WTW's best TV shows of 2022: we pick our favorites

What to Watch best TV shows of 2022
(Image credit: Future)

There is a lot of TV available right now between all the different streaming services and traditional network TV channels, so of course when it came time for What to Watch staffers to pick our best TV shows of 2022, a few really good, big shows were left off the list. This included House of the Dragon, The Rings of Power, Stranger Things season 4, The Watcher, The Old Man and Slow Horses (with both season 1 and season 2 arriving this year).

While it was tough to leave those shows off our final list, here are the 16 TV shows that we have officially deemed our favorites of 2022:

1883

1883 Isabel May as Elsa

Isabel May in 1883 (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

2022 was the year that I finally got into Yellowstone, catching up with Yellowstone seasons 1-4, but also watching the first prequel series involving early generations of the Dutton family, 1883. This limited series (or anthology depending on how you want to qualify 1923), put a spotlight on the Dutton family that travelled west and settled on the land that would become the Yellowstone ranch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) would fight so hard to protect 100 years later.

Starring Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, LaMonica Garrett and breakout star Isabel May, 1883 was violently poetic in its depiction of what it was like to make the journey west, where nearly everything was trying to stop you or kill you. It was also a poignant story about this family (and the immigrants who they travel with) about the price it cost for a sense of freedom and opportunity in those days. Not to mention, the show was beautiful to look at with gorgeous cinematography.

There's been talk we could be getting even more of these Yellowstone prequel series, but it may be hard to top 1883. — Michael Balderston

How to watch 1883: streaming on Paramount Plus in US and UK.

Abbott Elementary

Qunita Brunson as Janine and Janelle James as Ava in the faculty lounge in Abbott Elementary season 2

Qunita Brunson and Janelle James in Abbott Elementary (Image credit: ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Abbott Elementary is absolutely deserving of all the hype and recognition it has received. I've seen every single episode and can honestly say each one is funny. Part of the show's charm is that it's a sitcom about the trial and tribulations of the public school system. While the writers never shy away from the real issues that plague k-12 education, they always manage to leave viewers hysterically laughing and wanting more. A personal favorite is season 2's "Holiday Hookah;" from Janine’s awkward dance moves with Greg to Ava’s golden insults, it was full of real LOL-moments. 

Then there's the fact that the entire cast adds to the humor of the series. While show creator and on-screen lead Quinta Bunson is by far the breakout star, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, Tyler James Williams, Lisa Ann Walter and Chris Perfetti all help do some of the comedic heavy lifting, making Abbott Elementary one of the best-casted shows on TV. I suspect the series has many more awards in its future. 

Abbott Elementary season 2 continues airing on ABC on January 4. — Terrell Smith

How to watch Abbott Elementary: streaming on Hulu and HBO Max in the US; Disney Plus in the UK.

The Bear

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy in The Bear

Jeremy Allen White in The Bear (Image credit: Hulu)

In The Bear, we join talented chef Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto (a magnetic turn from Jeremy Allen White) as he abandons the world of fine dining in order to return to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop in the wake of his brother having taken his own life. What follows is eight episodes of pulse-pounding drama that I ended up binging in a single sitting. 

Watching Carmy and his newly-recruited sous chef, Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) attempt to modernize the kitchen and adapt to working alongside the motley crew who remain at the shop will keep you on the edge of your seat from the off. This is a team who works on a knife edge in a kitchen fizzing with tension just waiting to boil over.

The daily challenges of trying to keep The Original Beef of Chicagoland afloat come thick and fast. They're complemented by laughs and occasional deeply human moments of peace, with hints of grief to serve up a perfectly balanced show I heartily recommend. Oh, and here's a fair warning that The Bear will probably make you very, very hungry, as every single thing that comes out of the kitchen looks incredibly tasty. — Martin Shore

How to watch The Bear: streaming on Hulu in the US; Disney Plus in the UK.

