Best TV shows 2022: Our streaming experts’ top picks

16 mins
best tv shows 2022 for streaming

Ready to settle in for a holiday binge? If you’re not in the mood for Christmas movies or holiday specials, why not catch up on one of the many, many shows that came out this year that you might have missed?

A record 559 original scripted series aired in 2021, and through the first half of this year 2022 was on pace to surpass that. But then in the spring things started going pear-shaped at Netflix; now Disney and Hulu have raised their prices, HBO has an ad tier, and already-produced movies and shows are getting canned before ever seeing the light of day.

Bottom line: the golden age of peak TV might be drawing to a close. Of course there will still be plenty of great stuff to stream in the year to come (check out our 2023 streaming calendar for all the deets we know so far), but there will almost certainly be less of it.

But in the meantime, we asked two of our most streaming-obsessed colleagues, Mac and Marcus, to list their favorite shows of 2022. Would you believe that there is not one single overlapping show? That’s how you know it was a good year of TV. And if you strongly disagree with one of them, chances are you’ll like the other list a lot better. Read on for our top picks, and let us know in the comments what you think we missed!

Best TV shows 2022: Mac’s picks

Whereas Marcus is very clearly a sci-fi guy, I tend to prefer comedy (I’d say all but one of the shows on my list features plenty of laughs, even if there’s occasional deadly violence mixed in). And, because I just can’t help myself, I’ve also listed out some honorable mention shows that I highly enjoyed, even if they don’t quite make the top 10 list.

Without further ado, in alphabetical order:

1. The Bear (Hulu)

Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant will appreciate the manic realism of this show about a fine dining chef (Jeremy Allen White) who returns home to Chicago to take over his family’s sandwich restaurant following his brother’s suicide. It sounds heavy and intense—and it is—but it’s the show’s extremely well-drawn characters (in particular an ambitious sous chef played by Ayo Edibiri and an aspiring pastry chef played by Lionel Boyce) and naturalistic dialogue that truly set it apart. On a related note, the second episode features what was absolutely my favorite line from any show this year: “Surge rates, fucko!” Season 1 is a tight eight episodes that I binged over two days, and word is Season 2 will return in Summer 2023.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100% Fresh

2. Better Call Saul Season 6 (AMC / Netflix)

Can you believe the journey we took from the wisecracking lawyer who provided comic relief on Breaking Bad to black-and-white film noir police chases in Omaha? There is so much to praise about the sixth and final season of the BB prequel: the stunning cinematography and intricate plotting (a Vince Gilligan hallmark); the diabolical charisma of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton); the subtle, riveting performances of Giancarlo Esposito (that scene in the wine bar!), Rhea Seehorn (basically everything), and even Bob Odenkirk (who’d built his career—and even this character—on over-the-top-ness); the final twist in the series’ closing minutes. Saul could be slow at times (the early seasons are sometimes referred to as extended doc review), but it absolutely pays off.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99% Fresh

3. Hacks Season 2 (HBO)

There aren’t nearly enough women-created shows on TV, and every so often I’m reminded of this when a show like Hacks (co-created by Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky) comes along with such a refreshingly different perspective. TV legend Jean Smart (who’s earned two Emmys and counting for her performance) stars as a successful septuagenarian comedian in Las Vegas who’s basically been put out to pasture, and Hannah Einbinder plays a disgraced millennial TV writer she hires to write jokes. There are many levels to the show: their vicious zingers and the standup sets themselves really are excellent (thank goodness, because what’s cringier than a supposed comedy that isn’t funny?), while their oil-and-water relationship (and their relationships with others) are handled with a great deal of depth and sensitivity. And then there’s all the subtext about women in entertainment. Special shoutout to Lori Metcalf, whose brief appearance as a frank tour manager had me in stitches.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%

4. Ramy Season 3 (Hulu)

After a too-long hiatus, this semi-autobiographical series about a Muslim-American millennial (Ramy Youssef) living in New Jersey finally returned with 10 new episodes. There are many things I love about Ramy: the well-drawn side characters (I can’t believe how much I care about his parents!), the meandering side plots (should Ahmed take a second wife?), and the fact that every single episode features at least one laugh-out-loud moment, even as the show often deals with heavy subject matter. To wit, few shows could mine the plight of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, teenage abortion, or violent refusal to come out of the closet for absurd comedy, but Ramy mostly nails it. I take issue with one rather unbelievable plot twist, but will allow it for the future potential it’s enabled. Shoutout to (checks notes) Bella Hadid for a somewhat amusing guest turn.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

5. The Rehearsal (HBO)

This super-weird show from Nathan Fielder is basically impossible to describe (at least to the point that I could make you want to watch it): it’s part reality show (kind of?), part (many parts) cringe comedy, part ethics study, part deep dive into the absurdity of human behavior. It was absolutely the most riveting thing I watched all year, and at times had me crying with laughter. Be sure to watch at least the first two episodes before deciding whether or not to proceed. I absolutely cannot wait to see what direction Fielder takes the show in for Season 2.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%

