It’s that time of year to look at the hundreds of shows that aired on TV and pick out the best. This year has had an especially rich stew of offerings, in every genre ranging from comedy to epic fantasy to prestige drama.
Here’s our selection of the 10 best shows from 2022.
Sci-fi thrillers can tend to feel cold and aloof, or they can be irritating in their endless mysteries. But somehow “Severance” — which follows employees at a mysterious company who have a procedure to make their “work / life balance” literal — managed to be warm, inviting and often funny. At the same time, it had a plot full of intrigue, mystery, suspense and danger. It’s among the best offerings of the genre in recent years, and has a killer cast including Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, and Christopher Walken. It’s a show that keeps the audience on our toes, while avoiding keeping us at a chilly distance.
“The Rings of Power,” Prime Video
TV hasn’t felt this genuinely epic in a long time. “Rings of Power” wasn’t flawless (some of that Numenor plot dragged a bit). But overall, this show juggled a slew of far-flung plot lines with ease, as it danced around from following elves, dwarves, harefoots and even Sauron in disguise. It was a visual feast, a grand adventure, and the tone kept the spirit of the Peter Jackson film trilogy, while also adding on to this world. This show came with expectations as heavy as its price tag. While not all of them were met for all viewers, it still delivered a story that felt downright cinematic.
“House of the Dragon,” HBO
The “Game of Thrones” prequel series had clunky writing, and those time jumps were brutal momentum-killers for both the plot and the character development. But regardless of its many faults, “HOTD” became appointment television, inciting a level of water-cooler conversation that TV hadn’t seen on such a widespread scale since the original “GoT.” For that reason, it has a place among the year’s best shows because it demonstrated that a show feeling like a phenomenon that everyone and their mother is watching – and freaking out about – is not a thing of the past, after all.
Based on a modern classic 1979 novel, this story follows Dana (Mallori Johnson) and her love interest Kevin (Micah Stock) as they’re inexplicably swept back in time from the present day to a pre-civil war era plantation where she’s got some ancestors. Although the show deals with heavy material such as slavery, it manages to have plenty of wit and moments of levity. It also makes a lot of changes to the book while staying true to its spirit. It’s as thought provoking and as harrowing as a show dealing with such topics should be. But it’s also far from being relentlessly grim.
“Interview with the Vampire,” AMC
Whether or not you read the 1976 Anne Rice novel, saw the 1994 movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, or are fresh to this story, this show has something for everyone who enjoys a pulpy gothic yarn. It follows Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) from the present day to the early 1900s in New Orleans, as he recounts his life and his relationship with his mercurial vampire sire, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid). The show updates this story for the modern era while still delivering a bloody operatic vampire tale that’s as dramatic and atmospheric as it is plain fun.
“The Old Man,” FX
Jeff Bridges made a triumphant entrance into series television as curmudgeonly Dan Chase, a 70something off-the-grid former spy brought back in from the cold to battle his old nemesis, Iraqi warlord Faraz Hamzad (Navid Negahban) who’s still holding a grudge. The A-list supporting cast includes John Lithgow, Alia Shawkat, EJ Bonilla and Amy Brenneman, all of whom will return for Season 2.
“So Help Me Todd,” CBS
It takes a lot to impress this old warhorse, particularly when it comes to sitcoms, which are, so often, just a mishmash of each other with the same tired, familiar tropes. “So Help Me Todd” avoids those traps, thanks to sparkling writing and stars Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin. She’s a top-notch, no-nonsense lawyer and he’s her goofy, irresponsible grown son she hires to work for her as an investigator. Their chemistry is palpable and they fire off one-liners with aplomb. This one will stick around for a while.
“George & Tammy,” Showtime
You don’t need to be a country-music connoisseur to enjoy this riveting, warts-and-all (dramatized) look at George Jones and Tammy Wynette, the fabled country couple whose romance — through thick and thin — is at the centerpiece of this terrific six-episode series starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, both of whom should earn Emmy nods for their insightful performances.
“The Patient,” FX
Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson were both terrific in this chilling 10-episode psychodrama about a serial killer (Gleeson) who kidnaps and imprisons his bearded therapist (Carell) — tasking him to cure him of his homicidal tendencies … or else become his next victim. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that will have you on the edge of your seat every step of the way.
“Better Call Saul,” AMC
It was time to end the saga of lawyer Jimmy McGill-turned-Saul Goodman in this “Breaking Bad” prequel. And they did it right — not only by incorporating several “BB” characters into the ever-shifting timeline (past, present and future) but by neatly tying up loose ends and answering all the labyrinthian questions leading into a satisfying (if bittersweet) series finale that will continue to resonate for fans of both shows.
“What We Do in the Shadows,” FX
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s been on for a while now (four seasons by now — and renewed for Seasons 5 and 6). But the Staten Island vampire comedy is as sharp as ever, and I’m amazed at how much humor — both obvious and under-the-radar — its writers are able to cram into each 22-minute episode. The stellar cast helps, since it’s all in the delivery: Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Kayvan Novak, Mark Proksch and Harvey Guillen.