Bel-Air

TV tonight abari Banks is Will Smith reimagined

Jabari Banks in Bel-Air (Image credit: Peacock)

I'll admit, I doubted the notion of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air being turned into a drama. The idea of one of the '90s most beloved sitcoms being reimagined with complex characters, complicated relationships and emotional highs and lows was something I just wasn't prepared to witness. However, I've been pleasantly surprised by Bel-Air

The differences in the new series are ironically what makes it work. As a viewer of The Fresh Prince, you may be initially tempted to watch Bel-Air through the prism of the original show, but as you get invested into the storylines, you realize that the Peacock Original series can stand on its own. 

One of the most appreciated differences in show has to be the updated characters. The original's Hillary (Karyn Parsons) and Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff) have gone from pampered and dense and aloof. However, Bel-Air's Hillary (Coco Jones) is a savvy content creator who knows her way around a kitchen, while Jazz (Jordan L. Jones) is a local businessman who offers words of wisdom. I even love the new Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes), who's not trying to be an imitation of James Avery's portrayal. 

Bel-Air season 2 starts streaming on February 23 on Peacock. — Terrell Smith

How to watch Bel-Air: streaming on Peacock in the US; Sky Go and NOW TV in the UK.

Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul (Image credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

There is no way this list could have been complete without the inclusion of the final season of Better Call Saul, one of the greatest TV shows of all time in my opinion. We got so much more from this Breaking Bad spinoff centered on scumbag lawyer Saul Goodman than we had any right to expect, as we saw how Saul, previously known as Jimmy McGill, tried the straight and narrow path only to find his true calling working with the criminal aspect of law & order.

The final season was absolutely thrilling, as Jimmy and Kim plan a massive grift, have to contend with a vengeful Lalo Salamanca and begin to realize the damage their relationship causes. We also see the story pick up after the events of Breaking Bad, and how Jimmy/Saul/Gene just can't stop himself when it comes to crime, but he still has that touch of humanity that revealed his tragic nature as a character.

With a near perfect story and two masterful lead performances by Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul surpassed Breaking Bad (that's right, I said it) and belongs in the pantheon of TV history. — Michael Balderston

How to watch Better Call Saul: streaming on Netflix and AMC Plus in the US; Netflix in the UK.

Bridgerton season 2

Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) and Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) embrace as Anthony teaches Kate how to use a rifle.

Simone Ahsley and Jonathan Bailey in Bridgerton season 2 (Image credit: Netflix/Liam Daniel)

After the phenomenal success of Bridgerton season 1, the show runners knew they had to pull out all the stops to make the Bridgerton season 2 just as amazing… and they nailed it. 

This time around, the series follows Lord Anthony Bridgerton as he searches for a suitable wife, but as Anthony begins to court Edwina Sharma, her older sister Kate discovers that a true love match is not high on his priority list, and soon does everything in her power to stop the marriage. But in doing so, Kate and Anthony’s verbal sparring matches only bring them closer together, making things very complicated. 

Just like with the first season, Bridgerton season 2 brings tantalizing sub-plots, sweeping gowns, spectacular balls and of course scurrilous court gossip. Binge watching at its finest. — Claire Crick

How to watch Bridgerton: streaming on Netflix in US and UK.

The Dropout

Amanda Seyfried in The Dropout

Amanda Seyfried in The Dropout (Image credit: Beth Dubber/Hulu)

The Dropout is an unbelievable true story about failed ambition and the downfall of the world's youngest self-made female billionaire.

Oscar-nominee Amanda Seyfried plays the titular role of entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, a billion-dollar health technology company. Elizabeth convinced hundreds of investors to put money into her company claiming Theranos could revolutionize the healthcare industry with a blood test she had developed. Holmes alleged this new blood test could test for a range of health conditions, from cancer to diabetes, with just a pinprick of blood. However, a damning report exposed Elizabeth's lies and revealed the technology didn't actually work, putting millions of lives at risk. In 2018, Theranos had collapsed and Elizabeth had lost everything in a blink of an eye. 

This unflinching tale will have you hooked from start to finish as it documents the epic downfall of the woman once hailed as "the next Steve Jobs." — Grace Morris

How to watch The Dropout: streaming on Hulu in the US; Disney Plus in the UK.

