And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of my favorite TV shows that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows that I saw which came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of shows I never got around to watching that might have ended up on my list... and (more likely) shows I loved but have forgotten about. This year we had no new Ted Lasso... and Magnum P.I. was canceled... only to be saved to return next year, so there's two slots open. And, boy, there's an awful lot of Netflix on this list. And here we go...
#1 Andor (Disney+)
This should surprise absolutely nobody who has seen the series. The genius of the show is that it takes the familiar Star Wars universe and sends it in a completely different direction. This is a thought-piece in twelve parts that's brilliantly realized and has a depth you just don't expect. And it all could have failed spectacularly if not for the incredible talent that was assembled. Diego Luna has an important transition to make between the first and last episodes, and he makes you feel it happening... bit by bit. Add truly remarkable performance by Stellan Skarsgård, Genevieve O'Reilly, and the rest, and everything is next-level amazing. Not just for Star Wars, but for television as a whole. There is an abundance of violence in the series that was unavoidable... the rebel alliance had to be born of violence to make sense... but it's not gratuitous or exploitative, which is saying a lot in this day and age. Nope, each and every moment is earned and builds on what has come before. The second season will plunge head-first into Rogue One, the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, and you can bet I'll be watching. After the post-credits scene in Episode 12 of Andor how could I not?
#2 The Sandman (Netflix)
An adaptation of one of my favorite comic book series of all time was bound to be problematic and, to be honest, I’m shocked that it turned out better than I could have hoped. The visuals? Amazing. The cast? Perfect. If there’s a flaw, it’s that some weird choices were made that seriously compromised the pacing. I don’t mind a story taking its time, but holy crap did they dwell too long in parts. The reabsorption of Gregory in the second episode felt as if it seemed to go on for an eternity and didn’t really serve the purpose of illustrating sacrifice as it was intended. Which could have been forgiven if not for the fact that it happened multiple times. I am beyond grateful that we're getting a second season, because the stories only get more interesting from here. But what I really want? An adaptation of Death: The High Cost of Living.
#3 Heartstopper (Netflix)
Young gays in love. But so much more than that. What amazes me about this show is how many opportunities they had to fall into the Hallmark trap of letting a misunderstanding sabotage their relationship, but the both of them were actually more adult about their relationship than actual adults. It's sweet, heartwarming, smart, and beautifully performed. With a few surprises... and a major unannounced guest star... which made this the gift that keeps on giving.
#4 Wednesday (Netflix)
I thought, at best, this would be a clever series about a great character. I had no idea that it would be so brilliantly conceived. It's not just Wednesday wandering around being Wednesday (which would be entertaining enough)... there's actually a very good mystery underneath a very good story, and having Jenna Ortega so beautifully portray the character was just the icing on the cake. And then there's the rest of the cast, which was flawless. Gwendoline Christie? Catherine Zeta-Jones? Luis Guzmán? CHRISTINA RICCI?!? Since this was one of the most streamed episodes of any show on Netflix, I'm confident that we'll get a second season... and I can't wait.
#5 Shoresy (Crave/Hulu)
Letterkenny is a polarizing show that you either get or you don't. Personally I love it, which is why I was excited to see a spin-off of the never-seen hockey player, Shoresy. Imagine my utter shock to find out that it's not only deserving of Letterkenny... it actually surpasses it in a few ways. Hilariously funny, crude, brash, and yet charming despite itself, this is a show I ended up watching all over from the start the minute the credits on the final episode rolled. Because that ending. Dang. There was no more emotional moment on my television in 2022.
#6 The Recruit (Netflix)
This show came late in the game (December 16th!) and caused me to reevaluate this entire list (which has been on my computer for months). Noah Centineo, who is perfectly cast, is a CIA recruit who keeps getting himself into the thick of things... and a mystery that may be the death of him. Frustratingly, the series ends on a cliffhanger, so I sure hope Netflix doesn't screw us over by canceling it.
