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The 10 best TV shows of 2022

You know television’s had a good year when this many new shows rise to the top

Photos Matt Dinerstein/FX, Apple TV+, Adobe. Illustration Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

Picking out a Top 10 list is an annual joy to write, as I get to share my favorites and provide a survey of a full year of TV. And picking out a Top 10 list is an annual nightmare, as I struggle to rank the series I’ve admired, moving them up and down the list until the very last minute. Adding to the stress is the ever-growing number of shows released by the ever-growing number of TV outlets. A number of very good series need to be left out these days. That said, here are the 10 series I like the most in 2022, as well as a “Second 10″ — shows that easily could have been in the Top 10 on a different day. You’ll notice, by the way, that all the shows on my list are new this year — and that’s a good year, when that kind of freshness is dominant. I trust you’ll let me know what I got right, and, of course, wrong.

1. “Bad Sisters”

This Irish series was pure pleasure from its magical start (the year’s best title sequence) to its perfectly wrapped final episode. It’s a semi-comic whodunit, almost a light version of “Big Little Lies,” with the brilliant Claes Bang as the dead brother-in-law, John Paul — who, we see in the many flashbacks — is abusive to his wife and harasses all four of her sisters, any one of whom might have killed him. The concept is broad, but the realization of it is filled with detail and depth. Every character — the sisters, the two insurance agents, and the dead man with dark Freudian issues at the crux of the story — is fleshed-out beautifully and performed with distinction. Sharon Horgan, who plays the eldest Garvey sister, developed the show from a Flemish series with great flair and wisdom. Interestingly, this portrait of a toxic man fearful of powerful, independent women arrived just on the heels of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. (Apple TV+)

An immigrant family looks at the Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island in New York in 1930, as seen in "The U.S. and the Holocaust."LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, VIA PBS/NYT

2. “The U.S. and the Holocaust”

This potent, haunting three-part documentary series answers all the questions about what we did and didn’t do in this country, and why, while Hitler and his followers were murdering the Jews of Europe before and during World War II. It answers them at length and with historical context, and without the easy simplifications we’ve grown accustomed to in the age of social media. But the sting, and what makes the latest from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein an even stronger gut punch, is that it’s about the present tense as much as the past. The parallels are mind-blowing, especially with antisemitism now being spoken out loud and spray-painted on synagogues in America and given license by politicians and celebrities as the hatred comes at us. The correlations across almost 100 years highlight the wide gap between the myth and the reality of the United States, and they affirm the necessity of this essential work. (PBS)


Jeff Hiller and Bridget Everett in "Somebody Somewhere."HBO

3. “Somebody Somewhere”

You can’t get much further from prefabricated TV series than this warm slice-of-life vehicle for singer-performer Bridget Everett. Like other fine midlife coming-of-age shows such as “Better Things,” it’s TV auto-fiction, with Everett as a middle-aged woman grieving her sister and trying to find her kind of people in uptight small-town Kansas. Everett is a dazzling presence, not least of all when she sings at open mics, and so is Jeff Hiller as her supportive and complicated new best friend. Together they usher Will and Grace into the real world, and drive home a universal message: Home is wherever you find love. (HBO)


Adam Scott and Britt Lower in "Severance."Apple TV+

4. “Severance”

The most cheerless episode ever of “The Office”? Here’s a transfixing sci-fi drama that 100 percent nails the strange and unsettling vibe that is 2022. It’s beautifully acted, with Adam Scott deploying his most feeling of deadpans as a grieving widower, and the set design and cinematography are precise, sleek, and spectacular. Set at a cold corporation whose employees can separate their brains into a work self and a home self, the story has Scott and his co-workers — a fantastic cast including Britt Lower, John Turturro, and Zach Cherry — performing frustratingly nonsensical computer tasks and growing curious about their non-work lives. The show raises big questions — How vulnerable are we to exploitative employers? At what point does emotional compartmentalization go from sustaining to dangerous? — but it’s the intriguing plot that will captivate you. (Apple TV+)


Paul Walter Hauser (left) and Taron Egerton in "Black Bird."Apple TV+

5. “Black Bird”

Yet another winner from Apple TV+, this six-episode story adapted by Dennis Lehane from the memoir “In with the Devil,” is a chilling “Mindhunter”-like trip into the twisted mind of a murderer. It’s also a close-up look at another man — a slick womanizer in jail for drugs and guns, played by Taron Egerton — who’s gradually developing a conscience. He’s given a chance for early release if he’s willing to take a journey into the heart of darkness and lure Paul Walter Hauser’s serial killer into a confession. Ultimately, the show belongs to Hauser, who, with his childlike, sing-songy voice and Civil War muttonchops, is hauntingly brilliant. It’s the kind of performance that should win all the awards. (Apple TV+)


Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White in "The Bear."Photo: Matt Dinerstein

6. “The Bear”

“Severance” wasn’t the only effective portrait of workplace stress this year. And “Somebody Somewhere” wasn’t the only compelling tale of grief. “The Bear,” starring Jeremy Allen White as chef Carmy Berzatto, tackles both, when the grieving Carmy takes over his late brother’s Chicago beef joint and tries to both upgrade the business and lose his emotions in workaholism. Created by Christopher Storer of “Ramy,” the drama captures the pressure cooker that can be a restaurant once the doors open, and it’s driven forward by masterful, ever-moving camerawork that turns a tight kitchen and its endless stacks of dishes into a world of its own. The ensemble is all aces, particularly Ayo Edebiri as Carmy’s new hire. All in all, “The Bear” is [chef’s kiss]. (Hulu)

