The 10 best TV shows of 2022 so far – bbc.com


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(Credit: Netflix/Alamy)
Stranger Things 4
In the new season of Stranger Things, the show goes full horror: its kid protagonists are growing up, and the show is maturing with them, with some absolutely frightening results. This time around, they’re fighting a monster called Vecna, who has a unique way of tormenting his victims by preying on their worst fears. As it’s the penultimate series, the Netflix blockbuster has begun to wrap up the plot, tying up threads and giving fans some long-awaited answers. One of the best things about this season is how it balances the everyday trauma of being a teenager with that caused by the terrifying otherworldly forces that exist in Hawkins, intertwining its central sci-fi storyline with the minutiae of its characters’ everyday lives. Among its enormous ensemble cast, Sadie Sink as the grief-stricken Max gives perhaps the standout performance of this series so far, while her castmate and the show’s ostensible lead, Millie Bobby Brown, continues to impress as the tormented, superpowered Eleven. It may be much bigger in budget and scale than when it started, but Stranger Things has kept its core appeal, as a fun but terrifying 1980s time capsule that keeps you on the edge of your sofa. (AC)
Available on Netflix internationally
Station Eleven
On paper, this HBO adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s acclaimed novel (which began in the US at the end of 2021, but finished up this year, so sneaks in) sounds like the worst viewing possible for this moment in time: telling the story of a world decimated by a pandemic, it certainly should be approached with caution. Yet, in a way that recalls another HBO masterpiece The Leftovers, the drama does something extraordinary with this bleak-sounding premise: through lyricism, philosophical inquiry and deep humanity, it manages to move beyond tragedy and become a profoundly hopeful work that indeed offers a meaningful way to help process recent events. Don’t expect to entirely understand it all either: as it flicks between two timelines – the present day, when the devastating flu takes hold, and 20 years later, when a band of Shakespearean actors tour a ravaged world – it can feel confusing at times. But that, in fact, is all part of its imaginative power: it’s the kind of TV that, even after the explosion of shows we’ve had in the last few years, truly shows the boundless possibilities of the form. (HM)
Available on HBO Max in the US and Starzplay in the UK
(Credit: Channel 4/Alamy)
Derry Girls
The third and final series of Lisa McGee’s beloved comedy about a gang of four girls and the “wee English fella” living in Derry, Northern Ireland in the 90s has more than lived up to expectations. With the girls growing up and out of school, it incorporates, among other things, 18th birthday parties, exam results, a fantastic flashback to the lives of their mothers and – something no 90s TV show would be complete without – a Spice Girls tribute. At the same time, it also continues to deftly handle the Troubles, the ongoing conflict on the island of Ireland that defined much of its history in the 20th Century. The five leads are as ever complemented by the fantastic Siobhán McSweeney as Sister Michael, whose zingy one-liners are a highlight. And if you’ve not seen it yet, keep your eyes peeled for a scream-inducing cameo in the series’ first episode. (AC)
Available on All4 in the UK and Ireland, and coming to Netflix internationally later in the year
Inventing Anna
If the 2022 TV year will go down as anything, it might be as the year of the scammer: from The Dropout to The Tinder Swindler, a whole of range of shows, both fiction and non-fiction, have fed a zeitgeist-y appetite for stories of grifts and deception. And one of the first out of the blocks was super-producer Shonda Rhimes’ series based on the juicy tale of “fake heiress” Anna Delvey, aka Anna Sorokin, the wily twentysomething who conned New York society into believing she was a super-rich German trust-fund baby. It got very mixed reviews overall, but for my money, after some admittedly uninspiring opening episodes, it really takes flight, becoming at once a gripping account of the story of Sorokin’s crimes and a sophisticated, postmodern dissection of her “invention” as a totemic 21st-Century pop cultural figure – in which of course, this very show itself has played a hand. (HM) 
Available on Netflix internationally
(Credit: Apple TV+)
Pachinko
To many people’s surprise, following a shaky launch, Apple TV+ has been the breakout streaming platform of the year, with a run of critical successes, including Severance (see below), spy thriller Slow Horses and, most praised of all, this emotional Korean period epic based on the book of the same name. Spanning most of the 20th Century, it tells the story of Sunja, a young Korean émigré to Japan who has to deal with prejudice and hardship as she fights to make a life for herself and her child; many decades on meanwhile, in 1980s Osaka, her cocksure banker grandson Solomon is reckoning with his roots. Featuring outstanding performances from an ensemble including recent Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung as the older Sunja, it’s not perfect – there’s a touch of clunkiness about some of the narrative beats – but its combination of emotional and intellectual force as it deals with big themes like colonialism and makes it one of the year’s most impressive and resounding achievements. (HM)
Available on Apple TV+ internationally
Search Party
