The 10 best TV shows of 2022, from I’m a Celebrity and The White Lotus to Bad Sisters

Ihave watched a lot of TV this year. I wake up in the morning, make a pot of coffee and sit down to watch television until my eyes go straight to the socket. It’s a daily world of ticking bombs, raunchy tracks and copiously littered laughs.

The following 10 programs represent my favorites from the past 12 months. Some were watched for work and some were watched for pleasure, but all were incredibly nice. In a year dominated by two blockbuster fantasy shows – HBO Game of Thrones precursor House of the Dragon and Amazon’s Tolkien epic Power rings – the work I liked the most erred on the side of the reverent. Funny, cynical, touching, exciting; there’s a little bit of everything on this list.

But before we get into that, I think it’s important to acknowledge my biases: competently put together as many of these shows are, I’ll never have a Star Wars or Marvel Endeavor on a list of my personal favorites. After all, personal taste is what gives flavor to life. And from sci-fi to reality TV, prestige drama to documentary, these 10 shows were mouth-watering additions to the menu in 2022.

10. Stranger Things

Television designed for a teenage audience—and immortalized in looped videos on TikTok—tends not to be very good. Just watch Wednesdaythe slapdash Gen Z baiting The Addams Family origin story collecting monster seer characters right now. But Stranger Things is not like that. Stranger Things is good.

Well written, well acted and beautifully set in a rural Indiana that feels ripped from the pages of Stephen King or John Irving, Stranger Thingsits penultimate season was the best serial killer mystery since its cancellation Mindhunter. All the more impressive, then, for the fact that it really needn’t have been anything that good.

9. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

I hadn’t seen a season of I’m a celebrity for many years. Last I knew there were people like Tony Blackburn and Katie Price in the jungle. But I, like so many of the British public, tuned in this year for one simple reason: I wanted to see Matt Hancock eat bugs.

And during those weeks I became completely obsessed with the show. It was a sense of catharsis, after the horrors of Covid-19, to see the former health secretary in the pillory, exposed to public retribution for the mistakes of the pandemic. As the weeks went by, however, it became less about Hancock, and more about the inherent sweetness of Jill Scott and Owen Warner, and the ageless industry of Ant and Dec. Indeed, both the show and the presenters are now a British institution.

Matt Hancock shows that politicians are people too on ‘I’m a Celeb’

(James Gourley/ITV/Shutterstock)

8. Bad Sisters

The premise of Apple’s Sharon Horgan-led dark comedy is simple and delicious: four (bad) sisters decide to murder the husband of the remaining, fifth, sister. This enterprise then unravels in increasingly absurd and pitch-black ways, reminiscent of the very best of Ealing comedy slapstick.

Horgan is hugely talented, and has assembled a brilliant cast here (Eve Hewson is a revelation as the flighty youngest sister Becka, and Claes Bang is chill as the impending cadaver John Paul). The show is by turns a funny, loving look at the sibling micro-society, and a much more sobering portrait of family violence and coercive control. At the last minute, the show fluffs its lines, delivering a fudge of a finale, but otherwise it’s a fine piece of new TV.

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7. Slow horses

Slow horses, Apple’s adaptation of Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb spy books, has released two seasons in 2022 alone, which is an industry level not usually correlated with quality. But don’t worry: Herron is the natural successor to John Le Carré, and Lamb the only heir to George Smiley.

The first season looked at far-right terrorism and radicalization – it would make a good double bill with Channel 4s Drop-in, which was also very good – and set up a world of exquisite crumbliness. Nothing typifies it more than Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb; an Oscar-winning star farts and belches his way through a spy drama. But the biggest trick it Slow horses pulls off, is to feel cerebral without being overly complicated.

6. Louis Theroux: Forbidden America

If you’re not sick to death of the lanky bespectacled presenter, then 2022 is Forbidden America marked a major return to form for Louis Theroux (and is vastly better than his diabolical interview series, in which he meets luminaries such as Rita Ora and Bear Grylls).

Episodes charted the online success of the far right, Florida’s violent rap scene and the changing face of porn, all with the usual wit and curiosity. The BBC is a very capable producer of documentaries – Frozen Planet II could have made this list as well, having become an essential part of how I hypnotize my brain to sleep – but in the post-Paxman era, very few personalities can carry a show like Theroux. He has quickly become British factual television’s most important overseas export since David Attenborough.

