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I’ve been doing my best to keep up with a lot of television this year, and thought I’d check in from a UK perspective of the series that I really liked from 2022. That means we’re going by UK release dates, so with caveats: no Under the Banner of Heaven yet, which was something that I was really looking forward to. It also means, what I’ve watched – I can’t watch everything, so no Ozark yet, no Stranger Things quite yet. As usual with the opinion lists, everything here is just my thoughts alone – so bear that in mind going in. If you think a show should have made the cut, let me know in the comments below!
My Brilliant Friend Season 3
The third season of this Neapolitan series based on Elena Ferrante’s work reached new heights – a character study on its protagonist, Elena – with cinematography that ensured it would not look much different had it been a movie – My Brilliant Friend continues to capture a time and place. Whilst there are times now where its lead actors feel too young to play the aged-up characters, it adds to their naivety in the world – and the replacements next season have a tall order to follow. Gaia Grace operates in a more supporting role as but the fire in Lila’s character is rarely tempered, and the last three episodes are like watching a trainwreck of relationships unfold in real time in the most gripping and heart-breaking way possible.
Better Call Saul Season 6
The final season of Better Call Saul pushed television to new heights; I was in the camp of this being the better of the two series a while ago; but this series – this season – absolutely proved its worth as a show that could rival Breaking Bad. Surely, it’s time to give the top prize to Rhea Seehorn, Emmys – it’s well past due.
For All Mankind Season 3
The third season of For All Mankind is its best yet – shifting allegiances as a third party comes into play as the race for the Moon has now evolved into the 1990s and to Mars. The original characters are getting significantly older, and time doesn’t stand still around them; a new generation is introduced as Ronald D. Moore’s show learns from the lessons of what didn’t work about the excellent Season 2. Capable of changing gears between excellent character drama and putting its characters in mortal danger in seconds; For All Mankind leaves you on a knife’s edge where nobody is safe – building on set-up and stories that have lingered since the first episode – taking all this time to payoff and being completely rewarding for doing so. Changes from our timeline continue to vibrate as potential domino effects, one of the main characters, Ellen, leads a Senate race against Bill Clinton, whilst the Beatles’ reunion tour is in full effect. The heavy dosage of ’90s-backed music ensures that this series always has a likeable edge to it, and its weighted storyline makes its perfect for Halt and Catch Fire and Mad Men fans.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1
As someone who loved Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 but was let down by Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds felt like it wiped the slate clean for Star Trek, a return to the episodic structure of previous shows like The Next Generation. It soared on the back of seeing fan-favourite Anson Mount reprise his role as Christopher Pike, and Ethan Peck delivering his Spock mannerisms in a way that offers his own take on the character whilst adding something new. Mount’s Pike grapples with the revelations of knowing his own death in Discovery but you don’t have to be familiar with that show to know what’s going on here, it’s broadly accessible to any sci-fi fan and acts as a great entry point into Star Trek – keeping its mysteries interesting whilst making you care about its characters. Star Trek isn’t ‘back’ – it never went away, every show is Trek – but this feels like a welcome back to basics approach.
Yellowjackets Season 1
Justifying this inclusion on the 2022 list because it had more episodes in the UK in 2022 than 2021 in the UK; this plane-crash drama felt ripped from the pages of a Stephen King novel meshed with Lost and The Leftovers rivalling both with elements of a more outlandish issue of the classic Roy of the Rovers comic thrown in there for good measure. Often flashbacks between the past and the present when moulded together can feel tiresome as shows often struggle to balance the different narratives; but Yellowjackets is the rare show that gives both a breath of fresh air – aided by its stellar cast. It’s not afraid to take a group of characters and tear their entire world down around them; picking up the pieces as they’re left to deal with the past and the present. Standouts include Melanie Lynskey and Juliette Lewis, and a Karyn Kusama-directed pilot gives Yellowjackets the edge that it needs to flip the script on Lord of the Flies and deliver a saga that stands out from the other Lost copycats of its ilk.
Barry Season 3
If you are interested in behind-the-scenes TV, or just the TV industry in general, you’ll probably get a kick out of the ultra-specific put-downs and one-liners in Barry. After what feels like an age without a new season; the show is back – back and better than ever, with Bill Hader bringing the hitman-turned-actor to life in a role that puts a new definition to the term “black comedy”, with an ever-shifting dynamic in the relationship between Barry and Sally, and a new role for Barry’s mentor, Gene Cousineau – who has now realised that he’s a hitman. Episode 6 puts most other series to shame in its depicition of action set-pieces, and in an age of bloated episode runtimes, having a show that sticks to a tight half hour episode length as a rule is a dream.