#7 She Hulk: Attorney at Law (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
This was always going to be a challenging transition from comic book to screen. Especially when they decided to take it into the fourth-wall-breaking direction that John Byrne used to brilliant effect in his series. At first, you think it's just a side-gimmick that doesn't really mean anything to the show at large. But then you get to the final episode... where they lean into the concept hard. The result is great on its own, but getting Charlie Cox back as Daredevil was too good. I am interested in seeing where the character goes in the MCU future. Especially since Tatiana Maslany is so bloody brilliant in the role.
#8 Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)
After Discovery started shitting the bed more with each new season after the first one, I didn't know that I was interested in more Star Trek. But there was a bright spot... we got Spock, Pike, and Number One back. And they were fantastic. There was no way I was going to miss a spin-off from this, though I was expecting the worst given where Disco ended up. Boy was I wrong. Strange New Worlds is hands-down the best Trek since the original series, and every episode was beautifully crafted by people who actually GET Star Trek.
#9 Reacher (Amazon Prime)
Finally. Just... finally we get a guy playing Reacher that fits what we've been reading all these years. I mean, Tom Cruise had a couple of good movies... they were fine... but he is so far away physically as to make him an entirely different character. But Alan Ritchson? Yeah, there he is. And the story for the first season was exceptionally well-done. And it was a long time coming. Very much looking forward to Season 02.
#10 Peacemaker (HBO Max)
When James Gunn unleashed The Suicide Squad upon an unsuspecting world, I was overjoyed that there was a DC movie that was worth a crap. No, I wasn't thrilled with the turn that some characters ended up taking, but ultimately that's what should happen in this franchise. One of the most surprising characters to emerge was The Peacemaker. But that in no way guaranteed his series would be worth watching. Except it was. It 1000% was. Getting another season is a gift that I am waiting for with all the anticipation.
#11 What We Do In the Shadows (FX)
This hilarious show has its ups and downs, but it's always, always entertaining. And funny. And the fourth season actually eclipsed the third for me, which was an unexpected treat. Back in July the series got renewed for Season 05 and Season 06, which was about the best news we could have gotten in a cruel Summer.
#12 Abbott Elementary (ABC)
It seemed impossible that a brilliant show about Philadelphia teachers that was darn-near flawless in its first season could keep getting better. And yet here we are. All the characters are so fully realized that you can't help but be invested. While it's nice to see Quinta Brunson finally getting her due... the fact that Sheryl Lee Ralph is getting such recognition is icing on the cake.
#13 Julia (HBO Max)
Meryl Streep did such a phenomenal job portraying Julia Child in Julie and Julia that it salvaged a movie that was half awful. Somebody edited out the Julie parts to create Julia without Julie, and it only made me want more. That never happened, but we did get a series with Sarah Lancashire that was ridiculously good. So good that HBO blessed us with a second season which will hopefully bless our televisions in 2023.
#14 Barry (HBO Max)
It took THREE YEARS to get the third season, but it turns out to be worth the wait. Always funny. Always disturbing. Barry manages to have an edge to it that most shows can never find. Given where we ended up at the end of Season 02, I was wondering how they would find a way to keep it moving forward without imploding. And you find out now that this was never the intent. We end in a dark place with the final episode that has me anxious to know how it will resolve in the fourth (and final) season. Probably nowhere pretty, as that seems impossible now. But I'll be watching.
#15 Letterkenny (Hulu)
Every time I wonder how they are going to keep this show fresh after so many years, they just keep going as if to say "We never stopped being fresh! I mean, the first episode of Season 11 mostly consists of a town meeting where they endlessly debate the merits of the best flavor potato chip (with the answer being obvious to anybody who is familiar what they got up der in Canada). I binged the show in a day and only wanted more. Guess we're not done with Letterkenny just yet.
#16 Reservation Dogs (FX)
Season 02 took us on a continuation of the brilliance that made the first one of the best on television. Watching this series about teens trying to find their lives leaves you questioning what you've been doing with your life... in the best possible way. The show has been (wisely) renewed for another season, but given the ending we just got, you can't help but wonder what that season will look like.
