2022 TV did not have to go that hard, but it did. From old favorites consistently outdoing themselves to new shows that enchanted both audiences and critics, it was quite a year for networks, cable, and streaming.2022’s debut shows took viewers everywhere; the saucy ’70s, the corners of the Star Wars universe, the American South through the eyes of bloodthirsty undead, even a relentlessly stressful Chicago kitchen. Picking only 12 was more daunting than ever, but the IndieWire TV team laughed, cried, and fought it out over our favorites.Here are the 12 best new TV shows of 2022, in order of premiere date.
1. “Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
Though the pilot premiered in December of 2021, “Abbott Elementary” became 2022’s instant network TV darling, now settling into its second season. Creator Quinta Brunson stars as second-grade teacher Janine Teagues, whose unyieldingly cheery perspective on education can’t help endear her to beleaguered colleagues at a”n underfunded Philadelphia public school. Abbott’s students may not have the latest technology or prestigious education opportunities immediately queued up, but they’ve got Janine — and Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) and Jacob (Chris Perfetti) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams). Heck, they’ve even got principal Ava (Janelle James), who’s arguably more interested in cultivating her own brand than leading youngsters — but she herself would argue: Why not both? All kids may not look forward to starting school in the fall, but viewers turn to “Abbott” as a weekly bright spot, a success that would confirm Janine’s own faith in talent and perseverance. —P.K.
2. “Somebody Somewhere” (HBO)
This HBO series is the perfect show to remind you what fun you can have while driving around in the car with your best friend. That’s simplistic, but it makes such sense to those who have experienced it. Bridget Everett plays Sam, a woman struggling to live life in the wake of her sister’s death. Everett is all surly humor, playing Sam as someone who wants to be alone. But when Jeff Hiller’s Joel comes into her life, the series transitions into a beautiful and highly relatable set of adventures between the pair that shows the true power of friendship. This show might not have an intricate plot or drawn-out stakes, but replaces that with heartfelt character interaction — Joel learning how to care for a dog is the sweetest thing you’ll see all year — and so many moments that will make you want to call your best friend. —K.L.
3. “Severance” (Apple TV+)
After nearly a year of singing its praises, we can now definitively declare Dan Erickson’s “Severance” one of the best new TV shows of 2022. Adam Scott stars as Mark, a company man who agrees to undergo a procedure to split his consciousness between work and home — an Innie and an Outie, two versions of the same person, one who doesn’t know anything about his job or coworkers and another who has never stepped outside the windowless white walls of Lumon Industries. But the arrival of new hire Helly (Britt Lower) throws the severed employees of Lumon into freefall; they begin to question the company’s motives as well as their own actions and consequences of those actions, all while unable to communicate with the outside world — including after-hours versions of themselves. With killer performances from Scott, Lower, John Turturro, Patricia Arquette, Zach Cherry, and Christopher Walken, director Ben Stiller breathes chilling, aching life into this searing drama about nature and nurture, good and evil, love and loss, and how they define the soul. —P.K.
4. “Minx” (HBO Max)
Katrina Marcinowski / HBO Max
“Young magazine writer wants to create a feminist bible, winds up creating porno aimed at women” is one of those pitch-perfect TV ideas that instantly make you see a whole world that could run for seasons, and you just hope they don’t screw it up. Happily, the first season of Ellen Rapoport’s 1970’s-set comedy centering on Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) and the creation of Minx magazine is a delightful dream, complete with a perfectly sleazy Jake Johnson as Joyce’s publisher/unwilling mentor and Lennon Parham as her housewife sister who is unexpectedly down for the thrill of it all. With a great ensemble and smart twists, the series has its fun with 1970s fashion and ideas but is also a savvy exploration of growth and friendship. Plus: Potentially the most male nudity HBO has ever seen. Who says you can’t have it all? —E.S.
5. “Gaslit” (Starz)
It is an absolute shame that Julia Roberts is delivering career-best work and very few people seem to care. Following her triumphant TV debut in “Homecoming” (and subsequent Emmy snub), the Oscar-winning star of “Erin Brockovich,” “Pretty Woman,” and “August: Osage County” returned to the small screen for a meaty role as Martha Mitchell, an early Watergate whistleblower who was silenced and discredited by her husband John (Sean Penn), a Nixon loyalist. “Gaslit” utilizes Roberts’ signature talents — her irresistible smile, her gift for gab, her expressive visage — to paint a convincing portrait of a successful socialite; the woman behind the man who ascended to repeated political heights. But through his betrayal, Roberts also reveals a scared, flummoxed, and headstrong woman; a victim who refuses to be labeled as such, let alone act that way. Showrunner Robbie Pickering alternates between terror and absurdity with black comic expertise, letting the ridiculousness of certain Watergate operatives (like Shea Whigham’s outlandish G. Gordon Liddy) reach an apex of laughter before cutting back to the harsh, horrifying reality these men and their beliefs inflict on the world. Martha stands as the rebuttal to their lies and a reminder of their power, thanks in large part to an unforgettable performance by Roberts. For those about to rent “Ticket To Paradise,” maybe seek “Gaslit” out instead. —B.T.