6. Slow Horses (Apple TV+)

Spies in London. Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas. Wicked comedy. Need I say more? Apple has already ordered four seasons of this show based on the Slough House spy novels by Mick Herron (Season 1 came out earlier this year, and Season 2 is airing right now), and I can only hope they’ll make one for all eight books in the series. The hook is that Oldman’s cantankerous Jackson Lamb heads up an office of MI-5 screw-ups too inept to do real spy work, yet they seem to frequently get mixed up in the highest level of intrigue. The setting and characters are superbly vivid, and the dialogue crackles. Just be warned, there are occasional bouts of graphic violence, and Herron is not shy about killing off main characters.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%

7. Succession Season 3 (HBO)

Just as with the first two seasons of this show about a dysfunctional family of media moguls (loosely based on the Murdochs, who surely aren’t anywhere near as funny), Season 3 featured a dizzying array of plot twists and sumptuous settings (Italy! The Hamptons! Switzerland!). The final double-cross in the finale’s closing moments was perhaps the most shocking yet, but honestly I enjoy the show less for the rollercoaster fortunes of the Roy family and more for the absolutely vicious dialogue and insults. Matthew Macfadyen’s performance as Tom Wambsgans has always been among my favorites on the show (“You don’t really hear much about syphilis these days. Very much the myspace of STDs”), but he took things to another level in Season 3. (NB: Season 3 of Succession actually concluded in December 2021, but whatever, that was within this calendar year so I’m going with it.)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%

8. We Own This City (HBO)

Absolutely the saddest and most serious show on my list (not least because it’s based on a true story), the miniseries We Own This City features an absolute powerhouse performance from Jon Bernthal as a charismatic (and oh-so crooked) Baltimore cop. The fact that he wasn’t even nominated for an Emmy makes me question the very nature of their existence, but I digress. Surely no one could have done more justice to this nuanced, knotty story about corruption, greed, racial inequality, government bureaucracy, and general American decline than David Simon and George Pelecanos (two of the great minds behind HBO’s all-time amazing show The Wire). The series is constructed such that it jumps around in time; we basically know how it ends up, but uncovering all the ugly details along the way is what makes it such a compelling watch. Special shoutout to Jamie Hector (who played The Wire big bad Marlo) for his heartbreaking performance as a cop trying mightily to do the right thing.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%

9. The White Lotus Season 2 (HBO)

There may be some recency bias here, but to my mind no show captured the zeitgeist this year quite like The White Lotus (sorry, House of the Dragon), and that’s no easy feat in this time of fractured niche streaming. Season 2 of Mike White’s anthology series about horrible rich people staying at a luxury hotel brought us to Sicily; you know these people are awful because they eat dinner every night at the hotel restaurant, rather than venture out to eat… in ITALY. Like so many of the other shows on this list, to me what sets White Lotus apart is its impeccably drawn characters (right down to their brilliant wardrobes) and its deft combination of satire and pathos. Sure, these people suck and we love to root against them, but just maybe do we also see some of ourselves in them? Just me? Ok, cool. How about that ending, though?!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%

10. Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (HBO)

I almost forgot about this one because it aired all the way back in March, but as a sports fan I’m a sucker for any show or movie that can depict the stories of real larger-than-life characters. Creator Adam McKay’s “break the fourth wall” style is not for everyone, but he uses it to great effect here with John C. Reilly playing the role of a lifetime as eccentric Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. The 1980s-set show is delightfully stylish and fun; even as a lifelong Celtics fan I laughed hysterically at the (porn) mustache-twirling villainy of Larry Bird and Red Auerbach, and Quincy Isaiah and Solomon Hughes are brilliant as Lakers legends Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, respectively. As with many of the shows I most enjoy, there’s just nothing else quite like this on TV.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%

Honorable Mention:

Minx, HBO Max (RIP)
Only Murders in the Building, Hulu
Pam & Tommy, Hulu
Reboot, Hulu
Heartstopper, Netflix
The Dropout, Hulu
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, Netflix (I never actually watched this, I am just obsessed with the name)

Best TV shows 2022: Marcus’s picks

1. The Orville Season 3 (Hulu)

The Orville, the true heir to the Star Trek crown (fight me), returned with its third—and perhaps its best—season. Coming off a three-year hiatus, the series shifted from Fox to Hulu—a move that came with a bigger budget, longer runtime, and less restrictions of free-to-air TV (i.e., they can swear now). While initially marketed as a satire on Star Trek, the series has evolved beyond that into something far more mature. 

In an era where most current incarnations of Star Trek aren’t recognizable as Trek, The Orville has honestly captured the feeling of ’90s Star Trek down to a tee. Series creator Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad) is known for being a longtime Star Trek fan and even pitched a series idea to CBS a while back. While that pitch was unsuccessful, MacFarlane decided to pivot that energy into creating his own Trek-like universe—and now we have The Orville.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%

2. The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 (HBO)

The combination of Jody Hill and Danny McBride just keeps getting better and better. Continuing the winning streak of Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals, the second season of The Righteous Gemstones was warmly welcomed after a two-and-a-half year hiatus. The series, which follows a dysfunctional family of well-meaning—but ultimately shady—televangelists, is imbued with the same sassy dialogue and comedic violence we’ve all come to love and expect from Hill and McBride.