#17 Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)
Color me shocked. This series came out of nowhere for me to completely obsess over, and answers the question "What would happen if Captain Blackbeard were a gay pirate and finds love on the high seas?" What had me completely mystified is how Taika Waititi found the time to not only star in the show, but write and direct the first episode. The guy has projects stacked to the rafters. And because of that, I thought the show didn't have much chance in being renewed. And then... because it is a beloved show that's worth Waititi's valuable time, it actually was renewed. No idea when they'll find time... but I'm thrilled about it.
#18 Ms. Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
I was very much looking forward to this show because the comic book was so fantastic. Then it arrived and was mostly faithful. They had to make adjustments to her powers in order to make them work visually in real life, but it didn't diminish who she is or change what she does, so it really didn't matter. Her Muslim background and family life are gold. The problem is that they went far too convoluted in brewing up her origin story, and it hurt the show. There was a nice (but weird) twist in there, but they had to twist themselves into a pretzel to get there, so it ultimately wasn't worth it. I would have preferred that they just came up with a more straightforward super-hero teen angst tale.
MUST SEE TELEVISION SPECIALS AND DOCUMENTARIES...
- The Guardians of The Galaxy: Holiday Special. Unreal. Not only was this movie brilliant by television standards... it was even brilliant even by movie standards. It's essentially Mantis and Drax in the series you always wanted. The fact that Kevin Bacon is along for the ride (and utilized so flawlessly) is what makes it exceed every expectation.
- Werewolf by Night. Another triumph from Marvel Studios on Disney+! I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't something this good. The story was perfectly executed, but it was the incredible cast that took it to the next level. The real bonus is that this movie is not just an accessory. You can easily see how the ramifications will make their way into the MCU.
- Hasan Minhaj: The King's Jester. I've been missing Patriot Act ever since it was foolishly canceled. And while a comedy special can't compensate for what we've lost, it does lessen the blow. Approaching the atmospheric heights of Minhaj's previous special (the exceptional Homecoming King), this was all I needed to see from Hasan. Until next time.
- Trevor Noah: I Wish You Would. Given that he's leaving The Daily Show, this will be how we get our Trevor fix from here out, I guess. And while I wasn't so fond as his previous special Son of Patricia, he was firing on all cylinders this time around.
- Neal Brennan: Blocks. As a huge, huge fan of Neal and his previous special, I was excited to see where he'd end up this time around. The answer will surprise nobody... to an even deeper level of humanity and comedy.
- Shen Wang: Sweet and Juicy. Another comedy special that made 2022 a bit brighter. Shen Wang isn't afraid to take risks win his first special, and it pays off darn well.
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...
- Atlanta. The final season was more of the gang you love to watch. And makes me more than a little sad that this is it.
- House of the Dragon. After the horrific travesty that was the final season of Game of Thrones, it's nice that we can get back to the fine form of what makes that world so compelling.
- Queen Sugar. This is one of those shows that's not really my cup of tea... but it's so brilliantly written and acted that I never stopped watching. Should go down as one of the best TV shows ever.
- Obi-Wan. I liked the series perfectly fine (despite some massive, massive gaps in logic and plain bad writing). There was some good moments and hints of smart writing... and there's no denying the commitment that Ewan McGregor brought to the table. Plus we even got some good Vader moments. But I question whether there was a better story here. Mini Leia just seemed so uneventful after waiting so long.
- Loot. Maya Rudolph effortlessly brings the character of a divorced billionaire to life with wit and charm. It's just a shame that they didn't try to be a little more interesting with the material. It's like "she's a billionaire trying to do good with her money because she's bored" and that was the entirety of it.
- Upload. While a huge step down from what we got in the first season, this is still a series worth watching. Here's hoping that the digital afterlife will be exploited for something that hits a bit more compelling next season.
- The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. A heartbreaking series which is cemented in its greatness thanks to an incredible performance by Samuel L. Jackson.
- Book of Boba Fett. =sigh= If not for an appearance by The Mandalorian, this would have been a lackluster effort. But Mando played a very important part of the series, and I have a feeling that's why it worked as well as it did.
- Moon Knight. As a fan of the comic book, I was interested to see how things would translate to Disney+... and whether they would take advantage of the multiple personalities that can make the character so interesting. They did... but all was not perfect. A lot of the time I was bored because they didn't really attempt to make Moon Knight the priority in his own show. It was about his secret identities, which could have been any show.
