Television Man by Aidan Morgan
“Happy New Year! I hope you’re all staying home tonight and watching Welcome Back, Kotter.” —Sir Isaac Newton, predicting the invention of Welcome Back, Kotter but not television, which seems like an oversight.
Remember that span of time we like to refer to as “the pandemic” (March 2020 – Dec. 31, 2021)? We sure watched a lot of television then! And television rewarded us by filling its alien eye with content. “I can’t get over the amazing selection of shows on all these cable channels and streaming services,” you could hear people say between coughs and the skittering sound of empty ivermectin tubes being kicked and crunched underfoot.
2022 was no different, except for the fact that we were now living through a period we called the “post-pandemic”, in which we pretended the actual pandemic was over. Even though streaming television began to cough and twitch and shed programming like vaccine particles (goodbye Infinity Train, goodbye Westworld), there was still plenty of content to enjoy.
Here’s some of the television I particularly enjoyed in 2022, broken into arbitrary categories.
BEST VAMPIRE SERIES ADAPTED FROM A NOVEL THAT WAS ALREADY ADAPTED INTO A MOVIE
Interview with the Vampire (AMC+/Prime Video). I had no interest in this series going in but I’ve been so happy to be wrong. Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones) and Sam Reid (Belle) take up the roles filled by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, turning homoerotic subtext into all-caps text in the process. Lush, sincere and beautifully acted, it makes Neil Jordan’s film feel timid and lightweight.
WORST VAMPIRE SERIES ADAPTED FROM A NOVEL THAT WAS ALREADY ADAPTED INTO A MOVIE
Let The Right One In (Showtime/Crave) may have been my biggest disappointment of the year. The cynicism and Nordic chilliness of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel and Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 movie are completely absent here, turning the story of an immortal androgyne into a touching tale of a father who would do anything for his vampire child. The only bright spot is Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), who plays his role with so much gentleness and quiet charisma he almost makes the series work.
BEST SHOW FEATURING SCENES WITH PEOPLE CALLING EACH OTHER “CHEF”
The Bear (Disney+) is a series about a prodigal chef who returns to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop. His attempts to run the kitchen like a Michelin restaurant result in some of the most propulsive, tension-filled workplace drama you will ever see. You’ll start walking around your own kitchen shouting “System” and “Hands!” to your cats.
BEST SHOW THAT DID NOT HAVE LIGHTSABERS
The overwhelming majority of shows released in 2022 featured zero lightsabers, but the best of those is the final season of Better Call Saul (Netflix), which arguably hit greater highs than Breaking Bad. The sixth season featured plenty of Breaking Bad characters, but it was Rhea Seehorn’s (Whitney) performance as Kim Dickens that elevated the season.
BEST SHOW THAT DELIBERATELY DID NOT HAVE LIGHTSABERS
That would be Andor (Disney+), the Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)-helmed series that gives us the backstory on Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, the ruthless freedom fighter from Rogue One. Andor is a show about the denizens of the Star Wars universe who never pick up a lightsaber or use The Force — the bureaucrats and spies and ordinary working stiffs who try to carve out a life for themselves in the shadow of totalitarian oppression. The opening episodes are patient in their worldbuilding, but Gilroy delivers thrills and explosions at just the right points.
WORST SHOW THAT HAD LIGHTSABERS
Thanks Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+). Thanks so much for scraping together little bits of story into a cheaply staged forcemeat of Star Wars content. Tastes like childhood puree.
BEST OPENING CREDITS
Peacemaker (HBO/Crave). Who can say no to John Cena in a ridiculous helmet dancing expressionlessly to hair metal? I certainly can’t.
BEST NEW TREK
Hands down, the best of the new Star Trek series in 2022 was Strange New Worlds (Crave), which pulled off the astounding feat of paying homage to the original series without imitating it outright or forgetting what made that world so appealing in the first place. The third season of the animated Lower Decks was not quite as strong as season two but still a delight. Discovery innovated on the Trek formula by continuing to explore the far, far future. Season two of Picard was somehow even worse than season one.
ABSOLUTE GREATEST MOMENT OF TELEVISION ALL YEAR
The glazed look on Dave Foley’s face in The Kids in the Hall (Prime Video) as he plays a scratchy copy of “Brand New Key” for the millionth time in the sketch “Apocalypse DJ”.
ABSOLUTE WORST MOMENT OF TELEVISION ALL YEAR
Every moment of The Terminal List (Prime Video) is tied for the worst moment of television in 2022. A stunningly ugly show with a hilariously bad performance from Chris Pratt, whose attempts at portraying existential terror call to mind a vision of a man who, despite his very best efforts, is pooping his pants.
BIGGEST WASTE OF TIME
I watched every episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Prime Video). I should not have done that.
EXCELLENT TELEVISION SERIES THAT YOU SHOULD JUST GO AND WATCH
A League of Their Own, Abbott Elementary, Atlanta, Barry, Reservation Dogs, What We Do in the Shadows, Hacks, Severance, Slow Horses, The Patient, Ms. Marvel, The Rehearsal, The White Lotus, Our Flag Means Death, Irma Vep. I hear Yellowstone is good, too. ■