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With the number of scripted shows premiering in 2022 approaching 600, it’s no wonder that your friendly neighborhood THR TV critics have done Top 10 lists — Daniel Fienberg’s Top 10 and Angie Han’s Top 10 — with an additional 10 honorably mentioned shows apiece, plus a list of great episodes from shows that didn’t make either of our Top 10 lists. But we still have tons of TV that we want to honor as we near 2022. Well, honor and also “honor.” They can’t all be winners.
Welcome to our TV superlatives of 2022.
Most TV: Stranger Things
One could make the argument that previous seasons of Stranger Things had more humor or heart, but nobody can say that the fourth season shortchanged viewers on, well … running time? The nine-episode run, notable for introducing young viewers to Metallica and Kate Bush, started off with episodes of over 70 minutes, which seemed like a lot for a show that premiered back in 2016 with a bunch of cute 40-minute episodes. But the season finale? 142 minutes. That, dear friends, is not a normal running time for a TV episode! — DANIEL FIENBERG
Most Accent: Anna Delvey’s German-Russian-Euro mish-mash in Inventing Anna
Of all Anna’s oddities (like, you know, her habit of scamming basically every single person she meets), perhaps the most striking was that accent. You know the one: It’s a peculiar mix of German and Russian, sprinkled with affectations picked up from all over the European continent and finished with a heavy coating of vocal fry. It’s impossible to place, difficult to understand and even harder to stop paying attention to. Just like Anna Delvey herself. — ANGIE HAN
Best Episode of a Bad TV Show: “Silenced,” Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
We didn’t do a superlative for “Worst Title,” which would have come down to the pointlessly punny So Help Me Todd and the bizarrely repetitive Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. But Dahmer deserves mention for Ryan Murphy and company’s protestations that they made the show not to fixate on Jeffrey Dahmer but to give voice to the people impacted by his crimes, only to begin the series with five episodes fixated on Jeffrey Dahmer. “Silenced,” though, is a tremendous showcase for Niecy Nash’s Glenda, and for one hour, it’s the show Murphy thought he was making. — D.F.
Most Invested Performance in a Show Nobody Invested in: Chiwetel Ejiofor in The Man Who Fell to Earth
Showtime made some strange choices when it came to IP-mining this year. American Gigolo? Let the Right One In? A 1976 Nicolas Roeg cult classic with no contemporary footprint? One thing’s for sure: Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an intense, intensely funny, spectacularly physical performance that … nobody saw. It should have been an Emmy slam dunk instead of a swift cancelation. — D.F.
Best Argument for Superhero Sex: Daredevil and She-Hulk in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Admittedly, we don’t actually see much of Daredevil and She-Hulk in the bedroom; this is still a Disney+ show, after all. But their encounter does serve as a satisfying climax (pun very much intended) to a fun and flirty episode that saw the two Marvel faves going at it first in the courtroom as lawyers, then in the field as superheroes — and Matt’s walk of shame the morning after makes for a perfect little cherry on top. — A.H.
Worst Argument for Superhero Sex: Termite in The Boys
It’s all fun and games until your incredible shrinking sex partner accidentally sneezes himself back to full size while still inside your penis, exploding your guts all over the room in the process. — A.H.
Most Flattering Dick Pics: The centerfold casting session in Minx
Between Cameron stripping down on The White Lotus, Tommy Lee’s chats with his Jason Mantzoukas-voiced johnson on Pam & Tommy, and whatever those Euphoria kids are up to these days, dicks were all over the small screen in 2022. But perhaps no single scene this year celebrated them more enthusiastically than the casting call in the premiere episode of Minx, which showcased the organ in all its varied glory as dozens of men lined up for the shot at a centerfold. “Not all wieners are the same, babes,” Bambi rightfully insists, and it’s those pearls of sex-positive wisdom we’ll miss now that the series has been axed by HBO Max. — A.H.
Best Argument for Media Consolidation: “The Goof Who Sat By the Door,” Atlanta
You don’t often hear the “pro” case for monopolistic corporate consolidation, but if Disney hadn’t gobbled up FX, it’s hard to imagine Donald Glover and company being able to dedicate an entire episode of the final season of Atlanta to a mockumentary about “the Blackest movie of all time,” A Goofy Movie. The follow-up to this brilliant half-hour of satire might have been another half-hour about the conversations between Glover, FX legal and Disney legal that allowed the episode to exist at all. — D.F.