Theroux’s latest documentary examines Florida’s violent rap scene


5. The English

With its rather creepy opening monologue, I fully expected to find Hugo Blick’s six-part western, The English, far too serious. What a joy, then, to discover that this series—led by superb performances from Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer—is actually a picaresque romp through the blood-soaked plains of pioneer America.

The stunningly beautiful show (certainly one of the most beautiful the BBC has ever broadcast) feels like the Coen brothers adapting a Cormac McCarthy novel – which is a hell of a compliment, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the ending was somewhat rushed, but that shouldn’t undermine the excellent work that had come before.

4. Severance pay

It’s been several years since I last worked full-time in an office – thank God – and since then a large part of the workforce has joined my life of distant luxury. Severance pay is a show that should convince the remaining holdouts to quit their small, secluded lives.

Apple’s office dystopia – set in the world of the “cut off”, who have detached the working self from their home – has been the platform’s critical homerun in 2022. But the accolades are richly deserved. The show is by turns both darkly comic and devastating in its depictions of grief, trauma and the extent to which we all fail to distinguish between them. After that cliffhanger finale, the return for a second series will be among the most anticipated television events of the coming years.

Dodgy business: the cast of “Severance”

(Apple TV+)

3. Derry Girls

Lisa McGee’s coming-of-age sitcom, set in 1990s Northern Ireland, had already been given stars by the cast and creator before the final episodes aired in the spring. But the series’ swan song cemented its reputation (even Martin Scorsese joins in) as the best British comedy of recent years.

Anchored by the genius of performances such as Saoirse-Monica Jackson’s Erin, Nicola Coughlan’s Clare and Kathy Kiera Clarke’s Aunt Sarah, Derry girls is one of the few shows that never fails as a recommendation. Everyone, from elderly relatives to the guy sitting behind me at the football, gets a laugh out of the gang’s antics. The absence of one of Britain’s few genuinely laugh-out-loud comedies will leave a huge gap in Channel 4’s comedy programme.

2. The exercise

Whether you enjoy it The exercise or will not rely entirely on your willingness to follow along. The premise is simple: Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder finds people who have a small but emotionally heavy challenge weighing on them. Fielder then uses the art of practice to guide them through the eventual moment when they must confront this issue. Simple.

But that’s a serious undersell of the show, which is one of the most ambitious, uncategorizable things on TV. The first episode, for example, requires building the perfect facsimile of a New York bar, in a giant rural hangar. The company’s absurdist grandeur – like Tom McCarthy’s novel, Rest – played beautifully against tiny beats of emotional nuance. Frightening, outrageous and very funny, The exercise is extraordinary television.

Special mentions

There’s been some great stuff on British TV this year that’s often overlooked (by me) in favor of glitzy American content. Somewhere boyon Channel 4, was unusually lovingly and beautifully performed, while All I know about love was lively, rude and just mildly annoying. Sherwood, meanwhile, was one of the few pieces of original drama that was a genuine, unequivocal success. And the return off Industry‘s horny bankers filled this year’s Succession-shaped hole.

On a more global level, I thought of the second chapter Russian doll was just as inventive as the first season, while similarly the second edition of Just murder in the building somehow managed to avoid losing the spark that made the show great.

And an early draft of this list had the FIFA World Cup in a medal position, because frankly, nothing on TV has matched it for sheer drama. You can blame the absence on a certain Olivier Giroud.

1. The white lotus

I loved the first series of The white lotus, which seemingly came out of nowhere and managed to be funny, sexy and completely unnerving. The second season is largely just a tonal sibling (only Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, and her husband Greg, make the trip from Hawaii to Sicily), and yet it manages impeccably to transplant the spirit of the sandy Pacific to the wine-soaked shores of the Ionian.

Jennifer Coolidge in “The White Lotus”


The new cast – including Aubrey Plaza, F Murray Abraham and Tom Hollander – are aided by Mike White’s wildly inventive and funny script. The ability to capture the zeitgeist without feeling self-conscious is an underrated skill, but there is a department there The white lotus stands out. Cutting through the narcissistic myopia of Gen Z, millennials and baby boomers in one fell swoop, The White Lotus: Sicily (which I note is being styled for the Golden Globe nominations) was the most fun I had in front of a TV screen this year.

When the finale was released earlier in December, it felt like the whole world was watching. Far more than dragons or magic rings, this has been the reality TV sensation of 2022.

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