The English

Eli Whipp hugs Cornelia Locke in The English

Chaske Spencer and Emily Blunt in The English (Image credit: 2022 The English © Drama Republic/BBC/Amazon Studios)

The English transports us to Hugo Blick's version of the American Old West for a classic revenge tale that serves as a love letter to the genre whilst managing to spin a fresh, compelling tale. 

We join Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt, on top form), an Englishwoman who's set out on a quest to take down the man responsible for the death of her son. During her travels, she crosses paths with ex-cavalry scout Eli Whipp (an equally formidable Chaske Spencer), a member of the Pawnee Nation, and it soon becomes clear that their destinies are entwined. 

Together, they confront ever-increasing odds and face down tougher trials as they journey to their final destination. Cornelia and Eli's unlikely bond is at the heart of the story, though the show is full of things to please genre fans, including the necessary tense stand-offs and the utterly stunning vistas and perfectly composed shots of the open landscape, combined with a tight script and stellar performances both from our leads and the supporting characters they confront along the way. — Martin Shore

How to watch The English: streaming on Prime Video in the US; BBC iPlayer and Sky Go in the UK.

Interview with the Vampire

Sam Reid as Lestat and Jacob Anderson as Louis in Interview with the Vampire

Sam Reid and Jacob Anderson in Interview with the Vampire (Image credit: AMC)

I'll never forget the excitement of watching the trailer and first footage of Interview with the Vampire in a crowded ballroom at San Diego Comic-Con. The atmosphere was electric, and for good reason. The show is a bonafide tour de force that had me in its grip from the first episode and didn't let go until the shocking end. 

The sets were gorgeous, the story compelling, but it was the cast that sealed the deal for me. Jacob Anderson's tortured Louis de Pointe du Lac and Sam Reid's dark but ebullient Lestat de Lioncourt were captivating. Bailey Bass dazzled as Claudia while Eric Bogosian's Daniel Molloy was casting perfection. I couldn't take my eyes off of them. And that big reveal at the end, well… 

All I know is I could watch Sam Reid's Lestat reading a phonebook all day long and I'd spend hours watching Anderson's Louis watching paint dry. That's how good they are. 

I hoped beyond hope that the show would be good, but I had no idea it would be that good. Knowing that Interview with the Vampire season 1 is the foundation for a larger Anne Rice universe is thrilling and it makes me ready for 2023. — Sarabeth Pollock

How to watch Interview with the Vampire: streaming on The Roku Channel in the US; not available for streaming in the UK.

Outer Range

Tom Pelphrey, Lewis Pullman and Josh Brolin in Outer Range

Tom Pelphrey, Lewis Pullman and Josh Brolin in Outer Range (Image credit: Richard Foreman/Prime Video)

If you can criticize Outer Range for anything, it's certainly a slow burner — the show is in no rush to address any of the mysteries it sets up. But despite its infuriating pace, we still need to know what's going on at the Abbott Ranch (and hope we're not getting ready for a Lost-like ending).

Part sci-fi thriller and part neo-western drama, Outer Range is an original Prime Video show that sadly went under the radar (though did get renewed for a second season). It follows the Abbott family, with Josh Brolin as the patriarch, as they feud with their aggressively expansionist neighbors, the Tillersons. 

Sound a bit too Yellowstone for you? Well, throw into that mix a vanishing wife, the arrival of the enigmatic Imogen Poots, some odd occurrences involving a mountain range disappearing… oh, and a huge hole appearing on the Abbott property that has no bottom but some incredibly odd properties, which Brolin's character has some ties to. — Tom Bedford

How to watch Outer Range: streaming on Prime Video in the US and UK.

The Sandman

Tom Sturridge in The Sandman

Tom Sturridge in The Sandman (Image credit: Netflix)

Bringing Neil Gaiman's seminal classic The Sandman to life at Netflix was a daunting task. These stories and characters mean so much to so many people, so if it was to be done it had to be done right. Establishing his vibrant universe and creating the foundation for a bold new franchise is no easy feat, but when you watch the show they make it look so easy. 

