Now that TV is like mainly an online content farm, we had more franchise shows than ever in 2022. And of those, so goddman many of them were prequels. From Rings of Power and House of the Dragon to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, you couldn’t give a geek a swirly without a prequel gurgling up to the surface. Makes me wanna puke. I have historically been opposed to this approach, deriding these stories as unnecessarily filling in gaps that were better left vacant. But you know what? Far and away my favorite shows from 2022 were prequels. Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf? Or maybe good stories are about the journey and not the destination? Oh, wait, I’ve got it: I’m just a hack shill. Someone’s always playing corporation games and who cares, they’re always changing corporation names.
Still in My Queue
For All Mankind
The White Lotus
House of the Dragon
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
What We Do in the Shadows
I really love this British game show about comedians doing inane tasks in clever ways. Like many folks outside the UK who discovered Taskmaster during the pandemic, I was thrilled to hear that the show had grown big enough in popularity to launch its own streaming service. And then I found out that it was slowly releasing old episodes and that the content from 2022 still isn’t available there. I know there’s probably exclusivity contracts preventing these episodes from legally leaving Great Britain faster, but that sucks! I always want to support art in the way the artist asks me to, and I just don’t have that kind of patience with Taskmaster. I need my fix! 2022 gave us two phenomenal series, a second “Champion of Champions” special, and, to wrap it all up, another “New Year’s Treat” which, thanks to time zones, counts. I would have said the series 13 cast was one of the strongest the show ever had, but then the series 14 cast was even better. I came for the highly anticipated Dara Ó Briain/Sarah Millican showdown but I stayed to watch Fern Brady be exhausted, Munya Chawawa be charming, and John Kearns become my spirit animal. If you haven’t checked this show out yet, you must at least give it a try. Your time starts now!
This was only the second year of Marvel doing television shows and yet somehow everyone is already exhausted — including me. I guess a whole phase has come and gone since the Infinity Saga ended and it feels like we don’t have much to show for it. They made all those movies and shows but they didn’t come together into anything, so, like, what’s the point? A tough question that maybe Phase 5 can answer starting [checks notes] in five weeks when Quantumania comes out?! Oh boy. Well, if Marvel is going to use over-saturation to decline into irrelevance, I hope they find more opportunities to do it as irreverently as She-Hulk did. This show was at its best when it leaned into the Attorney at Law subtitle and let itself be a legal comedy set in a world full of super heroes and villains. That’s all I ever wanted it to be and when it was it made me happy. It’s pretty funny to watch a show predict and parody its critics in real time.
Lower Decks grabbed my attention because it had some awesome improvisers like Tawny Newsome and Eugene Cordero in its cast but Star Trek apathy due to Discovery and Picard led me to hang up my subscription to CBS All Access and forget it existed. But that was a years ago, the service is called “Paramount Plus” now, and finally a few of the Star Trek shows are actually pretty good! While Strange New Worlds has a lot to offer for TOS fans, Lower Decks is the show for people who love TNG era. Any season one wrinkles have long since been ironed out and Orville be damned, this is the show for people who loved Picard and Sisko and Janeway to geek out at. I mean, look at that screenshot. That’s Kelsey Grammer’s character from TNG! Lower Decks gets the appeal of this universe more than any other project from the Kurtzman era and it wrings its comedy out of what feels like genuine admiration for the franchise as opposed to irony or edginess or whatever. Basically, Star Trek has its own Harley Quinn and I’m here for it.
The logical consequence of having consistently played Final Fantasy XIV for more than a year is that I’m back on that anime bullshit. The shows I like are extremely popular, as I found out by the staggering amount of SPYxFAMILY merch I saw on display at Uwajimaya and anywhere else that has imported collectables. And I’m tempted to pick some of those goodies up because this is such an adorable show! The story of a spy, a psychic, and an assassin all agreeing to pretend to be a family sounds more like a setup for crazy action but it’s all actually pretty low-stakes comedy. Basically what if The Americans was cute? Season one just ended and we’re due for a second plus a movie in 2023 so now’s the perfect time to jump on. I hope they get to play more sports because whenever they do it’s just the best.
I’ve got to admit, until I watched The Dropout, I didn’t grasp the importance of the Elizabeth Holmes controversy. I dismissed it as another tech startup that got overvalued, went belly up, and pissed off its investors. It’s embarrassing that I just didn’t grasp how many people Theranos hurt by misrepresenting its technology. So thanks to this show (and presumably the podcast its based on) for that. But it’s actually the stuff with the investors that’s stuck with me the most. The way people can greedily, easily accept a lie is one thing, I was prepared for that. But watching how hard it was for them to believe that they’d been lied to was heartbreaking. If such an obvious fraud can have such staunch defenders, no wonder politics in our country are so fucked up.
Now for more even Ebon Moss-Bachrach! Between The Dropout, The Bear, and a third show later on this list he had a remarkable year. So: the stressful sandwich show. America loves shows about demanding workplaces so it’s weird there haven’t been more dramas set in restaurants up to this point. Just like detectives, lawyers, and doctors, I’m glad we have chefs and also that I don’t have to be one.
The more I watched The Rehearsal the less I laughed. I don’t mean this in anyway to be an insult or a complaint, just the reality that the more surreal this experiment became, the more uncomfortable I got. In the end, I genuinely don’t know who were and were not actors. I don’t take the show at face value but how much of The Rehearsal was real? Was any of it? Should I feel bad for Nathan Fielder’s unwitting victims? Or should I be impressed that performers did such a convincing job? No idea. I guess that’s part of what makes it compelling television… The other part is that it is really funny though. Any time Nathan was walking around with his strap-on laptop I was happy.
This latest season of Barry had such a frantic unpredictability to it that I can’t help but hold it in high esteem. I believe this will be remembered as the series’ high watermark. Bill Hader and company took the elements that made Barry‘s best episodes memorable and poured them into every weekly panic attack as Barry’s moronically constructed life came crumbling down. That freeway chase!
2022 gave us The Book of Boba Fett, which was mediocre save a couple of quality Mandalorian episodes hidden in there, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, which really struggled to justify its own existence outside of fan-service. So I wasn’t really looking forward to another Star War prequel about a guy who died in a different prequel, especially since it was going to be like twice as many episodes as these shows typically are. Then I watched it and I was gobsmacked to find out that Disney+ had made a Star Wars show about how normal people become radicalized. George Lucas had always wanted this saga to be about the evils of capitalism, imperialism, and fascism, and Andor finally foregrounds those ideas. The four-episode arc about the prison industrial complex is basically my new favorite Star Wars movie.
A lot of shows that start with “B” this time. Two years and one scary on-set heart attack after the end of season five, Better Call Saul returned to finish what Breaking Bad started way back in 2008. The final batch of episodes managed not only to bring a satisfying (albeit often heartbreaking) conclusion to its many plot lines, but along the way totally re-contextualized the original series from which it was birthed. I mean, obviously scenes with Saul and Mike are going to feel different as they went from supporting players to stars, but even Walt and Jesse can now be looked at in a different light thanks to what Better Call Saul did. That top-notch storytelling was consistently elevated by tremendous, resonant performances (Rhea Seehorn for all the awards please); stunning, innovative photography; and, for my money, the best editing on television. It’s a relief to hear that Vince Gilligan’s next project is something totally new, because right now his ABQniverse is pretty much perfect.