- The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. Kristen Bell made this mystery series work as well as it did... but it was the story itself and a perfect ending that made me like it as much as I did. It was meant to be a one-off, but the teaser at the end reeeeeally makes me want to see more.
- Welcome to Wrexham. Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds bought a football club. This is that story. And the result is both funny and touching.
- The Wonder Years. Reboots have a way of going terribly, terribly wrong (see Quantum Leap, below)... even though this isn't technically a reboot. But what it is though? A great show in its own right.
- From Scratch. Based on a true story, this Zoe Saldaña romance series was beautifully told, and it was great to see her in a role that really pushes her talent and what she's capable of.
- Severance. This is a clever slow-burn series about people who literally live separate lives at home and at work thanks to brain tampering. But there's a bigger secret behind it all, and getting to the truth could be fatal. And while I think this show has huge disaster written all over it because that big secret carrot could be dangled for years and ruin the show... it's interesting and well-written enough to be entertaining.
- Better Call Saul. The final season was as good as ever, and gave us a satisfying end... not only to Better Call Saul but Breaking Bad as well.
- The Boys. The super-hero show that's beyond disturbing was back with another depraved season. They've diverged from the comics quite a lot, but it's working fairly well and every season leaves you wondering what they're going to come up with next.
- The Lake. Gay guy wants to reconnect with his biological daughter at The Lake... but there's family drama with his step-sister that threatens to take over the vacation. This show could have been entirely one-note, but actually had some interesting moments that made it better than expected.
- After Life. Ricky Gervais may be controversial and always on the verge of cancelation, but this show really shouldn't be. It's a funny... and important... show about how the living deal with the death of somebody they love. What was so incredibly smart was that Ricky didn't end things how you might want them to be ended... but instead as he felt it should be ended. Because some people can't get past their grief, and that's okay.
- The Flight Attendant. The first season was must-see television, but the story didn't seem to lend itself to a sequel. Yet here we are. And the result was well worth a watch if you liked the original. What's worrying is that Kaley Cuoco has moved on to another show. Will we get more of The Flight Attendant? Who can say.
- The Righteous Gemstones. While nothing could compare to that glorious first season, the second season still had some amazing moments. A family of preachers with a dark past and disturbing shenanigans featuring John Goodman? Sign me up.
- Reboot. Every time I see Key or Peele in something, I long for them to bring back Key & Peele. In lieu of that, we get Keegan Michael Key in a Steven Levitan comedy on Hulu. And it ain't bad. The messed up cast from an old television show reunite for a reboot, and funny drama ensues.
- The Best Man: The Final Chapters. I was very late to the party with The Best Man and The Best Man Holiday movies, both of which were excellent. The series ended up being more of the same, and I was grateful for it. Too many of these would be tempted to change the formula and "shake things up" to disastrous effect.
- The Bear. Having worked in restaurants, I can say that this is one of the most accurate representations I've seen of what goes on behind the scenes. And from that respect, I loved the series. But it's also got a lot of unnecessary yelling and drama that made it annoying as hell.
- Russian Doll. The first season was a big surprise because of how shockingly good it was. When a second season was announced, I didn't even know how it would be possible given the nature of the show. But they figured out a new angle, and it was a good one.
- The Lincoln Lawyer. Didn't Matthew McConaughey already make a movie that's an adaptation of this Michael Connelly book? He did. And it was pretty good. But I like this series even better, and am happy it was renewed because we always need more smart television.
- Ozark. The series was always flying just below my radar. Knowing that this was the final season, I made sure to tune in... on time... in the hopes that it would have a great pay-off. In my mind, it didn't. I didn't hate it because I understood what they were trying to do, I just don't think they succeeded, and it would have thought a different direction would have been more satisfying. At the very least they should have had the balls to show what happened instead of letting the viewer "decide what happened." Such bullshit. If I wanted that, I would write my own damn television show.
ANIMATION TO WATCH...