Peaky Blinders Season 6
An elaborate artsy mood piece where nothing happens apart from its last episode or a gripping character study of one of the greatest TV anti-heroes of the prestige TV era, full The Sopranos Season 6 style? You decide; but the reigned in focus on Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby – grappling with fighting a “man he can’t defeat” – reckoning with the last few years of his life, the rise of fascism in England and a Europe on the brink of the Second World War took the show in a direction that has only grown on me with time – as expected from a sixth season the show feels entirely removed from that of its first; but natural progression is in order – Murphy’s performance continues to be exceptional and Anthony Byrne’s direction is one of television’s best right now. The finale is an ending for the ages, the payoff being deeply rewarding even if there is more to come; as the show shifts into movie territory going forward. The tragic passing of Helen McCrory means her presence is missing from this season; but her tribute is touching as they come, and you can see what it means to the cast and crew.
A resounding accomplishment both in front and behind the camera; the direction of Kogonada and Justin Chon bring a real cinematic quality to this one – with the budget that AppleTV+ can provide. The opening intro is as catchy as they come; but the real meat is in the drama – a tale of four generations of an immigrant Korean family is tender, swift and emotionally charged – capturing forbidden love, war, peace, love and loss – on a true scale rarely before shown on television. Don’t forget to read the book too.
Top Boy Season 2
The fourth outing for Top Boy (start with Top Boy: Summerhouse) and the second on Netflix returned to the gritty streets of London – Sully and Dushane, surviving originals from the first Channel 4 series; are practically retired in this world where youth and inexperience rules. A breakout performance by Jasmine Jobson as Jaq and Michael Ward as Jamie ensures that the current generation remain as much the show’s focus as the more experienced; touching on topical issues but never threatening to spiral beyond its origins of Summerhouse. The ending packs a devastating punch that I’m not quite fully recovered from – and this series is one of the best of the late game Netflix offerings.
Derry Girls Season 3
Season 3 of Derry Girls knew when to go out on a high; the rarest of rare comedies that does not overstay its welcome with a brilliant final season that packs a powerful emotional punch; a surprising but personal cameo and a reflective look back into the past one last time for the best sitcom of the last few years: a near-perfect send-off. The subtle touches of references to everything from Goodfellas to Trainspotting, even a superb, haunted house episode, an ace soundtrack and never shy of an excuse not to have Sister Michael show up in every single episode; Season 3 goes out on the highest of high notes as the show makes a case for the best 3-and-done around. Amazing.
Initially filling that vague mini-series line that now has seen The Responder renewed for a second outing; Martin Freeman plays Chris, a Liverpool night-time copper who is paired with a rookie at the time that he’s facing a crisis in his personal life and work life. Adelayo Adedayo is excellent as his rookie partner Rachel in a gritty; hard-edged show that doesn’t shy away from corruption and police brutality – and the show feels about as real as they come with plenty of twists and turns. Freeman’s ugly job as a responder to emergency calls ranges could be anything – he never quite knows where he’s going next. Acting at once as a commentary on the nation (“whose fault is it then, Thatchers’?”) and a gripping thriller – The Responder is a revelation.
The Righteous Gemstones Season 2
If you’re looking for that Succession shaped hole in your life; look no further – The Righteous Gemstones: a full-on riot – a crude, fearless, uncensored look into the Gemstone family who find themselves threatened from outsiders who wish to tear their empire down. John Goodman is the patriarch here; Eli Gemstone – and this season feels like his season – whilst Danny McBride, Adam DeVine and Edi Patterson really sell this comedy with a sense of dark humour that doesn’t shy away from tackling the absurdity of the very concept of American televangelists.
Hacks Seasons 1 & 2
We finally got the first season of Hacks in the UK; and the second season quickly followed – a real delight of a meta series that pairs up Jean Smart’s standup comedy veteran with a blacklisted privileged 20-something TV writer. At only 30 minutes per episode, if that; Hacks is a breeze to get through, delightfully fun and entertaining in equal measure, never slowing down as it explores the relationship between Hannah Einbinder’s Ava and Deborah – Deborah understandably gets more screentime early on but Ava comes into her own by the end as one of television’s most complex flawed leads. Satire hasn’t been this biting since The Thick of It.
Like the latter half of Yellowjackets and both seasons of Hacks, we got this in the UK this year, drip fed in weekly instalments on StarzPLAY – so it all counts, and this season based on Emily St. John Mandel’s terrific book packs the same powerful punch as the novel; proving that it’s not too soon to tell a story about a post-apocalyptic future if you do it right. Finding optimism even in the bleakest of moments, Station Eleven may be the most unique entry to the genre yet – focusing on a travelling theatre troupe among other groups of survivors, including those held up at an airport in the middle of nowhere. Completely beautiful and completely its own thing separates from the book – Mackenzie Davis and Matilda Lawler are both absolute legends at this point and should be recognised as such.
