The Best TV of 2022 (So Far)

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donald glover and brian tyree henry in atlanta season 3
'Atlanta' Season 3 | FX
'Atlanta' Season 3 | FX

As 2022 kicked into gear, we were wowed by the final season of Search Party and captivated by Severance; charmed by Abbott Elementary and Somebody Somewhere. The first half of the year in TV continued proving itself to be no slouch with long-awaited seasons of beloved shows returning to our small screens after COVID delays (Atlanta, Barry), new standout miniseries (The Girl from Plainville), and tricky book adaptations that turned out to be incredible (Pachinko, Under the Banner of Heaven). These are the best TV shows that debuted in 2022 so far (so shows like Yellowjackets, The Expanse, and And Just Like That… are missing here because they started in 2021). Just don't ask us where Euphoria is.

abbott elementary
ABC

Abbott Elementary (ABC)

Season 1, 13 episodes
Creator and star Quinta Brunson pulls off something of a magic trick with the ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary. She managed to make a fresh Office-style mockumentary comedy about a struggling Philadelphia school that feels neither trite nor flippant. And on top of all of that, she's brought the cool kids of Twitter back to network television. In the series, Brunson plays Janine Teagues, a dedicated elementary teacher whose optimistic, people-pleasing nature can rub her jaded colleagues the wrong way. A comedy is only as good as its ensemble, and Abbott Elementary’s is incredible, from Brunson to veterans Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter to hilarious breakout star Janelle James as the scene-stealing DGAF principal Ava. —Esther Zuckerman

all of us are dead
Netflix

All of Us Are Dead (Netflix)

Season 1, 12 episodes
On the heels of Netflix's other recent Korean horror WebToon/TV series Hellbound,
All of Us Are Dead capitalized on the ongoing hallyu wave with its apocalyptic high school zombie story featuring a sprawling ensemble cast, teenage drama, and escape room-like plot as surviving students must evade an outbreak that has swept through their school. Those who watched 2020's Sweet Home will find plenty of similarities here, what with AOUAD's tense action in confined spaces, mysterious outbreak, abundant death, occasionally sus CGI, and One Special Kid who might just have the cure to end it all. But this series stands on its own emotional legs that carry AOUAD's episodes, even in the ones that start feeling a little tedious. —Leanne Butkovic

Brian Tyree Henry in atlanta season 3
FX

Atlanta (FX)

Season 3, 10 episodes
After a nearly four-year hiatus, Donald Glover's surrealist comedy Atlanta finally returned to the small screen. Even with the overwhelming glut of television programming that has happened during the FX's critically acclaimed series's absence, it still remains leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of what's currently airing. That doesn't mean it's a watch that goes down easy—still one of the best actors on TV, Brian Tyree Henry's Paperboi has finally "made it" and half of the season's episodes follow along with the European leg of his tour. The gang navigates Paperboi's new found fame through fans and producers, designer clothing, and racial negotiations. Atlanta has always embraced using the medium to tell one off stories, and this season continues its bottle episode tradition to examine themes about whiteness that, by the end of the season, seemingly connect. It's a shame we're only getting one more season of television's most boundary-breaking shows. —Kerensa Cadenas

bill hader and henry winkler in barry season 3
Merrick Morton/HBO

Barry (HBO)

Season 3, 8 episodes
After a long COVID-related delay, Bill Hader's masterpiece of a showbiz satire about the dark recesses of humanity returned in excellent form. The titular hitman-turned-actor that Hader plays is scarier than ever, the creator leaning into his character's desperation after realizing that his beloved acting teacher Mr. Cousineau (Henry Winkler) is aware that Barry is a killer. Meanwhile, Barry's girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is trying on girlboss for size, running and starring in her own TV show based on her experiences with abuse. Her mania is somehow both hysterical and tragic, just like the rest of the series, which finds time for site gags and Noho Hank-isms amid all the sorrow. —EZ

billions
Showtime

Billions (Showtime)

Season 6, 12 episodes
After Billions' Season 5 finale revealed that Damien Lewis would be leaving, we wondered how the Showtime series would fare without the manic energy of his hedge-fund shark Bobby Axelrod to push things forward. It turns out that Billions can be just as sharp when it's focused on a different billionaire, a benevolent-presenting egomaniac in Corey Stoll's Michael Thomas Acquinas Prince, especially when the cast around him, i.e., Asia Kate Dillion, Condola Rashad, and Paul Giamatti as always, are turning in reliable performances. In a bid to bring the 2028 Olympics to New York City under the guise of "revitalizing" the city—which includes an enviable new subway prototype—Prince's motives behind his do-gooder façade show off a side of Billions more interested in the moral ambiguity around wealth than ever before. In the Season 6 pivot, Billions is flashing its hand: There are no good billionaires, and even seemingly clean philanthropic money can still feel dirty. —LB