Best Aging: House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon‘s choice to swap out two of its lead actors in the middle of its first season might have been a disastrous one, especially amid a timeline that tended to leap forward by years at a time. Thank the gods, then, for Olivia Cooke’s ability to pick up the rapidly hardening Alicent Hightower exactly where Emily Carey left off, and especially for Emma D’Arcy’s knack for picking up Rhaenyra’s irrepressible spirit, as established by Milly Alcock. — A.H.
Worst Aging: For All Mankind
The alt-history conceit of For All Mankind forgives a lot of chronological oddities (apparently, Russia getting to the moon first somehow results in Apple launching iPods earlier?), but there is simply no explaining why a bunch of people who should be well into their 60s by 1995 look more or less exactly the same as they did in their 30s and 40s in 1969. — A.H.
Weirdest Handling of Off-Screen Adversity: Jeff Garlin’s The Goldbergs exit
Behind-the-scenes misbehavior led ABC’s The Goldbergs to first turn Jeff Garlin’s Murray from a key cast regular into a largely isolated afterthought. Then he departed the show (or was departed), they had to find ways to write around his absence and even CGed his face into his on-screen daughter’s wedding procession. Finally, they killed the character off in voiceover over a close-up of his chair in the pre-credit sequence to the season 10 premiere. — D.F.
Best Response to “That Show’s Still On?” Sarcasm: “Lisa the Boy Scout,” The Simpsons
How many shows can claim that their 731st episode was their best? None, probably, but in a tremendous piece of meta noodling, The Simpsons delivered a classic episode early in the show’s 34th season, an assembly of “unreleased” clips from subplots deemed embarrassing or damaging for the show. It’s not quite on the “22 Short Films About Springfield” level, but it’s far closer than any show so complacently mocked for being long-in-the-tooth has any right to achieve. — D.F.
Oddest Promotional Flex: Taylor Sheridan claiming he wrote the Tulsa King pilot in less than 24 hours
Taylor Sheridan has somewhere between five and 73 shows currently in development at Paramount+, a service that basically wouldn’t exist without the Yellowstone auteur. But just because we know he’s a busy man with lots of deadlines doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to boast about how fast he wrote an episode of TV as reliant on tropes and clichés as the Sylvester Stallone mob comedy. — D.F.
Best Yellowstone Prequel That Isn’t a Yellowstone Prequel: The English
Nestled historically somewhere between 1883 and 1923, Hugo Blick’s The English has nothing to do with the Duttons. But its examination of Manifest Destiny, particularly what happens when ingrained human viciousness and the wide open spaces of Middle America clash, could easily be part of Taylor Sheridan’s ever-expanding television universe. Only the Emily Blunt/Chaske Spencer drama is much, much, much better. — D.F.
Best Ships: Our Flag Means Death
Say what you will about Stede’s suitability for pirate life — his Revenge actually seems like an awesome place to work, at least by the standards of 18th-century marauders unused to regular salaries and mental health check-ins. And it’s aboard that ship that we got another wonderful kind of ship: Stede’s romance with Blackbeard, which surely gives Heartstopper‘s Nick and Charlie a run for their money as the cutest courtship of 2022. — A.H.
Best Worst Ship: Syril and Dedra in Andor
The Star Wars galaxy is no stranger to toxic romances (ahem, Padmé and Anakin), but has there ever been a pairing more perfectly cursed than Syril the bootlicker and Dedra the bureaucrat? Emphasis on “perfect,” because as repulsive as we find the thought of these two creeps finding joy and pleasure together to be, we can’t deny that they completely and utterly deserve each other. At least Andor spared us the discomfort of watching them smooch this season. Presumably, they’re saving that nightmare for season two. — A.H.
Best Worst Dance Party: “Defiant Jazz” in Severance
There are awkward office parties, and then there are awkward “five-minute music-dance experiences” led by a manager whose broad smile and enthusiastic dance moves can’t cover his seething sense of menace. Dylan has his reasons for biting Mr. Milchick bloody at the end of it, to be sure — but TBH, the creepiness of the whole experience might have been reason to snap in itself. — A.H.
