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Quinta Brunson’s breakout comedy follows the teachers at the titular, fictional elementary school, who grapple with chronic under-funding while doing their best to do right by their students. A mockumentary-style series, it was inspired by Brunson’s 6th grade teacher as well as her mother, who taught at Brunson’s childhood school.
“Abbott Elementary” has charm in spades and instantly compelling characters, from naive go-getter Jeanine Teagues (played by Brunson) to veteran kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph). Backed by stellar writing, great jokes, and an incredible ensemble cast, it’s an instant classic in the workplace comedy canon, eschewing cringe comedy in favor of drawing the humor out of one of America’s most undervalued professions. — Palmer Haasch, entertainment reporter
Prime Video’s “The Boys” continues to be one of the goriest, most unpredictable, and best-cast TV shows. After a two-year break, the superhero satire series returned for its third season in June to rave reviews.
In such a large ensemble cast, every star manages to stand out in their own way. Antony Starr’s performance in season three as the unhinged, emotionally-fragile supe Homelander is criminally underrated and deserving of an Emmy nomination. Jensen Ackles’ highly-anticipated arrival this as Soldier Boy this season was a welcome addition to the series, with the “Supernatural” star fully showing off his versatility — whether he was delivering a cheesy rendition of Blondie’s “Rapture” or ruthlessly pummeling another supe to death with his shield.
Although “The Boys” takes place in a heightened realm in which supes are (for the most part) horrible people, its subject matter is more relevant than ever to real-world events — and the chilling season three finale drives that message home. — Olivia Singh, senior entertainment reporter
In a year filled to the brim with scammer shows centering on problematic (or straight-up criminal) real-life figures, “The Dropout” stands apart for a multitude of reasons.
Killer writing and an award-worthy lead performance from Amanda Seyfried as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes make this eight-episode Hulu series zip by as viewers are captivated by Holmes’ precipitous rise and sudden, catastrophic fall from grace.
It’s a gripping, intimate, and multifaceted retelling of one of the most shocking news stories of the decade. — Caralynn Lippo, senior entertainment editor
Very few TV shows depict the lives of teenagers in the dark, alarming, and visually stunning manner that HBO’s “Euphoria” does. The show, based on an Israeli miniseries of the same name, is helmed by Sam Levinson and stars Zendaya as a teen drug addict named Rue Bennett.
The intense subject matter of “Euphoria” makes it difficult to watch at times, and season two pushed the limits even further. Zendaya’s heartbreaking portrayal of Rue anchors “Euphoria” and shows why she’s one of the most talented, defining actors of her generation. — O.S.
This gritty comedy follows middle school best friends tackling adult-sized problems, including addiction, houselessness, and underemployment, while struggling in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Dan (Dan Perlman) has never left the neighborhood and lives in a tiny deathtrap of an apartment. He finds himself abusing Xanax between the classes he teaches at a nearby middle school (even his students know he is “tweaking”) as the mountain of bills on the counter blur all the days together.
His efforts to hide his issues are hilarious (and slightly alarming). He is constantly called out family members and his therapist but continues to put everyone else in front of himself, including Kevin.
Kevin (Kevin Iso) sleeps on Dan’s couch after returning from spending time with his family who treat him like a child because he does not have a solid income. He plans to pursue painting but his refusal to respect art world gatekeepers keep him from making a living. He gets odd jobs including working at the bike shop of Dan’s stepdad. He accidentally ends up affiliated with one of the neighborhood’s biggest gangsters (Hassan Johnson) after an accident turns into a shooting and his friendship with Dan lands on rocky ground.
There’s nothing else like “Flatbush Misdemeanors” on TV. — Keyaira Boone, senior entertainment reporter
This visually gorgeous HBO series from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes brings viewers into the Gilded Age of New York City through the eyes of a young socialite (Louisa Jacobson) just arriving in the city after the death of her father.