The Dropout
Hulu

The Dropout (Hulu)

Limited series, 8 episodes
It’s easy to feel skeptical about the current wave of scripted series based on scams ripped from recent headlines, but The Dropout is far better than counterparts like Netflix's Inventing Anna and Apple TV+'s WeCrashed. Run by New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether, the Hulu show charts the breathless rise and tantalizing fall of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried), who girlbossed her way to fame and riches without confirming that her radical blood-testing innovation actually worked. If you’ve read, heard, or watched the many chronicles of Holmes’ decline, you might not learn much new information from The Dropout. But in addition to great performances from Seyfried, Naveen Andrews, Stephen Fry, Laurie Metcalf, and others, you will get a barbed insight into how a single-minded go-getter can dupe herself into believing in a self-driven vision that was always too good to be true. —Matthew Jacobs

kaley cuoco in the flight attendant season 2
HBO Max

The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

Season 2, 8 episodes
The Flight Attendant got the Big Little Lies treatment after its successful first season (being that it's based on a self-contained novel and was greenlit for more). But because the series is essentially a page-turner airport read in the form of a TV show, more episodes with spy adventures are very welcome. After Cassie's (the very charming Kaley Cuoco) whirlwind experience tracking down a killer, she's taken on a secret gig as a civilian asset with the CIA. Obviously, her curiosity gets the best of her and she winds up not only witnessing another murder, but a mysterious lookalike impersonating her. Her friend Megan (Rosie Perez) is also in hiding for her own illegal wheeling and dealing with North Korea, which means there's bounty hunters running amok and episodes featuring gal pals/associates in crime trekking across Iceland (which really is peak television!). It's also just as much about Cassie trying to face her alcoholism and familial trauma, pushing the excellent Cuoco into even more multifaceted material. There is never a moment that you don't want to fasten your seatbelt for more of this character study and John le Carré-inspired romp. —Sadie Bell

elle fanning as michelle carter
Steve Dietl/Hulu

The Girl from Plainville (Hulu)

Miniseries, 8 episodes
The case explored in The Girl from Plainville is a very complicated one. Chronicling the events around the infamous "texting-suicide case"—in which Michelle Carter was convicted for involuntary manslaughter because of texts she sent to her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad "Coco" Roy before his death by suicide—the series dares to try to understand all the intricacies of the story. While it's difficult to watch and does drag on with 40-minute episodes, its sensitive approach in dramatizing what Roy was going through, his family's grief, and Carter's own experience that was seldom examined in the media makes it compelling and nuanced. Elle Fanning is excellent as Carter and she, along with the fascinating way that the show wrote in its many YA references, challenges expectations of the case and paints a complex picture of teen tragedy. It's a show that hasn't been talked about too much this year, likely because of its somber subject matter, but it's a rare entry into the bloated true-crime genre that feels exceptionally human. —SB

girls5eva cast in season 2
Heidi Gutman/Peacock

Girls 5 Eva (Peacock)

Season 2, 8 episodes
Meredith Scardino's brilliant comedy has no sophomore slump as the newly reunited '90s girl group goes into "album mode" after scoring a deal with the Property Brothers' new record company. (See, just that sentence is funny.) The cast is still as sharp as ever with Sara Bareilles once again proving she's a great straight man to Renée Elise Goldsberry's delusional diva Wickie Roy, who goes on a Raya date with "Goldbergs regular" Tim Meadows just to break up with him. And Busy Philipps and Paula Pell make a great odd couple as the former tries to break free from the Purity Ring culture that made her and the latter tries to get back with her ex-wife. But really, it's all about the jokes and the jokes are good. —EZ

jean smart and hannah einbinder in hacks season 2
Karen Ballard/HBO Max

Hacks (HBO Max)

Season 2, 8 episodes
All you need to know about this season of Hacks is that it features one of the funniest bits on TV of the year, and it involves a lesbian cruise boat… er, ship. There's also great jokes about wives of UFC fighters, a ridiculously large tour bus, and more Meg Stalter for good measure. Season 2 finds Queen of Vegas comedian Debra Vance (Jean Smart) on the open road to work out new, more personal material with her 25-year-old writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder). Leaving behind the Las Vegas strip means a whole world of Americana for them to explore, and inevitably grapple with their own flaws and complicated work relationship—which blows up in a Sedona gift shop and results in a lawsuit, of course. It remains one of the best and smartest comedies on TV, ultimately about what a double-edged sword it can be to put your all into your job. —SB

Ji Hye Lee in pachinko
Apple TV+

Pachinko (Apple TV+)