Ben Whishaw and Ambika Mod in "This Is Going to Hurt."Anika Molnar/Sister Pictures/BBC Studios/AMC

7. “This Is Going to Hurt”

Yes, more workplace stress, this time in a hospital that sometimes seems like a war zone. I’m not certain many have seen this British medical drama, which is only available on AMC+, and that’s a shame. It’s an outstanding adaptation of the memoir by former doctor Adam Kay, and it follows his painful experiences over-working in the crowded OB/GYN ward of a hospital. The show is an excruciating portrait of a failing system and the lives — of patients, nurses, and doctors — that it leaves broken. As Kay, Ben Whishaw from “The Hour” and “A Very English Scandal” is, as usual, phenomenal, as he loses his joy, his personal life, his sleep, and, tragically, his professional excellence — but never his sharp wit. Whishaw stays true to his character’s contempt and temper, refusing to make him likable underneath it all (as we often see on network TV). Kudos, too, to Ambika Mod as his badgered trainee. (AMC+)


Jacob Anderson in "Interview with the Vampire." Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

8. “Interview with the Vampire”

Anne Rice’s 1976 gothic novel finally gets the existentially astute adaptation it deserves. The transporting series is a richly designed look at something we all think we want: immortality. Turns out it’s a lonely, indifferent existence from which you will never escape, an existence crowded with the death and destruction of everyone except you and your kind. Created by writer-producer Rollin Jones, of “Friday Night Lights” and HBO’s “Perry Mason,” the New Orleans-set show alters specifics of the novel’s story in ways that work spectacularly well, even while they may frustrate purists. Louis, now Black and gay, is played with affecting pathos by Jacob Anderson, and his love affair of opposites with the French libertine Lestat (Sam Reid) is as passionate as it is destructive. (AMC)

Samantha Morton in "The Serpent Queen."Jason Bell/Starz

9. “The Serpent Queen”

Television loves a queen, whether she’s real (“The Crown”) or invented (“House of the Dragon”), particularly when she’s seen struggling with court politics. This intrigue-filled drama is a reinterpretation of the real Catherine de Medici, the Italian noble who became the famously ruthless queen of France in the 16th century. Her fierce battle for relevance is fascinating and sympathetic here, after she is cruelly married off at 14 to Henri II, who is already in love with an older woman. Ultimately, the show belongs to Samantha Morton, an always remarkable actress whose controlled intensity here is a marvel. When she occasionally breaks the fourth wall, her asides create an intimacy with the modern viewer, as if she knows the future will understand her more than her present. (Starz)

Jake Johnson and Ophelia Lovibond in "Minx."Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max

10. “Minx”

I had a great time watching this raunchy, culturally savvy, charming, and smart comedy, which made me think of “GLOW.” Set in the 1970s, it’s a giddy fictional account of the creation of the first erotic magazine for women, with a feminist, Ophelia Lovibond’s Joyce, and a porn publisher, Jake Johnson’s Doug, teaming up to make it happen. The push and pull between the unlikely pair is entertaining — they’re both viable characters and caricatures — with Johnson particularly good as an underdog walking the lines between sleazy and liberated. There’s a lot of nudity on the show, including male organs, which you might expect from a story about losing the shame regarding our bodies and our desires. (HBO Max)


On a different day, any one of these could have fallen into my Top 10.

“Fleishman Is in Trouble” Midlife changes of course are the topic of this post-divorce drama starring Jesse Eisenberg, Claire Danes, and Lizzy Caplan. Its shifting perspectives are masterful. (Hulu)

“We Own This City” Brazen police corruption, this is your opus, courtesy of David Simon and George Pelecanos of “The Wire.” As a nihilistic sergeant, Jon Bernthal is chilling. (HBO)

“The Patient” Steve Carell’s therapist is kidnapped by Domhnall Gleeson’s patient, who happens to be a serial killer looking for a cure. It’s “In Treatment” set in hell. (Hulu)

“The Afterparty” The clever, stylistically inventive whodunit comedy set at a high school reunion where someone is killed has a “Rashomon”-like structure. The cast, including Tiffany Haddish as a detective, is a lot of fun to watch. (Apple TV+)

“Pam & Tommy” Lily James and Sebastian Stan throw themselves into the roles of Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee, and they are riveting. The story reframes the sex tape saga that brought him high fives and her harsh public judgment. (Hulu)

“Slow Horses” Gary Oldman is outstanding as the hard-drinking, sour-tempered, slovenly, and brilliant leader of a group of demoted MI5 agents. It’s a spy thriller with a sly smile. (Apple TV+)

“Abbott Elementary” The first network series to impress in a while, Quinta Brunson’s “Office”-like mockumentary is stocked with amusing characters. The ensemble chemistry is appealing. (ABC)

“Dark Winds” Based on Tony Hillerman’s “Leaphorn & Chee” books, this evocatively filmed thriller is set in the Navajo Nation in 1971. As a Tribal Police officer investigating murders, Zahn McClarnon is mesmerizing. (AMC)

“Reboot” About the making of a reboot of an old sitcom, this one includes lots of meta-humor and a strong cast led by Rachel Bloom and Paul Reiser. It’s a likable TV show about TV shows. (Hulu)

“Single Drunk Female” A Boston-area-set dramedy about a young woman getting sober and coping with all the feelings she was trying to medicate away. (Freeform)

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him @MatthewGilbert.