Year in review: The best TV shows of 2022, from ‘Severance’ to ‘Slow Horses’
DUBAI: From startups, through spinoffs, to sign-offs — it was a great year for the small screen. Read on for our top picks of 2022’s small-screen entertainment.
Starring: Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Patricia Arquette
It didn’t get much pre-release hype, but this dystopian psychological thriller (laced with some black, black comedy) was one of the best shows not just of this year, but of the century. It centers around a group of employees at the sinister and secretive tech company Lumon Industries who have volunteered for a medical procedure that severs their non-work memories from their work memories. Mark (Adam Scott) leads a team of workers who uncover a conspiracy that affects them all. Disturbing, funny, shocking, emotional and thought-provoking in equal measure, as well as being beautifully shot and superbly acted, “Severance” was a true original.
Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Himesh Patel, Matilda Lawler
“Station Eleven” premiered too late in 2021 to make last year’s “Best of” list, but this 10-episode miniseries did run into 2022. It’s an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel (with significant deviations from the book) set 20 years after a flu pandemic has caused civilization to collapse. While there are plenty of harrowing incidents post-apocalypse, “Station Eleven” is ultimately uplifting, warm and optimistic. It follows The Traveling Symphony — a small group of survivors who now make their living as wandering performers of music and Shakespeare plays. On their annual route of several settlements, they encounter a violent cult whose leader is inspired by the titular graphic novel, of which Kirsten — the symphony’s lead actress — is also a huge fan. Both Davis and Lawler (as the older and younger Kirsten respectively) turned in Emmy-worthy performances.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner
This superb thriller about a family — the Byrdes — making a fortune (not always) reluctantly laundering money for a ruthless Mexican cartel got the ending it (and we) deserved in its fourth and final season, which was unbearably tense throughout and left us guessing right to the end as to whether buttoned-down Marty (Bateman) and ambitious Wendy (Linney) and their kids Charlotte and Jonah could really make it out alive and clean. As the season progressed, it was Marty’s former protégé Ruth Langmore (the magnificent Garner) who looked more likely to make that journey. “Ozark” will be missed.
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Sadie Sink
Even if it’s only accomplishment was bringing the brilliant Kate Bush back into the global limelight, season four of the Eighties-set sci-fi phenomenon would have been worth it. Happily, it was about way more than that. The show continued its ‘let’s-go-darker’ trajectory with its teenaged heroes facing their most horrific enemy yet: A humanoid demon called Vecna who brutalizes his victims. With three storylines taking place in three different locations (including Russia, where police chief Hopper was incarcerated), this was an ambitious, sprawling story arc from showrunners the Duffer Brothers. But they piled on the tension, the drama, the jeopardy and the thrills for the show’s best season yet.
Starring: Mo Amer, Teresa Ruiz, Farah Bsieso
Comparisons between “Mo” and the Emmy-nominated “Ramy” are inevitable: Amer stars in “Ramy” and Ramy Youssef co-created “Mo” with Amer. And both shows are about the experiences of young Arabs in America, struggling to reconcile their Muslim heritage with the Western culture that has helped form them. But “Mo” was a triumph in its own right. The big-hearted, flawed, frustrated, charismatic hustler of a title character was someone you really wanted to succeed, even though he could be unlikeable. “Mo” was a very funny show, but also an important, thought-provoking one, covering topics including the Palestinian experience, religion, race, love, identity, duty versus desire, and the gap between the haves and have-nots with a light but intelligent touch that packed a punch without being preachy.
‘Better Call Saul’
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks
Another superb show that came to a close in 2022. This prequel spin-off from the much-loved “Breaking Bad” has, incredibly, surpassed its forerunner. Odenkirk continued to excel in the role of a lifetime as lowlife lawyer Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill, trying to hold everything together while his life is falling apart. And the flash-forward, post-“Breaking Bad” scenes were as well-judged and -executed as the rest of the series. Cast, crew and creators were all at the top of their game. A fantastic goodbye.
Starring: Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, Murray Hill
The lowest-key entry on this list, but possibly the one with the most heart. This brilliant, understated, bittersweet comedy-drama centers on a 40-something woman, Sam (Everett), who had returned to her hometown of Kansas to look after her terminally ill adopted sister. The series begins not long after her sister’s death, which has left Sam devastated and rudderless, wondering where she fits in and how she can find happiness. But, through a workmate, she discovers a community of misfits and begins to recover some of her former passion for life.
‘House of the Dragon’
Starring: Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Paddy Considine
The “Game of Thrones” prequel comfortably blew this year’s other megalithic fantasy TV show (Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”) out the water. “House of the Dragon” had a lot to live up to, following in the footsteps of arguably the most-talked-about show of all time, but it carried it off, taking many of its predecessor’s best bits (the political intrigue, the fighting, the flesh, the dragons) and dumping the worst. Set a couple of centuries before “GoT,” “House of the Dragon” told the story of the ruling Targaryen family and covered familiar ground: Honor, betrayal, pride, family versus friends, sexism, and what’s ‘right’ versus what’s necessary. Though complex, it was well-paced and managed to stand up to the huge weight of expectation on it.
Starring: Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgard
Disney’s time as guardians of the “Star Wars” brand has been mixed. There’s the “Mandalorian” and then there’s “Solo,” for example. “Andor” was an unqualified success, though. And that’s probably because it was the least “Star Wars”-y of all “Star Wars” releases. This tale of a nascent rebellion finding its feet against the bureaucratic, dehumanized, power-crazed Empire stayed (relatively) small-scale, eschewing spectacular space battles in favor of stealth and high-stakes intrigue, as we see how the thief Cassian Andor (Luna) starts his journey to becoming one of the rebels’ greatest heroes (a story whose ending we already know from the 2016 movie “Rogue One”).
Starring: Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, Saskia Reeves
This Apple TV+ spy thriller is already into its second season of 2022, and both have been great. The twist to this show — based on Mick Herron’s books — is that the spies in question are often-hapless, disgraced burnouts who’ve been ‘exiled’ to Slough House, away from the real action of ‘The Park’ (MI5 HQ in the show). There’s plenty of humor here, mostly when the burnouts’ boss, Jackson Lamb (Oldman — the stand-out performer in an impressive ensemble) displays his propensity for verbally abusing his charges at every opportunity, but “Slow Horses” is no comedy. It’s a gritty, twisty tale of betrayal, vengeance and power struggles. Lamb might be a horrible boss, but he’s also a fiercely loyal one, so when The Park tries to use his team as scapegoats and/or fodder, there’s going to be trouble.
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