6. “We Own This City” (HBO)
The longer that “We Own This City” begins to hop around in time to various points in the life of Sgt. Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal), it’s disorienting. In based-on-a-true-story tales like this, the chronological route usually lets you see tragedy or triumph build from the start and carry through to the finish. In George Pelecanos and David Simon’s return to Baltimore nearly a decade and a half after “The Wire,” we see the rot of one man’s ambition as the product of forces and experiences that don’t line up that neatly. As Jenkins and the rest of the BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force amass their stranglehold over specific corners of the city’s population, “We Own the City” becomes a quintessential document of America’s relationship to power in 2022. There’s skepticism, righteous indignation, and future felons using both charm and brute force to get their way. Through Wunmi Mosaku’s DOJ Civil Rights Division lawyer Nicole Steele, the show also gets a chance its spiritual predecessor never quite did: To cut through that warped sense of heroism at the heart of the GTTF and expose it for what it really is. —S.G.
7. “I Love That For You” (Showtime)
It’s always risky to build a show around its star (“Mulaney,” anyone?), but “I Love That For You” is the most aptly hilarious and heartwarming use of Vanessa Bayer. The “SNL” alum plays Joanna Gold, who auditions on a whim for SVN— a Home Shopping Network equivalent — after years of watching it for comfort while undergoing cancer treatment as a child. When things look like they might not work out, she blurts out that she has cancer and quickly becomes the network’s rising star, a brave hero and natural seller who befriends her childhood hero (Molly Shannon) and even gets the guy (Paul James). “I Love That For You” is a skilled combination of hilarity and discomfort — it’s no “Kidding,” but someone at Showtime still knows that mortality and humor pair as well as you and that 3 a.m. purchase you need to justify: Inseparable. —P.K.
8. “The Bear” (FX)
2022 was a year of great workplace anxiety. If “Severance” was the slow dystopian boil, “The Bear” was the nonstop nightmare pressure-cooker. Packed with enough food prep reality to give current and former Chefs a pit in their stomach, the kitchen at The Original Beef of Chicagoland is the site of TV tension at its finest. Much like the best food in the world, if you want to tell the best stories, there’s a healthy dose of precision involved. Creator/Director/Co-Writer Christopher Storer lays a foundation for family unease, neighborhood drama, and perfectionist obsession, all within the show’s opening minutes. What comes after is a season of watching those ideas seep their way into the lives of everyone united in a common cause of making the kind of meal that people come back for again and again. “The Bear” demands that you savor all it offers in the same way. —S.G.
9. “The Rehearsal” (HBO)
What mind on Earth could possibly conceive and execute something like “The Rehearsal” if not Nathan Fielder’s? “The Rehearsal”s seeds were sown on “Nathan for You” itself, and bloomed into this marvelously unhinged, often uncomfortable docuseries in which Fielder helps real people rehearse for pivotal moments in their lives. The concept alone inspires deep intrigue; who among us has not quietly rehearsed a conversation or behavior, discussed it with a confidante, or simply visited it in anticipatory dreams and nightmares? Fielder creates replica sets of apartments and bars, hires actors who look like the subjects actual acquaintances, and gets himself immersed almost dangerously in the experiment and character. There is truly nothing like it on television or in real life, and no one else who could pull it off. —P.K.
10. “The Patient” (FX)
After “The Americans,” whatever Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields collaborated on next would be must-see TV. Another thriller? A period piece, perhaps? Would there be more wigs?! Yet the thoughtful entertainers did what they do best: They went their own way, crafting a twisty two-hander about a prominent therapist (Steve Carell) kidnapped by a new patient (Domhnall Gleeson) — a serial killer who wants to stop killing. “The Patient” is filled with smart, innovative storytelling, from its half-hour format to a deep interest in human beings. Carell and Gleeson build compelling TV through telling conversations, while fleshing out their characters’ individualities with precision and care. “The Patient” stirs up powerful themes about fathers and sons, the Jewish faith, and the legacies we leave for our children, but Weisberg and Fields aren’t putting on a thought-exercise. They’re making a TV show, and a gripping one at that. —B.T.
11. “Andor” (Disney+)
Perhaps the most pressing question after Season 1 of “Andor” is who gave Tony Gilroy the right? The “Rogue One” scribe served as head writer and showrunner of what many — IndieWire included — have called the greatest Star Wars series (or project) to date. Diego Luna reprises the titular role five years ahead of the events of “Rogue One,” tracking the people, events, and awakenings that led this “nobody” to becoming one of the Rebellion’s greatest unsung heroes. With superb production and top-notch directing, Gilroy and his team create a mesmerizing slow burn political thriller, as grounded in history and reality as it is suspended so elegantly in a galaxy far, far away. —P.K.
12. “Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” (AMC)
Translating Anne Rice’s 1970s novel about two vampires carries a lot of baggage with it. Fans of Rice’s novels are devout, and there’s mixed reception to the 1994 feature film that lingers to this day. But AMC and series creator Rolin Jones hit the nail on the head with their adaptation, having Eric Bogosian’s reporter Daniel Malloy immediately call shenanigans at how melodramatic the vampire Louis (Jacob Anderson) is, and how screwed up Jacob’s relationship is with fellow vamp Lestat (Sam Reid). Through both its casting and storytelling, the series always reiterates that this is really a story of privilege, whether that be gendered, racial, or financial. Anderson perfectly conveys Louis’ ambivalence towards his new life, as well as his undying love for Lestat, while Reid goes for broke in every episode with a character that’s showy, flirtatious, dangerous, and scary as hell. It’s a perfect show and an example of how you can translate a novel about the 18th century for a modern audience. —K.L.
Steve Greene, Kristen Lopez, Erin Strecker, and Ben Travers contributed to this post.