Few shows have made quite as extraordinary narrative leaps as this HBO comedy-drama has done over the course of its five seasons. What initially started out as a kind of Girls-meets-Raymond-Chandler alt-detective drama, with a New York hipster, Dory, on the hunt for a missing acquaintance, cycled through various genres, including courtroom drama and Misery-style toxic fan thriller – before in this year’s final series, centring on a cult and finally veering into post-apocalyptic zombie horror. Underscoring all this, though, was a pitch-perfect satire of a certain privileged millennial mindset, as, in their fickleness, self-involvement and essential purposelessness, Dory and her friends inadvertently brought about the end of the world as we know it. At its heart, meanwhile, was an astonishing, ever-evolving performance from Alia Shawkat: hitherto best known for Arrested Development, she turned Dory into the nightmarish voice of a generation. (HM)
Available on HBO Max in the US
(Credit: HBO/Alamy)
Somebody Somewhere
This new vehicle for the US stand-up Bridget Everett occupies an increasingly popular sub-genre: the comedian-authored semi-autobiographical comedy-drama (see everything from Aziz Ansari’s Master of None to Mae Martin’s Feel Good). Yet this is one of the very best of these efforts. Charming and bittersweet, it finds a beautiful specificity in telling the story of Everett’s Sam, a woman who has returned to her Kansas hometown following the death of her sister, where, struggling to move on and stuck in a dead-end job, she finds solace in a renegade local choir group, which allows her to put her full-throated singing abilities to use, among other things. A long-time comedian’s comedian, Everett shines, her ribald charisma radiating off the screen, while she has a perfect sparring partner in Jeff Hiller as her co-worker and new best friend Joel. It makes for the kind of show that feels so gently immersive, the characters so lived-in, you can’t quite believe it when it’s suddenly all over. (HM)
Available on HBO Max in the US and NOW in the UK 
Severance
This psychological thriller might be set in an office, but it is so much more than your average workplace drama. In Severance, the main characters work for a mysterious company called Lumon, who have enormous, sparse headquarters with retro tech and creepy art. But that’s not the worst of it. The central team here – and many of Lumon’s employees – have undergone a procedure called severance, which is when you are divided into two selves, one inside work and one outside work– meaning that when you’re in the outside world you can’t remember anything that happens at work, and when you’re at work, you have no recollection of your outside life. A fine cast includes Adam Scott, who is subtly fantastic in the role of everyman Mark, and the likes of Britt Lower, Zach Cherry, Patricia Arquette and Tramell Tillman, all in their own ways compelling. But the series truly belongs to John Turturro and Christopher Walken, whose radiant quasi-romantic storyline steals the show. Directed and executive produced by Ben Stiller and written and created by Dan Erickson, Severance creates a deep sense of unease while keeping you totally hooked. (AC)
Available on Apple TV+ internationally
(Credit: Netflix)
Top Boy
Netflix may be facing a reckoning at the moment, financial, critical and otherwise, but among its few 2022 highpoints is undoubtedly the return of this brilliant British drama, which was cancelled by its original UK broadcaster Channel 4 but then picked up by the streamer (via the rapper Drake, who pushed for its revival and these days is the show’s executive producer). Now in its second Netflix series, or fourth series overall, it tells an at-once densely detailed yet narratively propulsive story of East London life, which deftly covers everything from gang crime and drug deals to gentrification, coercive relationships and immigration policy, and has only got better and better. The way it films East London is both harsh and beautiful, capturing its vibe in a way that feels truer than any other film or show in recent memory, while the performances are remarkable in their naturalism – among them rapper Kano as the brooding Sully, now living on a canal boat, and Jasmine Jobson as the hard-edged Jaq. (HM)
Available on Netflix internationally
This is Going to Hurt
A harrowing, deeply important and, most of all, funny portrait of the British healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS), This is Going to Hurt is based on the memoir of the same name by former doctor Adam Kay. Having been a junior doctor in a busy London hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology ward, Kay paints a nuanced portrait of the working conditions he and many others endured, and the serious toll that long hours and intense pressure takes on your life. Ben Whishaw’s performance as Kay is a tour de force, delineating the inner turmoil of a man determined to at least try to do the right thing, but who doesn’t always pull it off. What’s so special about this show is that Kay isn’t a likeable character, but you continually root for his success, desperately wishing him, his patients and his colleagues well. It’s not a rosy portrait of the realities of life in British hospitals, and there are some truly devastating moments throughout, but the show steadfastly keeps going with humanity and gallows humour, despite the horrors: just as healthcare professionals do every day. (AC)
Available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and AMC in the US
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