Most Valuable Voiceover: Lizzy Caplan on Fleishman Is in Trouble
Few shows have ever relied as heavily on voiceover as Hulu’s FX-produced adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel, which can feel like a crutch, except when you have an actress as expressive and attuned to tone as Lizzy Caplan. The Masters of Sex veteran makes Libby an emotionally nuanced piece of the show’s ensemble when she might otherwise have felt like an off-screen afterthought. — D.F.
Most Overtold Story: Anything related to the Los Angeles Lakers
Is it too much to ask cable and streaming executives to share notes so that we don’t get a single year in which we have a scripted show about Magic Johnson and Jerry Buss and the rise of the Lakers dynasty (HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty); a documentary about Magic Johnson and the rise of the Lakers dynasty (Apple TV+’s They Call Me Magic); a documentary about the Buss family and the rise of the ’80s and ’00s Lakers dynasties (Hulu’s Legacy: The True Story of the Lakers); and a documentary about Shaquille O’Neal and the rise of the ’00s Lakers dynasty (HBO’s Shaq) in less than nine months? — D.F.
Most Overtold Story Somehow Still Retold Pretty Well: Batman’s origins on Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn was never going to be able to make Batman’s origin story feel totally new again — we’ve simply seen it too many times already for that. Instead, the show turned that familiarity into a weapon, wielding it as an unexpected and ultimately heartbreaking symbol of Batman’s inability to move on from the trauma that derailed his childhood. Harley Quinn being Harley Quinn, it did all this while paying homage to the character’s long pop culture life, and poking fun at his totally clueless privilege. — A.H.
Surprise Foodie Show: The Patient
The idea of a serial killer with gourmand tendencies isn’t new — Hannibal, anyone? — but the most surprising thing about Domhnall Gleeson’s character in The Patient isn’t that he’s so good at killing people and getting away with it, but rather that he’s so good at ordering takeout. Greek! Thai! Indian! Steve Carell’s character may be chained in a partially finished basement, but at least he gets to eat well. — D.F.
Sweetest Subplot: Marcus’ donuts on The Bear
While most of the Original Beef staff was screaming at each other over open flames, Marcus spent the season poring over cookbooks and tinkering with fillings on a one-man quest to create the perfect donut. The Bear wasn’t exactly what you’d call a gentle show, but in Marcus’ experimentations, it found some (literally) sweet moments of peace. — A.H.
Least Heeded Warnings About Tech CEOs: Super Pumped, The Dropout and WeCrashed
If Elon Musk‘s disastrous takeover of Twitter was one of the biggest business stories of 2022, it was one heavily foreshadowed by a trio of shows warning against shady, volatile tech CEOs with more ego than sense. How long before Musk joins fellow “visionaries” Travis Kalanick, Elizabeth Holmes and Adam Neumann as the inspiration for his own star-studded, ripped-from-the-headlines prestige limited series? — A.H.
Best Thing We Keep Telling You Is One of the Best Things: Opening credits of Pachinko
Have we mentioned how much we love the opening credits of Pachinko? Oh, we have? Well, let us mention it once again: We love the opening credits of Pachinko. With apologies to all the other zillion-plus hours of television that came out this year, these 82 seconds — with its toe-tapping tune by the Grass Roots, its neon-lit backdrop and its parade of dancing cast members — may just have been the most joyous of them all. — A.H.
Biggest Asshole: John Paul Williams in Bad Sisters
The task faced by Sharon Horgan and the Bad Sisters team is a difficult one: How do you keep sympathy on the side of a group of sisters trying to kill one of their husbands even after a half-dozen assassination attempts, complete with collateral damage? Fortunately, Claes Bang’s John Paul Williams is one of the most delightfully murderable characters in fictional history, a distressingly believable assemblage of toxic traits and supercilious attitude, so abusive and monstrous and manipulative that he somehow can’t be killed nearly enough — which is fortunate since the sisters aren’t so great at murder. — D.F.
Biggest Hole: Josh Brolin in Outer Range
What? He’s got a huge hole on his ranch! That’s the whole plot of the show! JEEZ. Get your mind out of the gutter. Or out of the gigantic cosmic hole on Josh Brolin’s Wyoming ranch. — D.F.
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