The 20 Best TV Shows of 2022

Incredible farewells. Miraculous debuts. Expensive high-concept franchises and intimate character studies. A whole lot of outstanding TV defined 2022.

PERHAPS THE YEAR in television should be defined by goodbyes, as three all-time classic series all wrapped up their runs in beautiful, appropriate fashion. Perhaps it should be defined by hellos, as 2022 saw some absolutely fantastic debuts of shows that were like nothing else on TV. Maybe it was a year of franchise reinventions, as a couple of iconic properties somehow felt new again with a pair of very different series? Or maybe we should just say that this was a great, great year, where each of the top four shows in this year’s top 20 list would have a convincing argument to be the best show on any number of past lists.

15. Ramy (Hulu)

It was a busy year for Ramy Youssef. In addition to writing, directing, and starring in a third season of his self-titled Hulu dramedy, he also co-created the excellent Netflix series Mo, which could just as easily have been on this list. (Hey Netflix, order a second season already!) Season Three found the fictional Ramy making bank as a diamond dealer, even as his parents and sister were struggling both monetarily and spiritually. But a financially flush Ramy is still a narcissistic, obliviously harmful Ramy. The new episodes smartly used everyone’s changed circumstances to find different ways to explore the series’ questions about faith, morality, assimilation, and less high-minded pursuits. (One episode spends a lot of time talking about the feasibility of a poop transplant, after all.) A great show, albeit one that can sometimes be difficult to sit through when Ramy and the others are behaving badly.

Everything old is new again in broadcast network comedy, where 2022 saw a bevvy of promising new series drawing inspiration from some of the best sitcoms of the 2010s. By far the best of these has been Abbott Elementary, which transplants The Office/Parks and Recreation formula into a resource-starved Philadelphia school. Abbott surrounds creator/star Quinta Brunson’s pathologically optimistic young teacher Janine with a host of killer supporting performances, including Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph as an aristocratic veteran, Lisa Ann Walter as a shady second grade teacher, Janelle James as a principal who cares more about her side hustles, Chris Perfetti as a cripplingly woke idealist, and Tyler James Williams as a new teacher who can’t stop shooting Jim Halpert-esque looks of disbelief at the mockumentary cameras. It arrived fully formed and has only gotten funnier in its second season.

This thriller uses a sci-fi conceit — corporate drones volunteer to have their memories of their work and home lives separate, essentially turning them into two different people sharing one body — as a scathing, often terrifying commentary on how out-of-whack work-life balance has become in the 21st century. This strange idea is brought to life by unnerving production design, by Ben Stiller’s assured direction, and by superb performances by Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and more. Now let’s all celebrate that great first season with a Music Dance Experience featuring defiant jazz!