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The Lord of the Rings
Photograph: Ben Rothstein/Prime VideoMorfydd Clark as Galadriel in ‘The Lord of the Rings’

The 22 best TV and streaming shows of 2022 (so far)

From ‘Severance’ to ‘The Lord of the Rings’: the streaming series you did not want to miss

Phil de Semlyen
Edited by
Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Time Out contributors
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It was the year that streaming and TV supersized itself. The mûmakil in the room was Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings, which raised the bar for enormo-budgeted home viewing that no one else could possibly compete with. Then HBO’s disappointing Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, came along and asked it to hold its poisoned barley beer, marrying big-scale intrigue with alarming amounts of Targaryen incest. The Star Wars universe swelled still further with three new spinoff series, the best of which, Andor, was up there with anything on the small screen in 2022.

But you didn’t need orcs and dragons to deliver the goods. Released in the US mid-summer, Hulu’s majestic restaurant dramedy The Bear subjected its UK audience to an agonising wait that proved more than worth it when it finally dropped in October. Severance, a dystopian office-based reminder of why working from home rules, mixed chilly sci-fi beats with a pointed investigation of our one-sided relationship with capitalism, Guillermo del Toro opened his freaky, spooky Cabinet of Curiosities and The Boys returned to rip the ever-living piss out of superhero infatuation – and explode some more heads. What a year. Seriously, why did we ever go outside?

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Best TV and streaming 2022

The Bear (Hulu/Disney+) 
Foto: Disney+

1. The Bear (Hulu/Disney+) 

Volatile Italian-American cousins confronted their demons, each other and a malfunctioning Chicago beef sandwich shop in a pathos-filled and dryly funny HBO show that came to the boil in its anxiety-inducing seventh episode. It was there that the tension between Jeremy Allen White’s once world-renowned chef, Carmy Berzatto, the uncontrollable world around him and his grief at his brother’s suicide exploded in a flurry of unfilled takeway orders and meltdowns among his put-upon team. The acting was note perfect throughout, with Ayo Edebiri stealing entire episodes as Carmy’s gifted, no-bullshit sous chef Sydney and Jeremy Allen White and Girls’ Ebon Moss-Bachrach ludicrously charismatic as those bickering cousins. As an interrogation of modern masculinity, and the nurturing qualities of good food and real kinship, it was five-star viewing. Roll on season two. Heck, roll on season three, too.—Phil de Semlyen

Andor (Disney+)
Des Willie

2. Andor (Disney+)

The best Star Wars series so far – with an honourable mention to The MandalorianAndor eschewed the kind of go-nowhere fan service that’s blighted so many of the recent movies and TV spin-offs in favour of progressive storytelling, pin-sharp writing and immaculate casting. The worldbuilding tends not to be a problem with these series, but it was especially strong in Andor. Following Diego Luna’s loner thief from Morlana One to Aldhani to the prison moon of Narkina 5, Andor charted the galaxy’s pre-Vader, pre-Rogue One days as bureaucracy slowly turns into tyranny – and how the resistance took shape against it. Props to showrunner Tony Gilroy for shaking off the memory of Obi-Wan Kenobi (inessential) and The Book of Boba Fett (baaad) with one of the most politically vital shows on telly. One climactic monologue, written by House of Cards’ Beau Willimon and delivered by Stellan Skarsgård, crystalised the cost and spirit of the Rebellion better than anything in the entire franchise.—Phil de Semlyen

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Severance (Apple TV+) 
Photograph: Apple TV+

3. Severance (Apple TV+) 

Finally, someone asked the question: What if Office Space was really, really serious? The answer looked like this arresting piece of contemporary sci-fi set in a world where a person’s work brain is severed from the rest of their consciousness. Kafka himself would have struggled to conjure up a scenario so bleakly redolent of late capitalist exploitation, with Adam Scott’s worker bee able to shed his grief for his late wife every day to achieve maximum productivity for the nebulous but sinister Lumon Industries. Whether enjoyed as a slowburn conspiracy thriller, a hypnotic journey through a starkly designed corporate dystopia or just a show in which Christopher Walken delivers some magnificent line readings, Severance was a great reason to take the plunge and pony up for Apple TV+. Because nothing bad happens at Apple.—Phil de Semlyen

Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone (BBC)
Photograph: BBC

4. Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone (BBC)

As aficionados of cult filmmaker Adam Curtis will tell you, this restlessly creative documentarian has variously used collages, voiceovers and nicely curated soundtracks to bring his subjects to life. None were present in the BBC’s severe but gripping Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone. This time, he stitched together film footage, depicting the normal citizenry of the collapsing Soviet Union: from sex workers to reindeer herders to striking miners to Chernobyl scientists. The scenes are long and overlaid with explanatory text – no voiceover required. They sit with you in all their captivating bleakness. And while learning all about the murky milieu that gave rise to Vlad the Bad, you end up sympathising with the normal people of Russia who have never been able to live in a functioning democracy.—Huw Oliver

