, appropriate fashion. Perhaps it should be defined by hellos, as 2022 saw some absolutely fantastic debuts of shows that were like nothing else on TV. Maybe it was a year of franchise reinventions, as a couple of iconic properties somehow felt new again with a pair of very different series? Or maybe we should just say that this was a great, great year, where each of the top four shows in this year’s top 20 list would have a convincing argument to be the best show on any number of past lists.

From Rolling Stone US


Pachinko (Apple TV+)

This adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s historical-fiction novel balances epic sweep with intimate characterization, focusing on one family’s struggle during Japan’s occupation of Korea, and the impact it had on future generations. A knockout on technical levels (few shows this year looked or sounded better) and in terms of performances (with Yu-na Jeon, Minha Kim, and Youn Yuh-jung seamlessly playing the same heroine across many decades), it also boasts the best opening credit sequence TV’s had in quite some time, with the whole ensemble dancing through a Pachinko parlor. 


What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

Somehow, the vampire mockumentary just keeps getting funnier. Season Four found Laszlo (Matt Berry) becoming a father figure to the reborn Baby Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), Nadia (Natasia Demetriou) opening a vampire nightclub, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) making many poor wishes after rubbing a djinn’s lamp, and human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) struggling to define a life for himself away from his master Nandor. Oh, and there was a whole installment presented as an episode of Laszlo’s favorite house-flipping reality show. Still filthy, still ludicrous, still the most reliable laugh machine you can find. 


High School (Freevee)

Beloved Canadian indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara get an appropriately lo-fi biographical series, focusing on the twin sisters (played by siblings Railey and Seazynn Gilliland) at a moment when they’re drifting apart from one another, only to be brought back together when each realizes how much she enjoys writing and performing music. Primary director Clea DuVall effectively puts viewers into the head not only of the sisters, but at times their beleaguered mother (Cobie Smulders) and various friends, in a way that almost instantly puts High School in the pantheon of TV coming-of-age stories.  


The Bear (Hulu)

This FX-produced drama set in the kitchen of a Chicago sandwich shop is easily the most stressful scripted TV show you could watch this year. So much so that yours truly actually gave up midway through the third episode. But what brought me back — and what made The Bear one of this year’s word-of-mouth sensations — was how time spent in that kitchen didn’t just make the anxiety palpable, but every emotion, both good and bad, being experienced by Jeremy Allen White’s grieving Carmy and his skeptical employees. And in the process, The Bear proved even more cathartic than it could be difficult to sit through. Yes, chef!


Severance (Apple TV+)

This thriller uses a sci-fi conceit — corporate drones volunteer to have their memories of their work and home lives separate, essentially turning them into two different people sharing one body — as a scathing, often terrifying commentary on how out-of-whack work-life balance has become in the 21st century. This strange idea is brought to life by unnerving production design, by Ben Stiller’s assured direction, and by superb performances by Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and more. Now let’s all celebrate that great first season with a Music Dance Experience featuring defiant jazz! 


Barry (HBO)

In its second season, Barry seemed to have hit the limits of its black comic premise about a hitman (Bill Hader) who decides he’d rather be an actor. But this year’s belated third season smashed through those limits with a string of episodes that could be unspeakably dark or raucously silly, with both once again feeling like they belonged on the same show. (And occasionally, like the astonishingly-shot dirtbike chase on the LA freeways, Barry could be grim and wacky simultaneously.) The incredible finale was so relentlessly grim that even Hader has suggested Season Four will have to lighten things back up again. That’s probably the right call for the long term, but Barry was never better than this year. 


Atlanta (FX)

After being away for four years, Atlanta decided to reward fans with a pair of concluding seasons in the same year. The reaction to the first of those was mixed, mainly because nearly half of the episodes were anthology stories not involving the main characters. But there was plenty of greatness to be found in that spring run, particularly in Paper Boi’s trippy walk through Amsterdam that included an unexpected chat with Liam Neeson. Still, the fall episodes returned to home turf, and focused almost entirely on Al, Earn, Darius, and Van. (And the one exception was the brilliant, absurd mockumentary about the making of A Goofy Movie.) Every character and idea got a beautiful send-off, from Al discovering that he loves the farming life, to Earn telling Van how he feels, to a thematically perfect final episode in which a show built on dream logic ended by wondering whether everything we had watched for four seasons was a dream.  


Better Call Saul (AMC) 

Like Atlanta, Saul wrapped up its esteemed run in two parts this year. And like Atlanta, the second half was better than the first. (Though few moments in the life of the series were as surprising or chilling as seeing Lalo step out from behind Howard Hamlin in the mid-season finale.) Saul, though, had the tougher assignment to complete. Atlanta could have ended almost any way (even if the final choice sure felt like the right one), while Saul had a far narrower path, even when the story went past the events of Breaking Bad. Yet Peter Gould, Vince Gilligan, Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, and friends (including cameos from BB vets Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Betsy Brandt) walked that path beautifully, with a conclusion that felt absolutely true to both this show and the one before it. Actually, no. It was better than the last episode of Breaking Bad, which is incredible to think about if you remember what a bad idea the prequel seemed before its debut. And if Seehorn doesn’t win an Emmy next year for the episode where Kim cried on the shuttle bus? We riot. 


Reservation Dogs (Hulu) 

Any of the previous three shows could have easily topped this list and would have felt like the right choice. But there is just something magical about Sterlin Harjo’s dramedy (another FX-on-Hulu creation) about four friends growing up on a reservation in rural Oklahoma. Every moment feels rich with emotion, from Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) experiencing a vision of her ancestors as a way of coping with the grief she feels about her cousin’s suicide, to something much sillier like Big (Zahn McClarnon) having a bad drug trip in the woods, to moments in between, like Cheese (Lane Factor) figuring out how to navigate a stay in a group home. It is funny as hell when it wants to be, devastating when it has half a mind to be, and lingers with you long after each episode ends. Only a true shitass wouldn’t recognize how lucky we are to have a show this special.