Season 1, 8 episodes
Over the course of its decade-hopping eight episodes, Pachinko's opening credits—the cast dancing to "Let's Live for Today" by The Grass Roots in a bright pachinko parlor—goes from a delightful interlude to a sequence that will have your eyes welling up with tears. But that's the power of directing duo Kogonada and Justin Chon taking on the high-order task of adapting Min Jin Lee's sprawling multigenerational 2017 novel, handling it with the delicacy and care its emotional weightiness requires. Though readers might take issue with the series breaking the book's straightforward chronology, the TV show juxtaposes the choices of the past with the consequences of the future, and allows for many actors to flex in the lead role of Sunja through her childhood in Busan, Korea (Yu-na), as a young adult who relocates to Osaka, Japan (Kim Min-ha), and her twilight years in the late '80s (Youn Yuh-jung). (The supporting cast—Jin Ha, Lee Min-ho, Steve Sanghyun Noh, etc.—is incredible too.) For many Westerners, it's probably the first fictional TV show we've seen about a Japanese-colonized South Korea and the sort of intolerance that Koreans endured in Japan, and despite leaving some loose ends open by the finale, Pachinko would have been devastatingly lovely as a miniseries. But even better, it was renewed for a second season. —LB


 

pam & tommy
Hulu

Pam & Tommy (Hulu)

Limited series, 8 episodes
Pam & Tommy got people's attention with prosthetics that transformed Lily James and Sebastian Stan into uncanny replicas of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, as well as the promise of many '90s pop-culture references. But after a few episodes, the bio-drama came down from its Señor Frogs party binge and proved that it intended to reframe the narrative around the theft and distribution of the couple's sex tape as an instance in which tabloids and society weaponized a woman's sexuality against her. It's James's fully inhabited performance that elevates the show, as she brings an immense sincerity to her portrayal of the Baywatch star, from scenes in which Anderson is underestimated on the set to an episode about her infamous deposition. While Pam & Tommy ultimately has to grapple with its own place amid Hollywood's ongoing reevaluation of the ways it has hurt famous women—Anderson was not involved in the production—it's certainly moving, and now it’s become a catalyst to hear Pam's own experience. —SB

Amazon Studios

Reacher (Amazon)

Season 1, 8 episodes
What Reacher lacks in ambition, it makes up for in mass. The latest airport-thriller adaptation from Amazon, the streaming home of Bosch and Jack Ryan, is a sturdy take on author Lee Child's long-running Jack Reacher book series, which was first turned into a pair of sturdy if unspectacular movies starring a diminutive Tom Cruise as the titular ex-military drifter. This version, which comes from Prison Break writer Nick Santora, swaps out Cruise for the suitably large Alan Ritchson and stretches the plot of the first Reacher novel, 1997's The Killing Floor, into a whole season's worth of twists and turns. The mystery can get convoluted, particularly as the show attempts to connect the dots of its small-town conspiracy, but Ritchson is an effective Reacher, understanding the combination of wit and stoicism that sells the macho fantasy. He keeps you engaged as he punches his way to the truth. —Dan Jackson

righteous gemstones
HBO

The Righteous Gemstones

Season 2, 9 episodes
Strongmen for Christ, a biblically themed timeshare, a toilet baby: When you describe what happened in Season 2 of Danny McBride's megachurch family dramedy to a non-watcher (tragic), it's hard to keep a straight face with all of the absurd concepts that make total sense in context. After Season 1 put a pin in its own extortion plot that established the Gemstone family's innerworkings, The Righteous Gemstones became more of itself, diving into the surprising backstories of the family patriarch Eli (John Goodman) and wacky Uncle Baby Billy (Walton Goggins), while unspooling new unscrupulous yarns for the siblings—Jesse (McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam DeVine)—to get tangled up in all in order to make their daddy proud of them. With guest roles from Eric Andre and Eric Roberts adding both hilarious bits and high stakes to this season, Gemstones delivered a multipronged saga of death, birth, redemption, and catchy Christian songs that more people should be watching. —LB

natasha lyonne in russian doll season 2
Netflix

Russian Doll (Netflix)

Season 2, 8 episodes
The second season of Russian Doll ditches the Groundhog Day premise of the show's first in favor of sending Natasha Lyonne's Nadia Vulvokov, via an ancient subway car, back in time to solve the mystery of her family's lost inheritance, thought to have been frittered away by her addled mother (played by Chloë Sevigny). As she delves deeper into the truth, she goes further back in time, to NYC in the '80s and Budapest in the '40s, meeting long-lost relatives from generations ago to unravel the story. The twist: While back in time, Nadia's consciousness lives inside the bodies of these women, all blessed with Nadia's trademark red tresses, as she pretends to become them in order to prevent a family tragedy from ever occurring. —Emma Stefansky

Search Party
HBO Max

Search Party (HBO Max)

