TV: Barbara Ellen’s 10 best shows of 2022

Fire-breathing fantasy, hot drama in the kitchen, a tale of five sisters, the wide open plain – and delicious Sicilian excess

1. Sherwood

James Graham’s crime drama, inspired by true events. Set in a Nottinghamshire community still coated in bad blood from the 1980s miners’ strike, it boasted a brilliant cast, including David Morrissey, Lesley Manville and Adeel Akhtar. While there were other true crime-derived successes this year, including Black Bird (Apple TV+), Sherwood fused the personal, political and criminal to devastating effect.

2. The Newsreader

Starring Anna Torv and Sam Reid, Michael Lucas’s quasi-workplace soap about a 1980s Australian TV network hooked on to real-life events, but elsewhere bit deep into sexism, mental fragility and more. Sometimes 80s-set dramas lose their way in a cliched blizzard of Poison perfume and shoulder pads. Not this time.

Anna Torv and Sam Reid in The Newsreader.
Anna Torv and Sam Reid in The Newsreader. ABC Photograph: ABC

3. Myanmar: The Forgotten Revolution
Channel 4

A harrowing Dispatches documentary showing Myanmar’s descent into civil war and human rights atrocities as the world stands back. Katie Arnold’s commanding report incorporated “citizen journalism” such as mobile phone footage, lending it yet more urgency.

4. The Responder

An intense, labyrinthine Merseyside-set crime drama written by former police officer Tony Schumacher, with a transformative lead performance from Martin Freeman. Part-directed by Philip Barantini, it played out as an unsettling, defiantly anti-formulaic long dark night of the soul.

5. The Bear

Christopher Storer’s warm-blooded Chicago-based series starred Jeremy Allen White as a chef returning to a debt-ridden sandwich shop. Complex storytelling, rich characterisation and Anthony Bourdain-esque rock’n’roll brio made for superlative drama with a side order of “human”.

Jeremy Allen White, Lionel Boyce and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in The Bear.
Jeremy Allen White, Lionel Boyce and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in The Bear. FX Networks Photograph: FX Networks

6. Bad Sisters
Apple TV+

Sharon Horgan’s tar-black Irish-set dramedy (based on Flemish series Clan), about sisters tangled up in murder. Like another strong female-led black comedy – Daisy May Cooper and Selin Hizli’s Am I Being Unreasonable? (BBC One) – Bad Sisters managed to be as moving as it was wicked and hilarious.

7. Somewhere Boy
Channel 4

From Pete Jackson, an outsider chiller about a teenager (a superb Lewis Gribben) emerging into the world after being isolated by his father. Beautifully executed, this disturbing, melancholy slow-burn psychological horror lurked in the grey areas where the true monsters are.

8. The White Lotus
Sky Atlantic/Now

Mike White’s return to the White Lotus hotel (this time, in Sicily) didn’t feel like a second series. Cruel, hilarious, audaciously erotic, sumptuously shot, it escalated into a mini-operetta of sex, death and avarice. This was appointment TV that got everyone talking.

Emily Blunt in The English.
‘Equal parts daring, bloodthirsty and absurd’: The English, starring Emily Blunt. © Drama Republic/ BBC/ Amazon Studios Photograph: Diego López Calvín/2022 The English © Drama Republic/BBC/Amazon Studios

9. The English

This year has delivered on flawed, thought-provoking originality, including Apple TV’s Severance (though too chilly/slow for me), Starzplay’s futuristic Station Eleven and Netflix’s unapologetically anarchic Clark. Then along came Hugo Blick’s brutal revisionist western opus, The English, starring Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer. Visually spectacular and equal parts daring, bloodthirsty and absurd, that sound you can hear is the wild west jolting back to life.

10. House of the Dragon
Sky Atlantic

The Game of Thrones-prequel starring Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans and Paddy Considine triumphed in the fantasy franchise-off against the elf blooper reel that was Amazon Prime Video’s The Rings of Power. Dark, vicious, inventive, HOTD not only breathed ratings fire – it arguably restored faith in the entire fantasy genre.


Barbara Ellen

The GuardianTramp

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