Its story is surprisingly inclusive considering the time period, and it is clear that Fellowes and his team dedicated time and resources to accurately portraying who and what built the New York that dream-seekers flock to today.
The classic Fellowes themes are there, but the upstairs-downstairs drama looks very different covered in the new money that can only be found on America’s side of the pond.
Delicious social climbing, shady business dealings, and social commentary are punctuated by historical events, including the integration of electricity and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. These moments are illustrated with stunning locations, convincing CGI, and elegant costume designs by Kasia Walicka. It’s a must watch, particularly for lovers of historical dramas! — K.B.
HBO Max’s comedy “Hacks” is a compelling and hilarious take on the cynical industry side of Hollywood. Costars Jean Smart and Hannah Eidenbinder flawlessly pull off their Gen-Z and Boomer characters. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen address generational ideologies (specifically among upper-class white women) in the wake of #MeToo and headline stories about male comedians who assaulted their way through the ranks of comedy clubs and stadium specials.
Instead of trying to fully satirize their way through a story about real-life issues, the “Hacks” writers went for earnestness instead. The series is peppered with plenty of awful characters doing and saying awful things, but never with a punch down and always with a payoff of future character development. The whole cast is phenomenal, and season two proved they know how to land a powerfully emotional story with finesse. — Kim Renfro, entertainment correspondent
“Heartstopper” is a sweet coming-of-age story that makes the case for the binge model Netflix so famously introduced in 2013. It’s nearly impossible not to press “next episode” six times in a row, eager to feel the warm comfort of endearing characters and a heartening message.
The show revolves around friendships and teenage crushes and first loves, all among a group of kindhearted outsiders who are sometimes bullied by the heteronormative “popular” kids. While “Heartstopper” does have its share of tear-jerking moments, the overall thrust of the story is all about emotional vulnerability and communication and support among loved ones. The finale will leave you smiling and eager for the upcoming second season. — K.R.
“Ms. Marvel” adapts the story of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager in New Jersey, who in the show awakens her superpowers after donning a family bangle for a Captain Marvel cosplay contest. Those powers eventually lead her to dig into her family history, marked irrevocably by the existence of another dimension (of which Kamala herself is a descendant), and the partition of India.
Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, is hard not to root for as she attempts to learn how to control her powers and where they come from. The show is stylistically distinct, featuring animated accents and the kind of teenage charm that’s largely missing from the greater MCU. Furthermore, it doesn’t suffer from being bogged down by the MCU canon in the way that many of its counterparts have — “Ms. Marvel,” for the most part, is given room to breathe and exist on its own. It’s all the better for it. — P.H.
“Julia” is a delightful look into cookbook author Julia Child’s (Sarah Lancashire) quest to bring the art of French cuisine into every American home. Lancashire perfectly captures Child’s quirkiness and determination to succeed no matter what obstacles are put in her way in this fictional adaptation of real-life events.
Similarly, David Hyde Pierce is the best choice to embody Julia’s even-tempered, slightly eccentric husband, Paul Child. Together, Lancashire and Pierce portray a steady, strong, and blissful marriage that’s impossible not to root for even though it’s barely ever threatened.
Julia’s support system is full of multi-dimensional women who are equally worthy heroines. Watching Alice (Brittany Bradford) fight to make a name for herself in the male-dominated TV industry while also fighting against her family’s expectations that she settle down and marry for the sake of marrying is particularly gratifying. — Esme Mazzeo, junior entertainment reporter
The Arconia’s nosiest residents are back and better than ever in the new season of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” and as always, it’s an absolute treat to watch Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez play off one another.
Gomez gives an especially nuanced performance this season — her character Mabel’s quiet strength and restraint is a much-needed contrast to the relentless but side-splitting jokes of Oliver (Short) and Charles (Martin).
