We've reached the halfway point of 2022. It's amazing how time flies. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and the country tearing itself apart at the seams, television has never been more important... especially on the 4th of July.
In honor of our nation's birthday (and a traditionally slow TV week), it's time for my annual Best Shows of the Year Thus Far column. Combined with my weekly Greatest Hits below, this list should keep you fully occupied and entertained in front of your set (or phone or tablet).
This year’s midway-through-the-year list features 3 brand new shows, 3 current series, 2 final seasons, 1 stand-up special and 1 reality adaptation. I've previously written about all these programs, but now they're all gathered here in ranked order. Who doesn't love a good Top Ten list?
Without further ado, I present my Best Shows of 2022 So Far...
10. Stranger Things (Netflix) Fresh off their epic season four finale, the kids from Hawkins continue to provide worthwhile adventures in our world and what's below. The Duffer Brothers will never recapture the magic of the first season, but they've done an admirable job making Dungeons & Dragons cool as they create for a cast in the throes of puberty.
9. We Own This City (HBO) It doesn't get more intense than showrunner David Simon and lead actor Jon Bernthal. Ignore all the comparisons to The Wire. This tale of the fate of the Baltimore P.D. Gun Trace Task Force stands on its own.
8. Love On The Spectrum U.S. (Netflix) I have a soft spot for this franchise. Most reality dating shows are contrived, but this tale of autistic individuals trying to find love rings true. It's impossible to not fall in love with those looking for love and their supportive families. It's the most honest dating show on TV (although that bar remains relatively low these days).
7. Severance (Apple TV+) It starts off slow. Deliberately slow. But the payoff in the finale makes it all worthwhile. Severance gives an entirely new meaning to work/life balance. Adam Scott leads the fantastic acting ensemble, and Ben Stiller's direction perpetuates the mystery until the very last shot.
6. Abbott Elementary (ABC) A network sitcom in my elitist Top Ten? You betcha. Quinta Brunson's comedy set in an urban Philly elementary school is funny and poignant. Shows like this and Schitt's Creek remind us that original sitcoms about mostly good-natured people can still work.
5. Rothaniel (HBO) Jerrod Carmichael's intimate delivery in a small New York club where he decides to come out is truly captivating. The material and circumstances are unique, and his performance feels like anything but a stand-up special. Groundbreaking stuff.
4. Hacks (HBO Max) The sophomore jinx was all teed up for this comedy, but Deborah Vance smashed right through it. Lessons learned on the road and self-realizations carry the plot with plenty of good jokes mixed in. All the relationships click (my favorite is the young agent and his overzealous assistant). Can't wait for season three.
3. Better Things (FX) After five seasons, Sam Fox ends her reign as the epitome of cool living the LA single mom life. This touching comedy came to an end in such a natural way. All three kids and most of the family grew in unexpected ways, and Sam is going to be okay. Pamela Adlon is masterful both in front and behind the camera.
2. Better Call Saul (AMC) The most frustrating part of watching this masterpiece is waiting for the final episodes. Split seasons drive me nuts. The transformation of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman to Gene Takovic is almost complete. Overdue Emmy nominee Rhea Seehorn continues to put on a clinic as Kim Wexler, whose fate is one of the few that's actually undetermined. Forget about this being a Breaking Bad prequel - it's a dramatic marvel all its own.
1. Barry (HBO) The darkest comedy of the year is my favorite TV show at the midpoint of 2022. Bill Hader is anything but wacky in the third season of this "comedy." Every aspect of this show clicks this season. The acting, directing, writing... you name it. Barry never shies away from honest storytelling which generates actual consequences for those who do nasty things. No fins in sight for Henry Winkler. :)
Here's what else is worth watching this week…
Black Bird (NETFLIX) Friday, July 8th
Taron Edgerton stars as a convicted drug dealer willing to do anything to avoid a long-term prison stint. All he has to do is enter a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane, befriend an alleged serial killer, and get him to confess.
This six-part thriller was adapted by Dennis Lehane who penned the Oscar winning Mystic River. It's a psychological thriller with plenty of mind games which also features Ray Liotta in his final TV role.
Trigger Point (Peacock) Saturday, July 8th
Bomb disposal experts combat terrorist threats in London in this six-part British drama. Watch trailer.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT! (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular (NBC) – Fireworks on TV? God Bless America. Monday at 8 PM ET
GREATEST HITS (Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)
This Week's Pick: Downton Abbey (Peacock) – Downton is not for everyone, but this is one entertaining show. I wrote the same words about Banshee last week, but this British gem couldn't be more different. From the opening piano chords and catching sight of the beautiful estate, all residents of the Earl of Grantham's residence are irresistible. There's plenty of conflict, humor, and fantastic accents to enjoy.
Previous Picks: Banshee (HBO Max) Police Squad! (Prime Video) Party Down (Starz) Dexter (Showtime) Alias (Hulu/Disney+) The Great (Hulu) Atypical (Netflix) Sherlock (PBS) Magic City (Peacock) Imposters (Netflix) Episodes (Showtime/Hulu) For All Mankind (Apple TV+) Abbott Elementary (ABC) Damages (Hulu) Luther (HBO Max) Downton Abbey (Netflix) Justified (Hulu) The Good Wife (Paramount+) Freaks & Geeks (Hulu) Patriot (Prime Video Prime Video) Battlestar Galactica (Peacock) The Split (Prime Video) Bordertown (Netflix) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!