The year is coming to a close and there are two pretty important takeaways from the world of television: One, there are a lot of shows on a lot of services and channels, to the degree that it’s almost impossible to keep up with everything everyone tells you to watch, and; two, some of those shows were pretty good and we’re going to tell you to watch them anyway.
To be fair, this is kind of our job. And to continue being fair, television really was great in 2022. There were fun murder mysteries and dramatic twists and shows about greasy chefs. Some of the best shows of the last decade wrapped up their runs and some exciting new contenders either made debuts or built on the foundation they put down in the debuts they made last year. Dragons were a big thing again, which caught a lot of people by surprise. There was something somewhere for everyone, which is really kind of cool. Better than the alternative, at least.
Below, please find our list of the best shows that aired in 2022. The list was created with care, and also with math, as it represents the sum totals from lists collected from the crew here at Uproxx. You’ll probably get mad at something on — or omitted from — this list. This is fine. It’s part of the fun. We’re all having fun.
13. (tie) Abbott Elementary
There isn’t really anything revolutionary about Abbott Elementary. From its mockumentary filming style to its workplace comedy tropes – we’ve seen much of what it’s doing done before. What does set it apart from the other sitcoms whittling away in network purgatory are its cast, its setting, and its creator, Quinta Brunson. Brunson knew the story she wanted to tell about the thankless, all-consuming job of helping inner-city kids graduate from an education system that routinely fails them. She knew the characters she wanted to spotlight – veteran educators and ambitious newcomers weathering budget cuts and over-crowded classrooms to show up for their students day-in and day-out. And she knew the talent she wanted to employ – overlooked greats like Sheryl Lee Ralph and would-be breakouts like Janelle James. The end result is a half-hour comedy series destined to be the next great comfort watch filled with repeatable one-liners (often courtesy of James), office romances, hilarious hijinks, and something to say. — Jessica Toomer
13. (tie) The Afterparty
Twisty whodunnits are the thing right now (thank goodness, more please!), but few bring as much fun to the proceedings as The Afterparty, a star-studded affair that might provide the genre’s most laughs per minute since Clue. Anchored by the off-the-charts chemistry of Sam Richardson and Ben Schwartz (whose high school reunion rap duet is in the running for 2022’s funniest TV moment), the series somehow managed to make each episode feel fresh while retracing its steps to get to the big reveal. — Jason Tabrys
12. Reservation Dogs
Hey, you know what’s a good show? Reservation Dogs is a good show. The first season established that point, yes, sure, but the second season drove it home. Sweet and smart, funny and thoughtful, sometimes crass and juvenile, it really has just about everything you can ask for out of a 30-minute show. Couple all of that with the thing where it zooms in real tight on a slice of life a lot of viewers don’t have much experience with (teens growing up on a reservation in Oklahoma, going on adventures, getting into trouble), and it’s easy to see why the show has continued to stand out in a crowded field. — Brian Grubb
The thing about this season of Hacks is that they gave Jean Smart a chainsaw. Other things happened, too. Lots of them. Hacks remained a blast in its second go-round to the degree that it probably would have made this list even if they didn’t just up and let Jean Smart march into frame and rip open a chainsaw. But we don’t have to entertain that hypothetical, at all, not even for a little bit, because that happened. Again, in addition to other things that were important. Hacks is a good and fun show. There should be more shows like it. More shows should give Jean Smart a chainsaw, too. Hopefully, someone in Hollywood is reading this paragraph and taking notes. — Brian Grubb
10. The Righteous Gemstones
It’s a miracle how Danny McBride keeps convincing HBO to give him money to make dark comedies about angry white men, but god bless ’em for it. The Righteous Gemstones followed a strong first season with an even-better sophomore season; Walton Goggins didn’t sing and dance as much, but we got the ripped God Squad, cycle ninjas, TV’s best puke scene in years, and Emmy-snubbed performances from John Goodman and [John Travolta voice] the wickedly talented, one and only Edi Patterson. Unlike the tough choice between being a cat boy or a dog boy, the answer here is obvious: be a Righteous Gemstones fan. Amen. — Josh Kurp
9. House of the Dragon
RIP King Viserys, but long live this prequel series that redeemed George R.R. Martin’s baby from the depths of Game of Thrones Season 8. This spinoff lets all of the glorious Targaryen messiness hang out, and why not? We already know where their dynasty ends, so we might as well relish the spectacle. Besides, all of the pettiness of Daemon and Aemond couldn’t be more delicious to watch while knowing that they’re insanely jealous of leaders who fail. Things will grow ever more calculating and violent between the Hightowers and the Targaryens proper as civil war kicks into another gear, and the audience has answered the call while bowing to Queen Rhaenyra. Even more than the actual events of the show, there’s this: event TV is back, thank god. — Kimberly Ricci
Following the back-to-back Disney+ disappointments of The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, expectations were low for Andor. So of course it turned out to be the best Star Wars project since The Last Jedi or maybe even Return of the Jedi. One of the things that made the Rogue One prequel great, besides the acting, the monologues (“I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see”), and a stuttering droid named B2EMO, was its lack of strained fan service. Instead, under the leadership of Oscar-nominated writer and director Tony Gilroy, Andor told thrilling heist and prison break stories that just so happened to be set in the Star Wars universe.
