The best TV shows of 2022 from Heartstopper to Sherwood
From coming-of-age tales to disconcerting sci-fi by way of heartwarming comedy – 2022 has definitely been a year to remember in TV.
Here’s a rundown of the television that has made the biggest impact over the last 12 months, in no particular order.
Heartstopper - Netflix
The graphic novels upon which this series is based had already acquired a cult following ahead of this eight-parter dropping on Netflix. But in the months since its TV debut, Heartstopper has become that rare thing: a real phenomenon.
Watch a trailer for Heartstopper
It’s not hard to see why, as the central love story between schoolboys Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) is both charming and an undeniably progressive representation of the LGBTQ+ community. As such, it has won over both its teen target audience and adults, many of whom can’t help but wish that shows such as this had been in existence when they were growing up. A second series is currently in production.
The Bear - Disney+
Few shows hit the ground running with the confidence of Christopher Storer's The Bear. This breathlessly paced drama, set in and around the kitchen of an Italian sandwich shop in Chicago, tells the story of Carmy, a fine dining chef (Jeremy Allen White), who returns to run the family restaurant following the death of his brother.
Read more: The Bear lives up to the hype
Steeped in detail and rich in drama, The Bear unspools at breakneck speed, demanding the audience to keep up with the unruly staff, their kitchen lingo, and a spiralling sense of panic as Carmy gets to grips with the mess left by his bereavement. The bitesize episodes (episode seven, a single take wonder, clocks in at just 22 minutes) will leave you hungry for more, which is handy as a second season is already in development. - TB
This Is Going to Hurt - BBC
Adam Kay’s bestselling account of the chaos faced by NHS staff on a daily basis is brought to life in this laceratingly sharp comedy drama starring a harried Ben Whishaw.
Read more: This Is Going To Hurt is 'most realistic medical drama ever'
Through Whishaw’s rheumy eyes, we witness the small triumphs and sometimes painful tragedies that a junior doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology experiences – sparing us none of the viscera and gore along the way. The job requires Adam to keep his emotions tamped down, but stresses and guilt are soon lying heavily on him. And the lack of support on offer for him and colleague Shruti (Ambika Mod) eventually takes its toll in heart-piercingly raw scenes.
The Newsreader - BBC
This Australian workplace drama almost snuck into the BBC2 schedules and would have passed many people by. But it’s well worth seeking out. At its centre is 1980s’ news anchor Helen Norville (Anna Torv), who’s desperate to have her talent recognised at a commercial TV station. But seemingly stymying her are a veteran co-host and a permanently angry boss.
Then Helen forms a bond with reporter Dale Jennings (Sam Reid), which results in them joining forces to cover such major stories of the decade as the Challenger disaster and the Lindy Chamberlain “dingo ate my baby” case. As we follow in their slipstream, it truly feels as though we’re eavesdropping on the way things would have worked in an ‘80s newsroom.
The White Lotus - Sky
The second season of Mike White's acclaimed comedy drama took his concept — sad rich people trapped by their wealth in a luxury resort — and transposed it to another White Lotus resort, this time in Sicily.
The guests are all new — bar Jennifer Coolidge's scene-stealing Tanya — but the themes of murder, mistrust, toxic masculinity, infidelity, and generational trauma remain, as does the show's streak of jet black humour.
Watch a trailer for The White Lotus S2
Every episode reveals a new twist in the interlocking dramas of the hotel guests with painfully realised levels of cringe. The first season was the most-awarded series at the 2022 Emmys, and we expect the second season to win just as many plaudits come awards season. - TB
Karen Pirie - ITV
Tenacious DS Karen Pirie (Lauren Lyle) is the creation of writer Val McDermid, whose dual timeframe novel The Distant Echo is dramatised here. As the book’s title suggests, events of the past link to the present day, where a newly drafted Pirie heads up a Cold Case team probing the murder of a St Andrews barmaid.
Read more: Karen Pirie writer shares 'bubbling anger' over violence against women
Nothing out of the ordinary there. Especially where ITV’s roster of crime shows is concerned. But the grip this three parter exerts is notably strong – to the extent that we come away feeling that the sparky Pirie is now the successor to Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison. We demand a sequel.