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Bad Sisters (Apple TV+) 
Photograph: Apple TV+

5. Bad Sisters (Apple TV+) 

Sharon Horgan was one of four Irish sisters scheming to bump off their toxic brother-in-law (aka ‘the Prick’) and save their bullied sis (Anne-Marie Duff) from her own personal hell in this Irish redo of Flemish series Clan. The poisoned apple in the year’s fruit bowl of TV goodness, it was a black comedy that was equally adept at sketching out a LOL-worthy portrait of sweary sisterdom as in delivering its more macabre moments (murder, gaslighting, insurance fraud, dead pets). Which made it feel a bit like the bastard offspring of Shallow Grave and Father Ted – in the best way. Claes Bang was brilliantly hateable as The Prick, while the opening credits sequence, set to a PJ Harvey cover of Leonard Cohen, was a doozy too.—Phil de Semlyen

Better Call Saul season 6 (AMC/Netflix)
Photograph: Michele K Short

6. Better Call Saul season 6 (AMC/Netflix)

Claims that it was better than the seminal Breaking Bad felt hyperbolic, but there was no denying the edgy embrace of this constantly surprising prequel series. Bob Odenkirk’s comeback from a near-fatal heart attack made us all love him even more, while his craft elevated well-intentioned lawyer Jimmy McGill’s morally crushing transformation into shyster attorney Saul Goodman in all kinds of mesmerising ways in the AMC show’s sign-off season.—Phil de Semlyen

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Pachinko (Apple TV+)
Photograph: Robert Falconer/Apple TV+

7. Pachinko (Apple TV+)

Even without a new season of Ted Lasso, 2022 was a banner year for Apple TV+. Whether its shows were being watched en masse remains between the streamer and its balance sheet, but alongside Severance, Slow Horses and Shining Girls, this 20th century epic was a great reason to sign up. Full of artful compositions and soulfully performed, it charted one Korean family’s life across three generations and a tonne of historical angst.—Phil de Semlyen

Better Things season 5 (FX/BBC)
Photograph: Suzanne Tenner/FX Networks,

8. Better Things season 5 (FX/BBC)

For six straight years there’s been little better or more consistent on TV than Pamela Adlon’s single camera domestic dramedy about a working actor (played with warmth but minimal bullshit by Adlon herself) who juggles three smart daughters, life in Hollywood and some awkward relationships with men in an savvy alternative sitcom that continued to be touchy, sharply funny and brilliantly observed in its final season.—Phil de Semlyen

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Euphoria season 2 (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Photograph: HBO

9. Euphoria season 2 (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

Buzzy in just about every sense, season two of Euphoria delivered another radically contemporary season about a middle-class teenager (Zendaya) struggling with addiction. Showrunner Sam Levinson has a knack for touching your heart while walloping your synapses at the same time: the most edgy moment can make you laugh; the most sordid situation may contain a ray of tenderness. A bit like life itself.—María José Gómez

Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (Netflix) 
Photograph: Netflix © 2022

10. Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (Netflix) 

This three-episode documentary was the story of the music festival that went horribly wrong. The event, Woodstock ’99, promised to channel the spirit of its late ’60s hippy counterpart, but in full Fyre-fest fashion, it became a ‘Lord of the Flies’-style catastrophe. Netflix’s post mortem was a grimly fascinating study of human nature that offered an unsettling reminder of the amount of trust we give away, almost without thought, on a daily basis.—Chiara Wilkinson

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime)
Photograph: Amazon Studios

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime)

It’s no mean feat to take one of the best-loved books in the world and find surprises within its appendices, but showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay managed it for Amazon’s glossy fantasy. The whole ‘Who is Sauron?’ question added suspense to the season, but it was the superb cast and design team that earned it a place alongside Peter Jackson’s trilogy.—Helen O’Hara

Station Eleven (HBO Max/Lionsgate+)
Photograph: HBO

12. Station Eleven (HBO Max/Lionsgate+)

For a series in which a fast-moving flu extinguishes human society, HBO Max’s Station Eleven burst with the warmth of human reconnection. The post-pandemic narrative mainly follows Kirsten (Tully’s Mackenzie Davis), part of a travelling troupe of performers, but its soul shines in the flashbacks to the flu’s immediate aftermath, where her eight-year-old self (Matilda Lawler) and kind stranger Jeevan (the ace Himesh Patel) try to find purpose in the face of trauma.—Michael Juliano 

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Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix)
Photograph: Ken Woroner/Netflix

13. Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix)

Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro gathered extraordinary directorial talent for these weird fables, and frames them all, Hitchcock-style. From the gonzo humour of Ana Lily Amirpour’s ‘The Outside’ to the heartbreak of Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Murmuring’, it ran the gamut: from eeriness to full-on terror, with gore and gorgeous Gothic touches, monsters and magic.—Helen O’Hara

What We Do in the Shadows season 4 (FX/Disney+) 
Photograph: FX

14. What We Do in the Shadows season 4 (FX/Disney+) 

Jemaine Clement’s mockumentary about a group of incompetent vampires navigating life in modern-day America invited us back into its crypt for a fourth season that had the crew regrouping in their decaying Staten Island mansion. As ever, the show’s joys came in its  mix of horror lore with the banalities of day-to-day life in the city, And obviously, Matt Berry’s reinvention of speech itself as the perma-horny Laszlo. Altogetheer now: ‘New. York. Cit-ay!’—Phil de Semlyen

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The Boys season 3 (Amazon Prime)
Photograph: Amazon Studios

15. The Boys season 3 (Amazon Prime)

The Boys were back this year and just as violent, gory, offensive and very, very funny as ever. It’s the anti-superhero show, literally, because it’s about a government sanctioned squad of superhero killers. Karl Urban’s Cockney accent was once again the worst thing on earth, and yet somehow still brilliant. This year’s third season ramped up the drama, gore and hilarity, creating fast-paced, clever, but also totally stupid TV that was absolutely perfect.—Eddy Frankel

Shining Girls (Apple TV+)
Photograph: Apple TV+

16. Shining Girls (Apple TV+)

Elisabeth Moss shone in this chilling adaptation of Lauren Beukes’s time-travel serial-killer novel. She plays Kirby, a newspaper researcher living in Chicago who survives a horrific attack by a serial killer (Jamie Bell), only to discover a string of connected murders dating back decades. Mind-bending and complex, this underrated murder-mystery flew under the radar on Apple TV+.—Alim Kheraj

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She-Hulk (Disney+)
Photograph: Marvel Studios

17. She-Hulk (Disney+)

Call her Avenger McBeal: a lawyer inconvenienced by superpowers and trying to negotiate her dating life and professional challenges while merrily breaking the fourth wall regularly. Tatiana Maslany made for a delightful heroine, even when she was 7’ tall and green. The series had welcome feminist meat on its funny bones, too, and proved perhaps the most daring Marvel outing yet.—Helen O’Hara

Slow Horses (Apple TV+)
Photograph: Apple TV+

18. Slow Horses (Apple TV+)

Good books often make crap TV, but this adaptation of Mick Herron’s London-set spy series really nailed the novels’ atmosphere. The dreary rain-washed locations are spot-on and Gary Oldman is a brilliantly sleazy Jackson Lamb, a square-peg spymaster looking after an office of MI5 copybook-blotters. With a second series about to drop, it was a nag well worth having a punt on.—Chris Waywell

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Half Bad: The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself (Netflix)
Photograph: Teddy Cavendish/Netflix

19. Half Bad: The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself (Netflix)

Based on Sally Green’s popular YA novels, Netflix’s fantasy drama was a rare example of an adaptation that outshines the source material. It follows Nathan, the titular bastard of a Blood Witch, as he goes on the run from the antagonistic Fairborn Witches. We came for the queer romance and bloody, heart-thumping action, and stayed for the smart, thinky meditation on nature versus nurture.—Alim Kheraj

The Sandman (Netflix)
Photograph: Netflix © 2022

20. The Sandman (Netflix)

Gods, monsters and the personification of universal forces: they’re just like us. That was the basic message of Neil Gaiman’s sprawling epic brought to life on Netflix, with the character of Dream (Tom Sturridge) unpacking the nature of storytelling itself. Beautifully realised and mythologically dense, it turned out to be much less unfilmable than Hollywood had long believed.—Helen O’Hara

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Ms Marvel (Disney+)
Photograph: Disney+

21. Ms Marvel (Disney+)

It was a small step from super-nerd to superhero for Kamala Khan, aka Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani). With whipsmart writing by British-Pakistani stand-up Bisha K Ali, the show’s focus on Kamala’s family and their Pakistani roots gave it a different feel and energy from the bland Marvel standard – as did the cartoonish flare and teenage enthusiasm. It deserved a much bigger audience.—Helen O’Hara

Julia (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Photograph: HBO

22. Julia (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

In the year Bake Off jumped the meringue shark, we needed to look elsewhere for a feel-good foodie treat – and Julie provided it in great big dollops. Sarah Lancashire followed impressively in Meryl Streep’s formidable footsteps by transforming herself into Julia Childs, an American icon who was blazing a trail for women in both cooking and television decades before Nigella Lawson first flirted with a camera. With comedy sprinkled throughout, Julia was a drama packed full of heart and delicious scran.—Jon Hornbuckle

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