Andor accomplished what I thought was impossible after The Rise of Skywalker: it made me excited for Star Wars again. — Josh Kurp
Atlanta only ran for four seasons, in total, but it sure made a hell of a mark while it was around. Donald Glover and company told a bunch of stories we had never seen on television before, in ways that were both funny and a little heavy, and in ways that ranged anywhere from almost alarmingly real to wild flights of fancy. This last season kept up that tradition. We said goodbye, kind of, to Earn and Paperboi and Darius and Van, but not before we took one last joyride with a standalone episode about Goofy — yes, the cartoon character — that was almost as delightful as it was unexpected. Atlanta went out the same way it came in: taking huge swings and making contact more often than not. — Brian Grubb
6. What We Do in the Shadows
By now, the show about a coven of vampires living with a human in Staten Island should have overstayed its welcome. The premise is enough to support a movie, and one, maybe two seasons of a TV show. But here we are four seasons in, and What We Do in the Shadows has never been better. Baby Colin Robinson was a high-risk, high-reward gambit that paid off like a Big Bang Theory slot machine, while Nadja’s night club celebrity guests, the introduction of the Djinn, and Sean’s boys’ trip stood out as highlights. But even if season four was only one episode long, What We Do in the Shadows would still belong on this list if that episode was “Go Flip Yourself.” “New York City” will never be pronounced the same way again. — Josh Kurp
5. The White Lotus
The first season of Mike White’s tense, tightly-wound drama saw a group of wealthy, entitled tools descending on a Hawaiian resort to throw the unassuming staff’s lives into utter chaos. Theft, murder, grievances over pineapple suites, and a suitcase defecation climax that will live in the annals of TV’s greatest scenes ensued. And yet, that first season seems like child’s play compared to what White and company were able to pull off this time around. With a returning Jennifer Coolidge acting as a bridge between installments, season two of The White Lotus regaled us with the frustrating, bizarre, and completely ostentatious exploits of yet another group of wealthy, entitled tools, this time set to the Vespa-dotted background of Sicily. There were even more memeable moments this time around – from Haley Lu Ruchardson’s unfortunate wardrobe to Sabrina Impacciatore’s “Peppa Pig” improv, everything Aubrey Plaza does, and high-end gays’ ominous obsession Coolidge’s obtuse heiress bimbo Tanya – but there’s enough substance in the story White’s telling here that they’re not its only selling point. — Jessica Toomer
Severance is the kind of sanitized surrealism that sticks with you long past its thrilling, twist-filled finale. It sports a mind-bending premise — a sinister corporation that forces employees to sever their consciousness so that they can perform more efficiently inside its anemic walls. It boasts a talented cast – everyone from Adam Scott to John Turturro and Patricia Arquette play in its retro-futuristic Orwellian sandbox. And it looks unlike anything else on TV right now, filled with nostalgic odes to 60s/70s era office life complete with green carpets, pristine cubicles, waffle parties, and wood-paneled break rooms. Its central mysteries – What is Lumon? What do the employees really do there? Why must they forget their lives inside its walls? – keep you guessing until the end, but its characters, and the time the show devotes to fleshing out both their inner and outer lives, are what keep you invested in finding answers. — Jessica Toomer
The third season of Barry saw Bill Hader plunge his title character into the depths of despair before dragging him to the edge of consequences for all the many, many, many sins he’s committed, but while all of the above demands a gutting, teary, grey, and astonishingly vulnerable performance from the creator and star, the season is not without numerous pops of color, life, and diamond-sharp Hollywood satire. Henry Winkler was at his best as Gene — frenzied, saccharine sweet, calculating. Sarah Goldberg was absolutely robbed of the awards considerations her tour de force demands as Sally, wrestling with the insanity of the Hollywood system while getting a frightening view of Barry’s hidden darkness and manic behavior. We could go on and on about the supporting performances, Noho Hank’s heart, Fuches’ drive for revenge. And how about that bonkers car chase and the zen philosophy of everyone’s favorite beignet seller? The point is, Barry is unlike any show on TV, we have no idea where it’s all going, and every surprising turn is a delight. — Jason Tabrys
2. The Bear
Those of us who watched Lip Gallagher’s fall and rise on Shameless knew that Jeremy Allen White had it in him, if only he landed in the right project to showcase that intensity. As the leader of all Chefs in The Bear, he found that rich material, and in the process, he ignited the Internet’s lust. He even made very serious people actively contemplate whether Carmy should have sex in Season 2. All of that fuss is too funny, considering that White was probably beside himself while insisting to GQ, “Carmy does not f*ck.” Still, we all know what’s up there. Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows that things happened, on-premises or off, and for that reason (and many others), this show can’t hide its own authenticity no matter how hard it might try. Unintentional sexiness aside, the frenetic sights and sounds of this show — the slinging of meat (not trying to be dirty here), the exploding toilet (ditto), and the frenetic sound of boiling water — all immersed us in a world where tasting donut off the floor somehow makes sense. Man, I can’t wait to stress out over this show again. — — Kimberly Ricci
1. Better Call Saul
This is a point that has been made many times by many people but it’s still worth noting here one last time: it is kind of a miracle that Better Call Saul worked at all, let alone as well as it did. A prequel spinoff of an all-time great drama that focuses on the character that the original show relied on for comic relief should not have been this good, especially not for this long. And yet, there we all were, glued to our screens to find out what happened to characters like Kim Wexler and Lalo Salamanca and Gene the Cinnabon Man, none of whom we met until this sucker started (I mean, Gene was Saul, who we also learned used to be a bumbling scoundrel named Jimmy, but still). That’s kind of a miracle. As is the thing where freaking Carol Burnett played an important role — literally and figuratively — in wrapping everything up. It’s a bummer to have to say goodbye to all these characters once and for all, probably, but man, what a fun ride it was. — Brian Grubb