Sherwood - BBC
An ex-mining town in a fractured state is our destination in this terrific drama from writer James Graham. So starry is its cast that a handful of first-rate actors could have vied for top billing, but ostensibly in the central role is David Morrissey, who plays a police superintendent called in to investigate a tragic murder.
Read more: Is Sherwood based on a true story
The big surprise is the reveal of the killer’s identity at an early stage, something that’s certainly not standard procedure in murder mysteries. But this is a series more concerned with depicting a community riven by deep-seated tensions – and is all the richer for it.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? - BritBox
This pacy Agatha Christie adaptation finds vicar’s son Bobby Jones (Will Poulter, soon to be seen in the next Guardians of the Galaxy offering) and confidante Lady Frankie Derwent (Lucy Boynton, also in ITV’s The Ipcress File) teaming up to solve a mystery. Their quest? To discover why a dying man discovered at the foot of cliffs whispered the question being asked in the drama’s title before breathing his last.
Read more Why Didn't They Ask Evans? is a real Easter treat
Let’s hope that BritBox gets the opportunity to make more classy dramas such as this in the wake of its consolidation into the ITVX streaming service.
Bad Sisters - Apple TV+
Five female siblings. An abusive husband. And one murder plot. Mix all these ingredients together and you have this perfectly pitched revenge thriller that’s as comedic as it is inky dark. At its heart is Eva (Sharon Horgan), the eldest sister of the Garvey family, who’s taken care of the rest of her clan since the death of their parents.
And protection is certainly needed when it comes to the second eldest, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), who’s been saddled with a despicable spouse in the form of John Paul (Claes Bang). The trouble is, he’s now dead, and the circumstances of his demise are suspicious to say the least. Enter a dogged insurance agent determined to get to the truth…
The Dropout - Disney+
Dramatised true life stories are ten-a-penny at the moment, but few are as well told as The Dropout. The limited Disney+ series explored the scandal of biotechnology Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, a cautionary tale that exposed the dangers of Silicon Valley's 'fake it until you make it' ethos. Based on the ABC podcast of the same name, it gave a human face to the story of the billion-dollar medical testing company that imploded when the lies at the heart of its technology were exposed.
Amanda Seyfried's performance as Elizabeth Holmes was so good, Jennifer Lawrence pulled out of a film adaptation of the same story because she felt she couldn't compete. - TB
Derry Girls - Channel 4
In an unusual move, writer Lisa McGee gives her beloved creations not one but two send-offs in the final series of her cult comedy. The first is set at Halloween and climaxes with Clare (Nicola Coughlan) reeling from the sudden death of her dad Sean.
But then, even more surprisingly, we get an extended coda set a year later just as Northern Ireland is preparing to vote on the Good Friday agreement. And a montage, accompanied by the plangent sound of Dreams by the Cranberries, sees our characters having their say on the referendum at the polling station. It all makes for a powerful last act filled with reflection, sadness and a definite feeling of hope for the future.
Severance - Apple TV+
Imagine The Office fused with The Prisoner and you have some idea as to the tone of this sci-fi-infused psychological mystery. Adam Scott plays Mark, the leader of a group of corporate employees at a biotech company whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives.
Watch a trailer for Severance
It’s a radical of solving the work-life balance conundrum, to be sure. But all is certainly not as it seems, as we soon discover when Mark starts to uncover an unsettling web of conspiracy. Catch the knotty first season now before the second arrives in 2023.
Big Boys - Channel 4
Jack Rooke emerged as a writer to watch thanks to this bittersweet semi-autobiographical comedy that tells the story of first-year university students Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) and Danny (Jon Pointing), who end up sharing living space in a disused shed thanks to an admin mess-up on campus.
The pair initially appear poles apart: Jack being closeted and 19 years of age, Danny a mature student interested in nights out and pulling women. But over the course of six episodes, the two forge a strong, nurturing friendship, each helping the other with bereavement and mental health issues. The welcome news is that more is coming next year.