Picking up right where the first season left off, the new episodes see the gang trying to unravel the mystery of Bunny Folger’s murder while clearing their own names as well. And while the suspects, murder weapon, and victims are all different this time around, the irresistible charm and hilarious character dynamics of the first season remain. — Libby Torres, entertainment reporter
Extrapolating from the true story of “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet, “Our Flag Means Death” is equal parts workplace drama, cringe comedy, and period piece, tracking a fictionalized version of Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and his crew. After purchasing a vessel and abandoning his wife and children, Bonnet turns to a life of piracy, hiring a crew who is skeptical of his skills as a captain but enjoys the bedtime stories he reads them at night.
While it takes a few episodes for the show to find its sea legs, the arrival of Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) locks things into place. A foil to Bonnet — and a good pirate, to boot — Blackbeard too dreams of another life and laments what he’s never had. That dynamic, which ranges from comedic riffing to intense affection, makes the show infinitely more interesting. While “Our Flag Means Death” has comic charm in spades, it also digs deep. — P.H.
From its effusively cheerful opening titles to the rich storytelling following three generations of one family, Apple TV’s “Pachinko” is one of the year’s most understated and underrated dramas. Based on bestselling author Min Jin Lee’s sweeping novel of the same name, “Pachinko” is the rare adaptation that captures the heart and essence of its source material, which is no easy feat as Lee’s book is separated into three different timelines and juggles a large ensemble of characters.
“Pachinko” begins in 1915 in Japanese-occupied Korea, following the story of a young girl named Sunja, born into extreme poverty whose legacy goes on to span multiple decades and new frontiers charted by her descendants, from Japan to the United States. Like Lee’s novel, “Pachinko” deftly explores themes of migrant identity — who are we when we leave behind our homes? — and the yearning we all have to belong.
The drama is subtle, but for viewers of Asian descent, the nuances “Pachinko” portrays — such as the sentimental value of a home-cooked bowl of rice — are powerful and appreciated. Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung’s (“Minari) graceful central performance as the older Sunja in particular is truly a delight. — Tufayel Ahmed, entertainment editor
Slide down the pole with Southern strippers in this Starz series adapted from the play of the same name by Katori Hall.
The show focuses on the dancers at the fictional Pynk strip club. Passed down to the current owner Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) from her grandmother Ernestine, the club is a staple in the fictional town of Chucalissa, Mississippi. It has financed educations, supplemented sexless marriages, and brokered countless business deals, but now it is in danger.
When a real-estate developer partners with a devious dancer, bulldozers threaten to tear the club’s history to pieces. It is up to the Uncle Clifford and the hustlers she hired to save the Pynk from being passed over for corporate profit. Savvy veterans team up with eager newcomers to chase dollars and dodge the dark side of adult entertainment.
“P-Valley” is sexy and full of suspense. It also has serious respect for the art of pole dancing, featuring cameos from some of the biggest breakthrough stars in the industry, including Joseline Hernandez, Miami Tip, and Gigi Maguire. — K.B.
This dystopian workplace series, created by Dan Erickson and directed in part by Ben Stiller, stars Adam Scott as a grief-stricken man who decides to take a “severed” job at Lumon Industries. Severed employees undergo a procedure known as “severance,” which effectively splits them into two selves: an “innie” who does the job and exists only in the confines of the office, and an “outtie” who lives in the outside world and has no clue what they do for a living.
Deeply weird, unsettling, and frequently extremely funny, “Severance” is anchored by its concept (which turns increasingly more sinister as the show goes on) and a stellar ensemble cast that includes Patricia Arquette, Tramell Tillman, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and Zach Cherry. What starts as sharp office satire quickly morphs into a series about the lengths that people will go to gain and maintain control over their lives. — P.H.
On HBO’s gripping true-crime drama “The Staircase,” the question of how Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette) really died — and if, as some believe, she was murdered, who killed her? — dominates much of the narrative. But what makes the show so compulsively watchable, in addition to the bizarre real-life case it depicts, is the drama that swirls around Kathleen’s second husband, Michael (Colin Firth), and their large blended family.
