The 25 must-see TV shows of 2022 – The Guardian

Atlanta, Top Boy and Frasier are back, Peaky Blinders and Derry Girls bow out, plus a wild ride with Pam and Tommy and Lord of the Rings lands at last. Here are all the shows you’re about to be hooked on
(Disney+) Buckle up: this is going to be a wild ride. Lily James and Sebastian Stan undergo serious transformations in the makeup department to play Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. The mini-series tells the story of their infamous sex tape – the first-ever viral video – and how it all began with the pair getting married 96 hours after meeting in 1995. But beyond dining out on a juicy scandal, will it use a post-#MeToo approach? Hollie Richardson
(BBC One) Adapted from Adam Kay’s wildly successful and hilarious book of the same name (which was scribbled down in diary form during breaks), this series follows the travails of a junior doctor in the NHS. It has been in the pipeline for some time and was delayed, ironically, by the pandemic which has, to say the least, sharpened our appreciation for our overworked, undervalued medical professionals. Ben Whishaw stars. Phil Harrison
(BBC One) Once again, Martin Freeman gets under the skin of a disappointed (and disappointing) middle-aged man and renders him sympathetic. This time, Freeman is Chris, a police urgent response officer whose bleak, solitary night-shifts in Liverpool are disrupted by the arrival of rookie partner Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo). When Chris makes a rash decision, their previously mundane job becomes distinctly more dangerous. PH
(BBC) Donald Glover’s eccentric and inventive take on the Black American experience has felt like one of the most timely shows of recent years. As we left him, Glover’s normally diffident hip-hop impresario Earn had just done the dirtiest of the dirty on his protege Clark County and earned the respect of Alfred in the process. Even so, the incident will surely hang over their relationship. Expect season three to be a fraught examination of loyalty and betrayal. PH
(Channel 4) The “wee lesbian” (Nicola Coughlan), the “English fella” (Dylan Llewellyn) and the rest of the motley crew are back for a third and final season. For a comedy that has fans in stitches throughout, there’s also a lot of heart in how it handles being a teenager during the Troubles in Northern Ireland – so it’s sure to be an emotional farewell. Also look out for Skint on the BBC later this year, a series of monologues about poverty which includes one from Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee. HR
(ITV) A family drama that has been dubbed “a love letter to Black London” by its creator Abby Ajayi. There are distinct top notes of Succession in the premise: Hugh Quarshie plays super-rich patriarch Stephen Richards who suffers a stroke and, amid slightly cosmetic concern for his wellbeing, his troublesome family’s secrets and rivalries begin to surface as a fortune appears up for grabs. PH
(Channel 4) The war in question is, of course, a cyberwar. And this political thriller sounds like the kind of weighty, slightly portentous fare that is director and writer (and seven-time Bafta-winner) Peter Kosminsky’s speciality. He’s assembled a heavyweight cast: Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Adrian Lester and newcomer Hannah Khalique-Brown star as the 2024 general election looms and GCHQ finds itself under attack. But who are the nation’s virtual assailants? PH
(BBC Three) This drama has been heralded as the next Fleabag, given that it, too, started out as a one-woman stage show with a flair for the funnies and emotional heft. Creator Nicôle Lecky stars as Sasha Clayton – a 25-year-old wannabe singer and rapper whose attempts to fend for herself become ever more desperate after she is evicted by her family. Alexi Duggins
(BBC) In Mum and Him and Her, Stefan Golaszewski created two of the most beautifully observed, touchingly comic portraits of relationships to ever grace the small screen. This forthcoming four-parter about a 30-year marriage, with Nicola Walker and Sean Bean in the lead roles, is sure to do more of the same. Expect dialogue that can shift from hilariously banal to heart-rendingly poignant in the space of a sentence. AD
(HBO/Sky Atlantic) If there were ever a video game crying out for a TV adaptation, it’s the poignant 2013 action-adventure epic about a smuggler trying to guide a teenage girl across postapocalyptic America. HBO has chosen it as its first adaptation of a console franchise, so no doubt it’ll reproduce the game’s narrative forte: tempering the bleakness of a zombie apocalypse with the emotional core of a pseudo parent-child relationship. AD
(Channel 4) Candice Carty-Williams’s bestselling 2019 novel tells the story of a 25-year-old Black journalist in London whose life starts to unravel when she takes a break from her long-term boyfriend. What follows is a nuanced, authentic exploration of race, mental health, womanhood and everything in between (including a few laughs). With Carty-Williams working on the adaptation, it’s bound to please fans of the book. HR
(Netflix) The Drake-backed Netflix reincarnation saw this already great drama about London’s drug gangs scale new heights of brilliance, as its longer episode count let narratives breathe and showcased the killer acting chops of MCs including Dave and Little Simz. The prospect of its return is hugely tantalising – not least due to the narrative drawing the rival gangs of Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kano) together with their intensely likable young rival, Jamie (Micheal Ward). AD