Toast of Tinseltown
Matt Berry fans will find themselves right at home in this sequel to Toast of London, that takes Berry’s outlandish Steven Toast to Tinseltown, Hollywood – with Berry cashing in every single favour that he must ensure that this is rife with big names in the industry that most shows could only dream of. A Larry David cameo through Zoom is the first episode’s biggest joy – but Toast of Tinseltown never gets old and never slows down with an outlandish vibe that blends multiple decades together as one making the whole thing feel impeccably timeless. Clem Fandango!
1980s East London; a gang of hopeless crooks become caught up in a major gold heist; and sheer hilarity follows in this pastiche of Guy Ritchie and Tarantino flicks that borrows from British crime dramas of the era. The comedy is excellent, the soundtrack appropriately stellar; this Channel 4 caper is a laugh-a-minute riot from the stars of People Just Do Nothing and King Gary, with 1980s London captured immaculately, surrounding Tom Davis with a group of relative unknowns who all chew up and spit out every second of screentime they are given.
What could have been just a star vehicle for Bridget Everett, Somebody Somewhere is given the heart and soul that it needs to become something greater; a wonderful revelation of a comedy that might be the best thing on HBO this year – focusing on Sam, a true Kansan on the surface struggling to fit in with society finding home in a community of outsiders. You feel everything that Sam feels, her loneliness, grief, and desire for connectivity – and by the end of the first episode you will be all in.
This is Going to Hurt
Based on true accounts and a memoir of the same name, the series follows junior Doctor Adam Kay in his chaotic job in Obstretrics and Gynaecology. With some dark humour and a stellar lead performance by Ben Whishaw who captures the struggle that Adam faces between his work and home life perfectly, the series doesn’t shy away from how much the NHS is in need of support – by showcasing just how human the Doctors who work for the organisation are – it also makes the work that they do nothing less than a miracle. Its fast-paced energy gives it a frantic, hostile edge that demonstrates the authenticity needed to make this subject work as well as it does, with its author not afraid to paint a character based on himself as a complex, nuanced personality.
Ben Stiller and Adam Scott’s slow burner of an AppleTV+ show where characters forget who they are and develop entirely different personalities in and outside the workplace has a compelling hook – it does not have the flashiest of first episodes but launches a commendable advertisement for weekly television, only benefiting from the the hype for this one that just grew and grew as the weeks go on and more people caught up as and the mystery deepened. By the end, you’ll be begging for a second season, as its clever spin on the workplace is hell format taken literally raised some interesting thought-provoking questions that lingered on my mind long after, sparing no expense at sharing its jaw-dropping cliffhangers and memorable performances from pretty much everyone involved really raised the game – psychological thriller is not a new subgenre, but this might be one of its most well-refined entries.
The Last Kingdom Season 5
Another show on Netflix that started out as a non-Netflix original yet is better than almost everything else on there, The Last Kingdom takes Bernard Cornwell’s novels by storm with a breakneck pace to its final few episodes giving it the momentum that still gives this show much of its staying power. Alexander Dreymon’s Uthred refuses to age as time progresses with the series not bothering to do the same aging makeup that For All Mankind applied to its characters, yet that’s only a minor gripe as the series continues to be as gripping as ever otherwise, and this final television outing for the show before it embarks, like Peaky Blinders, to movie territory, was worth the wait – capitalising on the potential of turning Brida into the series’ main antagonists and leaning into borderline horror in its early episodes. Destiny is All.
We Own This City
Far from just being The Wire: Remastered, David Simon’s intricate mini-series, based on true events – looks at the ugly side of the police and how the entire government body of the city in question is designed to prop up the police and their crooked ways. At the centre of it all is Jon Bernthal’s despicable Wayne Jenkins, a Sergeant who has been transformed by the inherently corrupt system into someone who isn’t too different from the criminals that he arrests, to the point where they may as well be gangsters with guns. You’ll need to pay attention for this series as it doesn’t hold your hand, with plenty of flashbacks determined only by the length of Bernthal’s beard, but the investment in We Own This City really pays off – completely staggering in every sense, providing a cop’s eye view of Baltimore that allows you to see their story – one that feels completely disjointed and out of pace with the rest of reality.