Season 5, 10 episodes
Throughout its five-season run, HBO Max's Search Party was one of the best things on television that continually flew under the radar. What was first a dark comedy about millennial ennui reached a much bolder conclusion, following Dory (Alia Shawkat) and her friends on the other side of Dory's near-death experience. It brought them back together, but this time under Dory's influence as a newfound spiritual deity heading up a cult. It might seem like an outlandish storyline to end the show on, but it comes full circle with what the show's been about all along—just how much our actions can not only impact ourselves but ultimately the world. —KC

severance
Apple TV+

Severance (Apple TV+)

Season 1, 9 episodes
Mark (Adam Scott) is employed at Lumon Industries, a company so mysterious its own workers are obligated to undergo "severance," a one-time procedure that totally wipes their memories of anything they do while at the office. What they're not told is that, in order to wall off one section of their memories from another, severance basically manifests an entirely new personality that lives, trapped, inside their heads, existing only within their workplace. The workers, naturally, become obsessed with finding out who they really are. The result is a hideous and hilarious parody of office life and its bizarre intricacies. The show, created by Dan Erickson, builds an entire world inside an office, constructing a mappa mundi of white-tiled halls, carpeted cubicles, and a delightfully analog tech aesthetic that positions it somewhere between Office Space and Being John Malkovich. —ES

single drunk female
Freeform

Single Drunk Female (Freeform)

After her stint on the underrated comedy The Mick, Sofia Black-D'Elia gets a deserving showcase in Single Drunk Female. She plays Samantha, a 28-year-old alcoholic who gets fired from her soul-sucking media job and moves in with her widowed mother (Ally Sheedy) who doesn't understand the nature of her addiction. Few shows have tangled with young women's sobriety as honestly as Single Drunk Female, with its potent blend of dark humor, deep self-reflection, and emotional breakthroughs as Sam works through Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 steps. Created by Simone Finch based on her real-life experiences and produced by the likes of Leslye Headland (Russian Doll), Jenni Konner (Girls), and Daisy Gardner (30 Rock), the series often feels painfully real as Sam weathers the ups and downs on her road to recovery. —LB

rose matafeo in starstruck season 2
Mark Johnson/HBO Max

Starstruck (HBO Max)

Season 2, 6 episodes
Rose Matafeo is still the queen of the small screen rom-com in the second season of Starstruck. It picks up right where the first season left off with Matafeo's Jessie deciding not to leave London for New Zealand when her famous on-again-off-again hookup Tom (Nikesh Patel) intercepts her. Now she'll never see Dunkirk (she's not going to watch it on the ground), and she and Tom have to negotiate being an actual couple. Matafeo investigates what happens after a Graduate-inspired ending, delving into the challenges of getting everything you may have wanted in a romance. —EZ

somebody somewhere
HBO

Somebody Somewhere (HBO)

Season 1, 7 episodes
While Euphoria was the most talked-about show on HBO this winter, the best one aired after it. Somebody Somewhere is a gorgeous, hilarious, and elegiac show that acts as a showcase for the immensely talented Bridget Everett. The performer best known for her bawdy cabaret show plays a woman named Sam who moves back to her hometown in Kentucky after the death of her beloved sister. Working at a test-grading facility, she reunites with Joel (Jeff Hiller), a high school classmate she doesn't remember, and they become fast friends as he introduces her to the local queer community. Created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, it's a beautiful series that delves into faith and grief with a mastery of tone and musical numbers. —EZ

andrew garfield in under the banner of heaven
FX

Under the Banner of Heaven (FX)

Miniseries, 7 episodes
Andrew Garfield has had a hell of a year (anyone see that new Spider-Man movie?), and with his lead role in FX's miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven, the guy shows no signs of stopping. The Dustin Lance Black-created drama based on the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer explores the Mormon faith through the grisly murder of a young Mormon woman and her child. Garfield plays Jeb Pyre, the detective investigating, who unearths sinister connections between the murder and the LDS church. With incredible performances from Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones, there's a quality to Under the Banner of Heaven that feels somewhat reminiscent of Tree of Life—a testament to an incredible directing team, which includes Isabel Sandoval. It's a hard, heady watch that interrogates American values about faith, family, and institutions. —KC

rosa salazar in undone
Amazon Studios

Undone (Amazon)

Season 2, 8 episodes
In Season 1 of Undone, Amazon Prime's rotoscoped odyssey, Alma Winograd-Diaz (Rosa Salazar) confronts and explores her mestiza heritage by traveling back through time to communicate with her native Mexican ancestors, combining the science fiction of time travel with native spirituality. Season 2 digs deeper into the concepts of generational trauma and cultural memory as we learn about her father's side of the family, specifically his mother's escape from the Polish pogroms on the eve of World War II and how her experiences during her journey to America dictated the rest of her life. Alma is transported to an alternate dimension, along with the ghost of her father, as both possess the bodies of themselves in the new reality as they work together to solve a mystery surrounding an enormous secret Alma's mother has kept from them, and how her secret is linked to her mother-in-law's tragic past. —ES

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