- Rick and Morty. The last couple seasons have been lackluster overall, but had enough standout episodes to satisfy fans. But this season was the old Rick and Morty that we love. Maybe the best it's been in years.
- Inside Job. This show is just so... bizarre. But in a good way. It's like nothing is off-limits, and they're constantly throwing everything they can think of at the wall to see what sticks.
HAVEN'T SEEN, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
- Derry Girls. I enjoyed the first two seasons, but haven't gotten around to the final.
- Bad Sisters. I decided to avoid this one, but was recently told that I shouldn't have.
- The Responder. This BBC series with Martin Freeman has been getting rave reviews and seems like it would be right up my alley. I can't wait to see it.
- Mo. I didn't know about this show, but recently happened across the trailer. Definitely something I want to see.
- Dark Winds. Another show I never heard of that has a killer trailer that makes it look all kinds of compelling. AMC is out here killing it with quality television.
- The Man Who Fell to Earth. I don't have Showtime, but will probably end up getting it at some point just to watch this show.
- Interview with the Vampire. I skipped because I just didn't think there was anything new to say. Apparently I was wrong about that, because a lot of people have asked me if I watched.
- All the new Yellowstone. I am so far behind. I've got the last two seasons plus the two spin-offs to watch.
OVERRATED BUT STILL GOOD...
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. I really tried to have an open mind here... but very quickly determined that this was definitely not for me. It's not Tolkien. And I just don't get it. Amazon paid a metric shit-ton of money for Lord of the Rings rights and didn't actually get Lord of the Rings. They just got the appendix and had to fill in the rest with... whatever. I mean, why didn't they just buy rights to The Silmarillion and be done with it?
- Uncoupled. This was essentially Sex and the City with gay guys. And while it filled out the formula well and was entertaining... it didn't really cover any new ground. They leaned into every stereotype available, then dumbed it down for straight appeal. Good, but could have been much better.
- Stranger Things. Despite its popularity, this is a show that is forever chasing the magic that came out of its first season.
- Hacks. I loved the first season but found the second to be a big ol' mess. Yeah, I still loved Jean Smart tearing through her dialogue in a way only she could, but the stories this season just didn't gel as well as those from the previous year. Focus. Focus. Focus.
- Quantum Leap. I loved the original series. I loved the idea of rebooting it. I loved the idea that they added some much-needed diversity to the show. But it just doesn't have the charm and interesting stories that made the original so amazing. I alternate between being bored and being indifferent.
- Paper Girls. I loved the comic book series and was thrilled to learn that it was being adapted for the small screen. And then it arrived. And ABSOLUTELY EVERY SCENE WAS RAMPED UP TO ELEVEN AT ALL TIMES. Which I can only guess was a directorial choice, because the actors were perfectly capable in the quieter moments. In any event, what a missed opportunity.
- Picard. The first season had some serious flaws, but it was wholly entertaining and gave good Star Trek. But the second season? Wow. It was scattershot and didn't really know what to do with itself. And it drove me crazy because I wanted so badly to like it. Apparently there's one final season to go. I sure hope they know what to do with it.
- Westworld. The series, while still watchable, has worked itself into a dead-end that is too far from where it started in those brilliant earlier seasons. Even so, I was looking forward to how it all ends. Unfortunately, HBO canceled the show before the final season, which means this season was even worse than I originally thought because it ain't going anywhere.
TOTALLY SHIT THE BED...
- Star Trek: Discovery. Holy crap what a disaster. I still don't understand how something that was so brilliant in the first season ended up declining so badly year-over-year until we're now at a place where I just can't bear to watch an hour of whiny bullshit that isn't just weepy-annoying... it's boring as hell.
- The White Lotus. The first season was not spectacular, but it was interesting and entertaining. The second season is just episode after episode of NOTHING HAPPENING in a stunningly beautiful location. And the ending was so clumsy, pathetic, and anticlimactic... along with inept in its attempt to set up a third season by leaving the WHY of everything completely unresolved. I was severely disappointed from start to finish, and think this is easily one of the shittiest things I've ever seen on television. And if that wasn't all laughable enough, they trotted out the writer/director, Mike White, after the credits to throw even more bullshit on everything.