No matter how many previews I watched, nothing could have prepared me for the first episode and watching Tom Sturridge bring Morpheus to life. The man didn't even have to speak to convey what was going on inside Morpheus' head. 

I loved how the creative team balanced the heavy load of Gaiman mythology so that it was entertaining and rewarding for longtime fans but not too difficult for newbies like me to follow. And now that The Sandman has been renewed for a second season, there's every reason to believe that the universe will keep growing. — Sarabeth Pollock

How to watch The Sandman: streaming on Netflix in the US and UK.

SAS Rogue Heroes

SAS Rogue Heroes cast

SAS Rogue Heroes is a World War 2 drama.  (Image credit: BBC)

If you watch one TV show this year, watch SAS Rogue Heroes. Based on Ben MacIntyre's quite brilliant book and adapted by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, it's a riotous blast from start to finish. 

The World War Two drama follows the men who formed the SAS against the odds as they tried to come up with a way of outfoxing the Nazis. Opening in 1941, we're introduced to a young David Stirling (Connor Swindells), who's frustrated by the lack of action he's seeing in Egypt. Stirling and his old pal Jock Lewes (Alfie Allen) form a crackpot plan to parachute troops into the desert behind enemy lines. Over six thrilling episodes we also meet Paddy Mayne (Jack O'Connell), a quite extraordinarily unpredictable man who's one-minute reading poetry and the next machine gunning German bases. 

There's a mix of comedy, camaraderie, tragedy and violence as the newly formed SAS set out on their daring missions. Watch out also for Dominic West giving a fine performance as British spy Dudley Clarke. Throw in Winston Churchill and you have a classic. Best of all it's all true, well mostly. — David Hollingsworth

How to watch SAS Rogue Heroes: streaming on The Roku Channel in the US; streaming on BBC iPlayer and Sky Go in UK.

Severance

Adam Scott in Severance.

Adam Scott in Severance (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Fans of sci-fi, mystery and compelling characters won't want to miss Severance as it's the kind of show that grips you from the beginning and refuses to let you go. Here, Adam Scott plays Mark, who has signed up for a program where his memories have been surgically divided between his work and personal life. This means he can't remember anything about home while he's in the office and vice versa.

This creates a compelling mystery for the audience as we try to piece together who Mark really is, with the same going for everyone around him, like his boss Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette) and newcomer Helly (Britt Lower), as well as the mysterious Optics and Design department, headed up by Burt (Christopher Walken). 

As well as an exceptional cast, there are also plenty of twists, turns and mystery, with each episode ending with bombshells that leave you desperate to find out what happens next. If you find yourself reeling from that finale, don't worry, because Severance season 2 (opens in new tab) is on the way. — Lucy Buglass

How to watch Severance: streaming on Apple TV Plus in the US and UK.

The Staircase

Colin Firth and Toni Collette in The Staircase

Colin Firth and Toni Collette in The Staircase (Image credit: HBO Max)

When The Staircase landed earlier this year, little was known about the life of Michael Peterson, a man who was accused of murdering his wife Kathleen at their sprawling North Carolina home after she died under suspicious circumstances in December 2001. While The Staircase documentary (still available on Netflix) was made back in 2004 about Kathleen’s mysterious death, it was this latest drama adaptation, starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette as Michael and Kathleen Peterson, which really got people talking. 

While Peterson still to this day maintains his innocence and claims his wife's death was a tragic accident, the prosecution at this trial back in 2003 told a very different story. The Staircase delves into this gripping true crime, drawing you in as it explores all the different theories about how Kathleen might have died. But if you only watch this drama for one thing, it has to be for Colin Firth's mesmerizing portrayal of Michael Peterson. — Claire Crick

How to watch The Staircase: streaming on HBO Max in the US; streaming on Sky Go and NOW TV in the UK.

Ten Percent

TV tonight Stella, Julia, Ollie and Jonathan know talent when they see it!

Ten Percent is an English-language remake of Call My Agent! (Image credit: Prime Video)

When people heard about the English-language remake of Call My Agent!, there was much skepticism, but Prime Video's Ten Percent is one of the best TV shows of the year.