Michael’s past is definitely questionable (his first wife also died mysteriously after falling down a flight of stairs), and his obsession with secrecy is portrayed to perfection by Firth. The twists and turns of the case keep viewers on their toes to the very end, and stellar performances by Collette and Firth (supporting cast members Sophie Turner, Parker Posey, and Michael Stuhlbarg are also incredible) make “The Staircase” a must-see for fans of true-crime and riveting family dramas alike. — L.T.
After a three-year hiatus over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Stranger Things” finally made its return with a blockbuster fourth season on Netflix. With the show’s cast flung to different corners of the world — Hopper (David Harbour) in Russia, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) in California, and most of the gang still in Hawkins — a new threat emerges from the Upside Down and begins picking off teenagers one by one.
The series’ fourth season showed off its cast’s acting chops, particularly Sadie Sink, whose character Max is grappling with her step-brother Billy’s death in season three. It also brought on newcomers like Jamie Campbell Bower and Joseph Quinn, who quickly became beloved by the show’s immense fandom. While the season’s pacing felt a bit disjointed at times, the payoffs it brought with reference to the show’s lore felt worth it. — P.H.
“This Is Us” may have only received one Emmy nomination (for original music and lyrics) in its final season, but the cast delivered exemplary performances.
Fans were prepared for milestone events of the season like Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) divorce and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) death. Writers and actors were committed to telling a story about the natural course of life and love, not shocking the audience for the sake of it.
Moore’s performance is beautifully nuanced as she portrays Rebecca’s escalating cognitive impairments and eventual death. The Pearson family says goodbye to their matriarch on the penultimate episode of the series, titled “The Train,” and it’s equal parts heartbreaking and magical.
Fans are given a rare opportunity to say a simple goodbye to the beloved Pearsons on the series finale, called “Us.” The day of Rebecca’s funeral in the present is sad, but provides much-needed closure. It’s similarly comforting to spend some of our last moments with the Pearsons on an average day where they have nothing to do but enjoy each other as a family.
Network television in particular rarely embraces simplicity, and it’s disappointing that “This Is Us” was not rewarded for this feat — but that doesn’t mean the final chapter of NBC’s mega-hit should be ignored. — E.M.
Phoebe Robinson brings her hilarious memoir to life in this semi-autobiographical comedy from Freeform.
Following her career as an outspoken podcaster, the Brooklyn-based series features Robinson’s television alter ego Phoebe Hill engaging in casual sex, speaking out against slut-shaming, and spilling the financial secrets of boot-strapped creatives.
It also features a loving sibling relationship between Phoebe and her straight-laced brother Jayden, who lives nearby. He often finds himself on the other side of her schemes for success, including staging an entire photoshoot in his apartment because it has the right aesthetic.
The show is funny, smart, and showcases the realities of what it is like to chase your dreams in an era where a well-timed TikTok can propel you to stardom or drain your bank account in 60 seconds.
Watch to see how a drunken make-out session turns into a tirade of Twitter attacks and find out what happens when you have a nip-slip on Instagram live. — K.B.
There’s no shortage of book adaptations to choose from on the major streaming platforms, but as someone who’s reread Jenny Han’s “Summer I Turned Pretty” trilogy every summer since I was 12, I was equally nervous and excited when Prime Video announced it was turning the books into a series.
Netflix did an outstanding job adapting the author’s “To All the Boys” trilogy, but Amazon may have taken the crown with “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” From the absolutely killer soundtrack filled with plenty of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo to the endearing cast of young actors, this show feels like childhood in a bottle.
Although there were added plot points and characters, it got every little detail I cared very deeply about from the book exactly right — no doubt because Han was so involved with the production. I sobbed like a baby during the season finale, and I can’t wait to get my heart stomped on again in season two. — Fíona Clair, freelance editor
Best TV shows of 2022: Abbott Elementary, Severance, This Is Us – Insider
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