These Are the 15 Best TV Shows of 2022 So Far – TV Guide

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Highlights from a packed first half of the year
Abbott Elementary, The Boys, The Bear, Better Call Saul
Scientifically speaking, the fastest way to win friends and impress strangers is to show off your TV expertise. But there’s a lot of TV out there, especially right now, as the industry makes up for lost time after pandemic delays. Cut straight to the good stuff with TV Guide’s list of the best shows of 2022 so far, a balanced mix of comedies and dramas, new shows and old ones, limited series and shows that are six seasons deep. Dive into the ones you haven’t seen yet and get ready to be the coolest person in the room, because who doesn’t want to talk about Severance theories?
In June, TV Guide published our annual ranking of the 100 Best Shows on TV Right Now, a packed list that reflected the overwhelming wealth of great viewing options in an era of Too Much TV. But some of the ongoing shows on that list (like Succession) didn’t air in 2022, and some must-watch limited series that did air this year (like Station Eleven) weren’t eligible. And anything worth ranking once is worth ranking twice. The list below focuses only on shows that have aired this year, from limited series that ended in January to long-running shows gearing up for their final episodes right now. If you don’t see your favorites on this list, you might see your future favorites. These are the 15 best shows of 2022 so far.
Abbott Elementary
This list is in alphabetical order, but even if it weren’t, Abbott Elementary would be at the top of the class. Quinta Brunson‘s charming ABC comedy is TV Guide’s pick for the best show on TV right now — the rare network sitcom everyone agrees is really cool. Set in an underfunded Philadelphia elementary school and starring a predominantly Black cast, Abbott is grounded but not didactic, earnest but still wry, and genuinely funny above all. ("It’s pronounced Zach.") It isn’t easy to fold the real-world social issues affecting American education into a 22-minute-a-week mockumentary, and it’s even harder to get the internet buzzing about a network sitcom. Abbott Elementary pulls it off, taking the best of the format and making it feel fresh again. We love a show that loves television. –Kelly Connolly
Zazie Beetz, Donald Glover, LaKeith Stanfield, and Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Atlanta Season 3 overtly didn’t give viewers what they wanted after four Atlanta-less years. With six episodes that kept its core four characters mostly separate from each other and four thematically connected standalone episodes that featured none of the main cast members, as well as a parade of provocatively cast guest stars, Season 3 felt designed to perplex and annoy. As a result, the third season of FX’s experimental comedy wasn’t as well-received by critics, fans, or the Emmys as the first two. But I predict that the narrative around it will change after the fourth and final season comes out in September and Season 3’s place in Atlanta‘s complete artistic statement becomes clear. The mordant, morally ambiguous season might not have felt right for the moment it was born into, but it feels ripe for reevaluation later on. It might be Donald Glover‘s Pinkerton. We’ll see. Because after the jolt of the provocations like seeing Chet Hanks speak fake patois fade, we’re left with the kind of haunting, unforgettable scenes that only Atlanta can create, like the final moments of the other Earnest Marks. Then again, it might get reevaluated to seem actually bad, the beginning of a formerly great show running out of things to say. No matter how history shakes out, I will always respect Atlanta Season 3 for its willingness to be unheimlich in a moment when TV comedies are prized for their ability to give people the warm fuzzies. -Liam Mathews
Sarah Goldberg and Bill Hader, Barry
There is not one laugh in Barry‘s Season 3 finale, and it’s one of the best episodes the comedy has ever done. Or maybe it’s more accurate to call Bill Hader‘s series about a hitman trying and failing to put his life of crime behind him a "comedy," since it’s always been a dark drama with absurd humor peppered into its bleak scenes to give it some levity. But as Season 3 progressed and characters grew increasingly cornered, there were fewer and fewer jokes, until "starting now" hit with the gut-punching heaviness of a Michael Haneke movie. Characters made devastating choices from which there’s no coming back, and there was nothing funny about it. It’s a testament to the trust Hader and his collaborators have built with their audience that not only can they do an episode like "starting now," they can be celebrated for it. They have the confidence to take big swings because the show’s watchers have faith that those big swings will pay off. They haven’t missed yet. And it must be mentioned that Barry is still funny; the moment when Fuches (Stephen Root) gets the idea for his "vengeance army panther thing" made me laugh harder than anything else I’ve seen on TV this year so far. -Liam Mathews
Jeremy Allen White, Lionel Boyce, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach, The Bear
For a show that dropped all at once on Hulu in the middle of the summer with minimal fanfare, The Bear snuck up on all of us, becoming a hit largely due to a potent combination of word of mouth and horny tweets. It’s nice when a much-hyped show is actually worth the hype, which Christopher Storer‘s frenetic dramedy, about a flailing sandwich joint called the Original Beef of Chicagoland, certainly is. The series is a carefully drawn portrait of grief and ambition that also happens to move at such a breakneck pace sometimes its characters can’t even keep up with what’s happening. As the talented but overwhelmed Carmy, who becomes the reluctant owner of the Original Beef after the sudden death of his brother, Jeremy Allen White is the show’s anchor, and his performance is bolstered by a dazzling ensemble, with Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Lionel Boyce doing particularly great work. From its unbelievable one-take seventh episode to the tomato-soaked finale, The Bear has the kind of special sauce that makes it irresistible. –Allison Picurro
Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul has been the best drama on TV for years. Now, in its final season, it feels like it’s finally getting its cultural moment. (Look to Rhea Seehorn‘s long-overdue Emmy nomination for proof times are changing. Everything’s coming up Saul!) It’s a credit to Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan‘s patient, meticulous storytelling, which trusts the viewer to care about every detail. But the writers also took their cues from one of the smartest acting ensembles on TV, letting their performances push the show in unexpected directions while still inching Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) toward his immovable fate in the Breaking Bad era. The tension between what’s set in stone and what can be changed has given Better Call Saul its engine, as the characters themselves wrestle with the fear of being trapped by their own choices. It’s all paid off in the emotional and moral complexity of the stunning sixth season, a tragedy that’s come with a body count, sure, but has also found simpler ways to devastate. Saul Goodman may hate self-reflection, but when Better Call Saul looks inward, there’s no looking away. –Kelly Connolly
Pamela Adlon, Better Things
In the fifth and final season of Better Things, creator-star-director-writer Pamela Adlon continued to expand on the themes she’d spent years observing, like aging and the choice to be a woman who stays single, while also quietly breaking new ground. The final episodes explored gender identity and teen depression and, presciently, navigated an abortion story months before abortion stories started to feel even more crucial than ever, maintaining its singular brand of low-key sensitivity throughout. It all culminated in a warm, fourth-wall breaking finale that might have felt cloying had any other show attempted it. TV is already worse without Better Things, and yet you have to commend Adlon for knowing when (and how) to say goodbye. –Allison Picurro
Karl Urban and Antony Starr, The Boys
Somehow, some way, Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys keeps finding a new bottom of the barrel for depravity. Season 3 topped Season 2’s exploding whale carcasses and Nazi superheroes with an explosion inside a urethra (eww), a self-satisfying octopus (ack), and a superhero orgy (hmm), while continuing to offer clever, biting commentary on corporate culture, pop culture, and superheroes the way that only The Boys can. But Season 3 also went blatantly political with a Black Lives Matter spin (one racist superhero claimed "All supes matter" at a Black community center) and Homelander (Antony Starr) going full Donald Trump as he appealed to his base by laser-eyeing feminist Starlight supporters, bringing many of the show’s radical alt-right fans to the realization that the season was about them in the ultimate troll job. This is the show that continues to give. -Tim Surette
Mike Colter, Katja Herbers, Aasif Mandvi, Evil
You can get absolutely anything when you press play on Evil: a haunted highway, a cult sacrifice, demonic TikTok, Wallace Shawn as a resurrected priest in love with his coworker. The Robert and Michelle King drama is one of the purest thrills on television, a bold, genuinely weird gem that embraces the prime directive to have a good time but underpins all that fun with a creeping sense of dread. The third season, airing now, has doubled down on the question of what’s up with Kristen’s (Katja Herbers) daughter Lexis (Maddy Crocco) and tempted David (Mike Colter) to break his vow of celibacy — if only in his mind — as he confronts his feelings for his partner. The Vatican, meanwhile, is framed as a kind of mafia family, useful in its power but impossible to trust. Evil‘s heroes are abandoned on all sides while the foundations they believe in erode beneath them. Now that’s horror. –Kelly Connolly
Minha Kin and Lee Minho, Pachinko
Pachinko, the 2017 novel by Min Jee Lee, seemed almost too grand and epic in scope to be replicated for the small screen, but Apple TV+’s adaptation, ushered in by Soo Hugh, expertly translates the book by selecting the right parts to focus on. (The parts of the book that weren’t included in Season 1 will be used in subsequent seasons.) Pachinko is a drama rich with history, romance, and culture as it follows a Korean family across multiple time periods and generations, starting when Japan occupied Korea in 1915 and going all the way to 1989 and beyond, when the wounds of occupation are barely scabbed over and the ripple effects from decisions made early in life still cause turbulence. It’s a beautiful television show and the rare sweeping epic viewers can get lost in, and it serves as a prime example of the international attraction to Korean dramas. -Tim Surette
Nathan Fielder, The Rehearsal
An inevitable hallmark of any Nathan Fielder show is the moment when you feel so horrified by whatever is happening on screen that you burst into uncomfortable laughter. His latest, The Rehearsal, the successor to his seminal Nathan for You, contains at least five of those moments per episode. The series has a typically (typical for Fielder, I mean) difficult to describe premise: In it, Fielder "helps" real people plan for big events in their lives through painstakingly constructed trial runs. It’s a losing battle and an impossible task, which Fielder’s unbreakable character won’t acknowledge, but the real Fielder certainly knows. Gradually, it starts to become about more than just the rehearsals: humanity, connection, loneliness, manipulation, narcissism. This show also has some of the most unbelievable production design I’ve ever seen on TV; the exact replica of a Brooklyn bar in the first episode is the kind of detail that adds to an already disorienting viewing experience. When it comes to mining real-life situations for comedy, Fielder is peerless. His deadpan, cringe-inducing style, elevated here to the nth degree, isn’t for everyone, but if you can get on his wavelength, or at least near it, The Rehearsal is nothing less than awe inspiring. –Allison Picurro