The series stars McBride, John Goodman, Adam DeVine, Edi Patterson, and Walton Goggins and along for the ride this season were Eric Andre, Jason Schwartzman, and Eric Roberts.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%

3. Euphoria Season 2 (HBO)

Did season 1 of Euphoria mess you up? Well strap in for something worse—and by “worse” we mean more intense. Like The Shield and Breaking Bad before it, the lives of pretty much every character go from bad, to worse, to abysmal. After a two-and-a-half year hiatus, the series’ return began with an absolute smack to the face (you’ll know what we mean) and only got more uncomfortable from there. The entire sophomore season maintains this discomfort, simmering with an undercurrent of heavy anxiety, before bubbling over to an explosive closer.

Drugs? ✓ Sex? ✓ Violence? ✓ It’s almost as if Euphoria is HBO’s take on a high school series.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80%

4. Atlanta Season 3 and 4 (Hulu)

After a four-year break, Atlanta came back with not one but two new seasons, and now the series has effectively come to a close. Without going into any details at all, the final two seasons are so different to the two that came before that it’s hard to articulate what that means without spoilers. That said, seasons 3 and 4 of Atlanta maintained—and honestly surpassed—the quality of comedy, surrealism, reality, and horror of the first two seasons. There’s no doubt in this writer’s mind that the series will go down as one of the best contemporary dramedies of this era. Donald Glover really outdid himself here—now fingers crossed he’ll jump on the upcoming Community movie!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%

5. The Afterparty (Apple TV+)

In an era of whodunnit revivals like Knives Out, See How They Run, and the Kenneth Branagh-led Hercule Poirot films, The Aftermath shines as an interesting twist on the genre. The series follows a group of friends convening at a high school reunion afterparty and employs a Rashomon-style narrative where each episode is dedicated to the perspective of a different character—in different genres! Like all good murder mysteries, there’s a solid cast of characters and a hefty dose of twists and turns. At eight episodes in length, The Afterparty is perfect to sink a lazy weekend into.

While the series has been renewed for a second season, it isn’t clear whether it’ll involve any of the existing cast or become an anthology series with an entirely different premise.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

6. Only Murders in the Building Season 2 (Hulu)

What’s this? Another whodunnit? You know it! Only Murders in the Building is back with another mystery. This time, our intrepid team of Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) are on the case of who killed Bunny, the board president of the Arconia—the fancy New York City apartment building in which they all reside. Like season 1, the sophomore season of Only Murders in the Building maintains the charm and chemistry between its leads, and expands on the intrigue in fun ways that are too spoilery to mention here.

Will there be a third season? You betcha! And you’ll love what they’ve got in store for the next mystery.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%

7. Werewolf by Night (Disney+)

Starting from phase 4 of the MCU, Marvel Studios have introduced a new series of TV specials that are designed to showcase new characters or concepts to the franchise. The first entry, Werewolf by Night, is perhaps the most unique entry into the MCU thus far thanks to its use of practical visual effects, black-and-white cinematography, and 1930s-’40s inspired editing. The special is set in a single night and follows several hunters as they compete to become the leader of a clandestine group by hunting a mysterious monster.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that Werewolf by Night is the directorial debut of composer Michael Giacchino, responsible for Up, Lost, Ratatouille, Jurassic World, Zootopia, Coco, and Doctor Strange among others.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

8. The Resort (Peacock)

Are we seriously recommending yet another whodunnit?!? Yes. Yes we are. The Resort follows a couple, Emma (Cristin Milioti) and Noah (William Jackson Harper), while they stay at a resort for their 10th wedding anniversary. While there, Emma stumbles upon a long unsolved missing persons case involving two people who vanished 15 years prior. What sets The Resort apart from other whodunnits on this list is the science fiction/metaphysical aspects of wider mystery. Let’s leave it at that…

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%

9. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

Yes, we know we threw shade at the current state of Star Trek in The Orville entry above, but Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW) has a spark to it that modern Trek is sorely lacking. SNW follows the crew of the USS Enterprise before it was captained by James T. Kirk, and stars Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Una Chin-Riley, and Ethan Peck as Spock. 

Unlike other modern Trek shows like Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, SNW has adopted an episodic format (over serialized) of storytelling and gone right back to the franchise’s 1960s roots to bring us something bright, colorful, positive, and most importantly: hopeful.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99%

10. Derry Girls Season 3 (Channel 4 / Netflix)

The girls are back after a three-year hiatus for the series’ final season. Taking place at the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Season 3 of Derry Girls is set against a decidedly more optimistic backdrop than the previous two seasons. In addition to the standard six episodes, the last season also includes a special extra episode to cap off this particular chapter in the girls’ lives. And keep your eyes peeled for some fun cameos!

Can’t get enough of the Derry Girls? Be sure to check out the special episodes of Crystal Maze and Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 guest starring the cast of Derry Girls. Trust us, it’s the perfect chaser!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%

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Kate enjoy streaming everything from sports to Korean dramas and likes to argue about politics.