(Sky Atlantic) Following a final season so disappointing that many fans avoid talking about it, there’s trepidation about HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel. Then again, perhaps the only way is up. It rewinds 200 years to chronicle dragon-loving House Targaryen, with Matt Smith wearing a white wig as Prince Daemon and Emma D’Arcy playing Princess Rhaenyra. Expect the usual low-key stuff: mythical beasts, big budget battle scenes and endless raunch. HR
(BBC One) The BBC’s Brum-based gangster drama has failed to put a foot wrong over five hooky, violent seasons. Here’s hoping this final series brings things to a brilliant close, as Tommy continues to battle Oswald Mosley and the second world war looms. It remains to be seen how the show will cope with the tragic loss of Helen McCrory, but at least it can count Stephen Graham as a new cast addition. AD
(Sky Atlantic) The most hyped teen drama in years (and rightly so) got us talking with its copious nudity and substance abuse – not to mention the musical number that formed its final moments. But it was also capable of real beauty and depth, not least Zendaya’s vulnerable portrayal of Rue, a young woman struggling with addiction. It earned her a best actress Emmy, and we’re excited to see what new heights she scales as she grows into the role. AD
(BBC One and Netflix) From Steven Moffat (Dracula, Sherlock, Doctor Who), here’s a curious thriller following a prisoner on death row in the US, a vicar in a quiet English town and a maths teacher trapped in a cellar – and how they cross paths in a most strange way. With Stanley Tucci, Lydia West and David Tennant heading the cast, it seems impossible to disappoint. HR
(Apple TV+) This new series from the Oscar-winning directors of The Lego Movie is part murder-mystery, part comedy, centring on a death at a high school reunion. As the investigation unfolds, each episode will be told from a different character’s perspective, which should showcase the brilliant comic character acting of Jamie Demetriou, Veep’s Sam Richardson and Parks and Recreation star Ben Schwartz. AD
(Paramount+) Hey baby, I hear the blues are calling. Following an almost 20-year hiatus, Kelsey Grammer is back as Seattle’s snooty but beloved radio psychiatrist for tossed salads, scrambled eggs and a reboot fans are torn over. Part of the show’s enduring appeal was the relationship Frasier had with his dad Marty – but actor John Mahoney died in 2018. Can the show be as good without him? It’s not clear whether Niles, Daphne and Roz will come calling again, but we hope they’ll return to provide the show with a shot in the arm. HR
(BBC One) There’s not one millennial woman in London who has not read – or at least heard of – Dolly Alderton’s bestselling memoir about friendship and romance. In this dramatised adaptation, Maggie and Birdy (played by Emma Appleton and Bel Powley) are two pals in their 20s navigating their first phase of adulthood in a flatshare. But then the unthinkable happens – dependable Birdy gets a steady boyfriend. Just like the book, let’s hope the series is a brave yet vulnerable (and very funny) unpicking of what love means in all its forms. HR
(Disney+) Advance photos of this series don’t exactly inspire confidence – the fictional Sex Pistols look more like Ed Sheeran roadies than punk rock tabloid folk devils. But Danny Boyle is at the helm of this dramatisation of Steve Jones’s memoir Lonely Boy and he can normally be relied upon to come up with the goods. The story itself – friendship, music, rivalry, drugs and death – has all the right ingredients. PH
(BBC) The remarkable true story of disability rights activists Barbara Lisicki and Alan Holdsworth is brought to life by Bafta-winning writer Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr. Lisicki (Ruth Madeley) met Holdsworth (Arthur Hughes) at a cabaret night in 1989 – cue years of righteous mischief-making as the couple became the driving force behind the Direct Action Network, whose protests led to rapid advances. PH
(Netflix) A changing of the guard for the fifth season of Peter Morgan’s epic. Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II will vanish into a royal phone box and emerge as Imelda Staunton. More intriguingly, how will Jonny Lee Miller fare as John Major? And what next for Elizabeth Debicki’s troubled Diana, Princess of Wales? No spoilers, but to be honest, we have a bad feeling about where her story arc might be going. PH
(Netflix) After 14 years, the extended world of Breaking Bad finally comes to an end as Saul Goodman’s origin story reaches its conclusion. Over recent series, the prequel has come increasingly close to scaling the heights of the original, as Jimmy has moved ever closer to the dark side, so this last outing will no doubt be something to lap up every moment of. It is, after all, the end of an era. AD
(Netflix) If there’s one thing TV needs more of, it’s credible adaptations of LGBTQ+ narratives. Hence some of the excitement around this eight-part reworking of Alice Oseman’s Tumblr-born graphic novel of a gay high school romance. The story of Nick and Charlie, two British teens at a boys’ grammar school who fall in love, also looks set to showcase new and exciting talent, including Yasmin Finney, a Black Manchester-based transgender woman – and TikTok star. AD
(Amazon Prime) It’s a big year for fantasy revivals, as JRR Tolkien’s epic world of hobbits, wizards and elves is brought to the small screen with a whopping budget (apparently $1bn in total). Aside from a confirmed September release date, fans only know that the series will take place in the Second Age thousands of years prior to the Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit. All other details are being kept under wraps, which only makes the wait even more exciting. HR
This article was amended on 29 December 2021 to credit Genevieve Barr as co-writer of Then Barbara Met Alan.

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