Edi Patterson, Danny McBride, and Adam Devine, The Righteous Gemstones
The Righteous Gemstones gets compared to Succession so often that I imagine Danny McBride must be tired of people asking him about it. Admittedly, it makes sense: Both are HBO shows about powerful families with ridiculous adult children competing for their withholding father’s approval, but to compare Gemstones to anything is to do a disservice to the singular genius that goes into crafting it. In its phenomenally funny second season, Gemstones wholly came into its own, giving more context, and subsequently allowing for more empathy, to the siblings’ stunted personalities by delving deeper into Eli’s (John Goodman) past. Part of what makes The Righteous Gemstones so funny is that its jokes usually don’t sound like they’re written as jokes, and that it understands there’s nothing funnier than treating the absurd with the utmost seriousness. It’s a show that trusts its impeccable ensemble to find the comedy on their own; on Gemstones, the joke can be in a hyper-specific line delivery ("Well, you done well for yourself. Got you a — a couch with a bunch of cupholders in it") or in the violent kick of Edi Patterson‘s leg. Maybe next year the Emmys will catch up. –Allison Picurro
Adam Scott, Severance
The most impressive new show of the year so far is easily Apple TV+’s Severance, a sci-fi series that came out fully formed in what is one of the last decade’s best debut seasons of television. Conceived by Dan Erickson and developed by Ben Stiller (yes, that Ben Stiller), Severance posits a world in which a secretive company mandates a section of its workforce undergo a groundbreaking surgical procedure that divides the consciousness into two parts: the work self (the innie) and the personal self (the outtie), with neither half knowing anything about the other half. While the commentary about today’s work-life balance and corporate culture hit hard, it’s the deft writing as these halves of characters become enlightened to their voluntary servitude and the conspiracy thriller that emerges that pushes Severance into a serious contender for Best Show of the Year. It gets better with each episode, culminating in an intense finale with a well-earned cliffhanger that proves there’s a lot more of this story to tell that both halves of your self will be dying for. -Tim Surette
Michael Stuhlbarg and Colin Firth, The Staircase
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: The Staircase is the best true crime drama of 2022. In the hands of Antonio Campos, who adapted the series and directed most of the episodes, this fictionalized version of the infamous Michael Peterson case transcends the boundaries of a genre few have tried to experiment with. Peterson’s case is a peculiar one: In the early 2000s, he was accused and later found guilty of murdering his wife, Kathleen, after she was mysteriously found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. He subsequently became the subject of a 13-part Netflix docuseries that chronicled his trial, conviction, and eventual exoneration, something that could have easily worked against Campos’ adaptation. Instead, the documentarians become part of the story, providing the series its most fascinating element in the form of a meta narrative. That’s just one of the many impressive things about it; months later, I’m still stuck on Colin Firth‘s nimble performance as Peterson, and how the brutal recreations of the different circumstances under which Kathleen’s (Toni Collette) death could have occurred resonate because of how the series fleshes out her character, making her more than a silent victim. It’s hard to carve out a distinct spot in an over-crowded playing field, and it’s also hard to re-contextualize a decades-old case. Somehow, The Staircase does both. –Allison Picurro
Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo, Starstruck
Trust Rose Matafeo‘s irresistible romantic comedy to find a fresh spin on rom-com sequels. The second season picks up with Matafeo’s Jessie in the very immediate aftermath of her decision to stay in London with Tom (Nikesh Patel) rather than fly home to New Zealand, her grand romantic gesture giving way to panic as reality sets in. The series buzzes with the anxiety of a new relationship, using Tom’s celebrity status to magnify both his and Jessie’s insecurities. (As Matafeo put it to TV Guide, "There’s only so far you can go being like, ‘He has a press event and he can’t make the date. Isn’t that sad?’ You’re like, ‘That’s boring. Let’s make it that he’s f—ing insecure and he calls her kooky.’") Starstruck dares to state the obvious — dating is hard work — without sacrificing the magic of the rom-com classics. To paraphrase Jessie, it’s a Jordan-esque slam dunk. –Kelly Connolly
Himesh Patel and Matilda Lawler, Station Eleven
Station Eleven only aired three episodes in 2022, concluding its astonishing run in early January. But those three episodes — and the show as a whole — have stuck with me every month since. The limited series, an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s novel of the same name, was hyped up as something of a tall ask: Could audiences worn down by an actual pandemic watch a show about a fictional one? There’s no denying it was painful. But Station Eleven pressed its finger on the wound only to heal it, spinning a global post-apocalyptic story about the necessity of art in dark times. Hiro Murai, who directed two episodes, including the pilot, gave the show an unexpectedly uplifting visual language that reflected the love in the story, which was anchored by the care between Kristen (played as a child by Matilda Lawler and as an adult by Mackenzie Davis) and Jeevan (Himesh Patel), who took her in. The night Jeevan became Dr. Chaudhary was one of this year’s most remarkable TV feats. –Kelly Connolly

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