It's an ensemble dramedy following talent agents in London, as they try to juggle their personal drama with the annoying celebrities they have to deal with for work. Despite how cynical and The Thick Of It-esque that premise could go, it's actually a very affectionate show, treating its cast and the myriad of guest actors with respect and care, which is why it's so easy and enjoyable to watch. Plus, lots of stand-out performances from every one of the main ensemble means we're invested in the fate of the agency and can't wait for a second season. 

If you've already seen Call My Agent! don’t worry, after the first episode Ten Percent branches quite far from the French original. — Tom Bedford

How to watch Ten Percent: streaming on Acorn in the US; playing on Prime Video in the UK.

Tokyo Vice

Ansel Elgort riding in a taxi in Tokyo at night in Tokyo Vice

Ansel Elgort in Tokyo Vice (Image credit: James Lisle/HBO Max)

Murder is at the heart of this intoxicating thriller, although the first lesson you learn from the Tokyo police department as a cub reporter is no one is murdered in Japan. Based on crime journalist Jake Adelstein's book about his time in Tokyo, Tokyo Vice follows Jake (Ansel Elgort) as he becomes the first American to be a reporter for a top Japanese newspaper. 

Jake initially struggles in the openly hostile environment, but he then tenaciously begins an investigation into why a number of people in debt have mysteriously started killing themselves.

The story really comes alive when he meets grizzled cop Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), who uses Jake to investigate the same case he's working on because he's been barred by those at the top. The pair begin to form a bond as Jake throws himself ever deeper into the Japanese underworld.

Despite painting Tokyo as a city full of gangsters, vice and corruption, you're struck by the beauty of the Japanese capital. The fact it's set in the 1990s gives it a lovely nostalgic air — loving the old cassette tapes. A first-class crime drama. — David Hollingsworth

How to watch Tokyo Vice: streaming on HBO Max in the US; on BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and Starz in the UK.

Wednesday

Who plays Thing in Wednesday? Thing poses on Wednesday's shoulder

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday (Image credit: Netflix)

Tim Burton's take on the iconic Addams Family has been a huge hit for Netflix and it's easy to see why, as Wednesday is a great watch for new fans while still providing a lot of nostalgia for long-time followers of the weird and wonderful family. 

The series focuses on Wednesday Addams after she's shipped off to her parents' former boarding school, Nevermore Academy, which is home to "outcasts" and those with supernatural abilities who have been shunned by the outside world. Soon after arriving there, Wednesday finds herself at the center of a dark mystery.

Jenna Ortega plays the role of a now-teenage Wednesday Addams, with former actress Christina Ricci also playing a key role in the series as one of the teachers at the school. A brilliant supporting cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones as a devilishly good Morticia, Luis Guzmán as the loved-up Gomez and Romanian magician Victor Dorobantu playing disembodied hand Thing, who certainly steals the show and is weirdly expressive for a character who doesn't even have a face. — Lucy Buglass

How to watch Wednesday: streaming exclusively on Netflix in the US and UK.

The White Lotus

Aubrey Plaza, Will Sharpe, Theo James and Meghann Fahy in The White Lotus

Aubrey Plaza, Will Sharpe, Theo James and Meghann Fahy in The White Lotus (Image credit: HBO/Sky)

After the hugely successful first season, The White Lotus season 2 left Hawaii behind as a new eclectic mix of guests and employees spent their vacation at the luxurious White Lotus hotel in Sicily. Although the wealthy guests are at the hotel for different reasons, their journeys intertwine through elitism, infidelity and a crime scene that paves the way to an eventful vacation.

The star-studded White Lotus cast in the satirical comedy-drama features Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Theo James, Haley Lu Richardson and Will Sharpe all playing characters from different walks of life trying to handle messy relationships.

The second season is a refreshing take on how the other half lives, but also exposes the gritty reality of human nature and the power dynamics within troubled relationships. It also shines a light on the limitations of wealth, so I guess you could say that money doesn't buy you happiness at The White Lotus. — Grace Morris

How to watch The White Lotus: streaming on HBO Max in the US; on Sky Go and NOW TV in the UK.

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).

With contributions from