Three years ago, Shining Girls would have been the most talked about thing on television; now it is not even the most talked about thing on television the week it came out in. Which is a crying shame as this mystery series featuring multiple time-displaced jumps and the shifting of reality is excellent, borrowing from the source material of Lauren Beukes’ stellar novel and owing much to the likes of David Fincher’s Zodiac and Doctor Who. Elisabeth Moss, who acts, and directs some episodes, is phenomenal playing a role that she does best – driven, three-dimensional characters with the sense of agency and staying power that they need. The patience required to get adjusted to its wavelength means that you will need to stick with it but do – and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Gentleman Jack Season 2
Sally Wainwright’s period piece returned for its second season featuring the amazing Surrane Jones, and more than delivered on the promise of its first season. A warm and welcoming comfort watch taking place in the Yorkshire Dales and loosely inspired by true events; the series feels gleefully enjoyable to watch and remarkably rich in its script. Such a great breakdown of the traditional, stuffy upper-class period drama that subverts and breaks all the rules without so much as a care in the world.
In a remarkably different turn from the stellar Happy Valley (from Sally Wainwright), Sarah Lancashire delivers a performance that brings out the humanity in the famous TV cooking star, Julia Child, with a sense of warmth that’s easy to see why she’s so beloved. The series never stops to remind you of Child’s influence on people from all walks of life, and acts as a gradual depiction of the change in culture that was undercutting throughout the 1960s. Mrs. Maisel fans, this one’s for you – and like Julia Child herself, it’s coming back for a second season.
One of the breakout surprises of the early half of the year, this genre-bending whodunit took the tropes of the genre and pushed it to its limit – switching genres each episode depending on who was telling the story of the case. Fully aware of everything that it sets out to do boasting a memorable performance by the always great Tiffany Haddish in a role not unlike Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc in Knives Out, The Afterparty will keep you guessing right to the very end, revelling in its genre tributes whilst giving us an entertaining meta mystery homage that despite its episode count and its structure repeating the same story, never feels tiresome.
Sheridan Smith is as every bit as a legend on the UK TV scene as Stephen Graham, and Four Lives is a hard-hitting, respectful drama that pays tribute to the victims of the Stephen Port murders that shine a spotlight on the complete failure of the UK police force to even consider the fact that they might have a serial killer on their hands meaning that the subsequent murders that could have been avoided. Stephen Merchant’s Port is chilling in an against-type performance, and this true-crime mini-series is a perfect example of television as the 6th estate – never glamourising Port and acting as a rallying cry against the system that failed the victims and their families.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Laker’s Dynasty
The measurement of a good sports show is whether or not it can draw you in without being familiar with the sport in question, and Winning Time, a basketball biopic, delivered for me. A messy series, yes, but boasting some strong performances from John C. Reilly and a fearlessly biting Succession-ish dialogue with involvement from Adam McKay (if you’re not a fan, like I am – stick with it past its fourth-wall breaking first episode and the show only gets better) and Jonah Hill, this show carries its momentum right the way through to the very end of its run – featuring a spectacular Boston-set episode and sparing no expense in pulling all its metaphorical punches.
Haven’t read the graphic novel so can’t compare the two, but this was such a delight. Feels completely honest and emotionally powerful – boasting amazing performances by Rocketman’s Kit Connor and Joe Locke at its core. One of the most successful breakout series of the year so far, Netflix has already renewed it for a second and third season, with Yasmin Finney having now made the jump into Doctor Who. This cast, like this show – deserves the entire world. It takes its graphic novel origins and factors them into the show’s unique visual style perfectly.
A serial killer is murdering people with a bow and arrow in Nottingham. Sound familiar? Not based on the Robin Hood legend (“modern day Robin Hood, can we not do that?”), merely taking place where it is said to have happened Sherwood opens all kinds of old wounds as a murder threatens to tear apart the local community again. There’s heavy shadows of Mare of Easttown over this David Morrisey-starrer from James Graham with dashes of Eastenders that its all-star cast absolutely revel in, but with a fresh take that eschews convention presented in a very clever way. The opening sets the tone before cutting forward to a more modern present – and this tragic true story is brought to life for a new audience, making you believe every second of it, rife with superbly tinged Thatcherism vs. Socialist politics that feel like only yesterday to the residents of the area where the killings are happening. “There’s somebody at the door”, will never hit you harder.
Given its subject matter of the tragic Hillsborough Disaster where a fatal human crush during a game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Semi-Final of 1989 cost the lives of 97 people, calling this hard to watch television almost sells it short. Anne is nothing less than devastating, starring a terrific Maxine Peake as Anne Williams, a mother of a 15 year old boy Kevin who went to the game and never came home. Written by Kevin Sampson, a writer who survived Hillsborough himself, Anne feels bitterly authentic – a knowledge of the period and of the sport itself in the period is evident, with archive footage of everyone from Des Lynam and Jimmy Hill to Margaret Thatcher. The series feels like you are witnessing events as they happen, and will install a sense of palpable anger in you as you watch it whilst being almost too painful to do so. The first episode opens moments before the tragic events of the 15th, before developing out over four parts, and with the depth afforded by ITV it couldn’t be anything less than must watch television.