What are the best web series and TV shows of 2022? My list last year was dominated by genre-evolving comedies. But in 2022, it seems proper drama hit back. Most of my favourites below are dramas — there are dramas about dragons, dramas about spiralling chefs, dramas about spiralling stars, dramas about spiralling office employees, dramas about a runaway lawyer, dramas about childhood best friends, dramas about a galaxy-wide rebellion, and inter-generational dramas. That said, there are two comedies on here — one about a group of high school girls, and another about biting female comics that was on my list last year too. Of course, some of those dramas can be comedic at times, just as comedies can be a bit dramatic. But that’s the nature of TV in 2022.
As always, I’ve had to leave a lot out. I couldn’t squeeze in Nathan Fielder’s experimental what-genre-is-this The Rehearsal, the new Sicily-set season of rich people satire The White Lotus, the perennially-zany What We Do in the Shadows, the more religious and miserable new chapter of Ramy, the rot of systemic corruption in We Own This City from The Wire creator David Simon, or the two wildly-different but tonally-similar seasons that brought Donald Glover’s Atlanta to a close. Picking the 10 best TV series each year in the seemingly never-ending golden age of television is an impossible task.
With that, here are the 10 best web series and TV shows of 2022 — according to me. I would love to hear about your favourites in the comments below. Or come find me @akhil_arora on Twitter.
10. Irma Vep
Making a TV series about the making of a TV series — and how the pride, insecurities, and vanity of those involved in bringing it to life hinders the process — might seem like navel-gazing, but Irma Vep isn’t even the first time for its creator, writer, and director Olivier Assayas. The 67-year-old made the very same thing, albeit as a feature film, some 25 or so years ago. Leave it to Assayas to expand his canvas, and thereby, the extent of his introspection.
Of course, at one level, Irma Vep serves up a meta-commentary of the film industry. Except it’s been updated for our times, skewering the dominance of an obsession with superhero movies. But its blades cut both ways, pointing out the follies of “art” that cannot recoup its own production money. In addition how much of it is made for self-fulfillment — rather than creating something original? (Even the series-inside-a-series is a reimagining of an early 20th-century serial.)
At the heart of it all, it’s Assayas talking to himself. The director character René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne) is a reflection of Assayas, just as it was in Irma Vep the film. When René unravels and sees his therapist, when he makes up absurd directions on set, or when he clashes with his ulterior-motive producers, it’s Assayas processing through his own emotions. Irma Vep is possibly the world’s most expensive therapy session.
But he’s smart enough to not make himself the main attraction. Playing a fictional version of herself as Mira Harberg, Alicia Vikander takes over from Assayas’ real-life beau Maggie Cheung for the titular role — and through the maddening production, the tension between Mira and her ex-assistant ex-girlfriend (Adria Arjona), and the surreal adventures in her black Irma Vep catsuit, she transforms and transcends.
Watch Irma Vep on Disney+ Hotstar
9. Derry Girls
Several years ago before she began, Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee wanted nothing to do with the Troubles, the period of Northern Ireland history that had enveloped her schooling years. As a writer, all she wanted was to escape from it. Now, it’s become the most fertile ground of her career — with the third and final season of this joyous coming-of-age comedy concluding it on a high, delivering messages on war and peace alongside the never-ending troubles that the girls get themselves in.
Every installment of the seven-episode Derry Girls season 3 was memorable, with laugh-out-loud shenanigans and set pieces, be it a Spice Girls routine, a stalled train ride to an amusement park, breaking into school on the night of exam results, or trying to get tickets to a Fatboy Slim concert. One of those brought a magnificent Liam Neeson cameo. Sandwiched in between we’d a horror house episode — and a flashback episode with the parents a delight and possibly the best of the lot.
To top it off, Derry Girls delivered a jump-forward hourlong finale that hinged on the Good Friday Agreement, showcasing how the country itself was growing up. Goodbye, Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), Orla (Louisa Harland), and James (Dylan Llewellyn) — you’ll be missed.
Watch Derry Girls on Netflix
8. House of the Dragon
By the time the credits rolled on the Game of Thrones series finale, no one was clamouring for more of Westeros. That was a problem for HBO, for it had more than one spin-off in the works — whose sole existence was borne out of Thrones’ success in the first place. It was going to take a lot to erase the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth. Thankfully, House of the Dragon was up to the task, delivering a 10-episode first season that was rich, biting, and at times, exceptional.
Unlike its supposed epic fantasy rival The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power that crashed and burned, House of the Dragon understood two important contributing aspects for a great TV show. One, your episodes must be significant and memorable. Two — and more importantly — your characters must come across as flesh-and-blood humans, with flaws, fears, spite, grudges, jealousy, and ambitions.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Time jumps were the weakest point for House of the Dragon, with each new episode in the first season jumping forward several months or several years at a time. The biggest of the lot — the decade between episodes five and six — meant a switch in the cast for the younger characters, which hurt the attachment you had built. That said, they were unavoidable. Padding the story would’ve gotten it a lot more criticism.
For what it’s worth, there will be a lot less of that when it returns. It’s going to be a while though, not until early 2024 at the least. But that’s okay because House of the Dragon has conquered the first hurdle: get all of us invested in Westeros again.
Watch House of the Dragon on Disney+ Hotstar
In today’s age of IP, endings are never really endings. If a TV show becomes popular and garners acclaim, creators and networks will find a way to bring it back. Case in point, Big Little Lies. But endings can be powerful — they provide closure. And that’s what Hacks season 2 did. Rather than push its characters into a soft reset, which comedies love to do, Hacks stuck to its guns. It decided to tell the story it wanted to, without worrying about where it might lead.
Driven out of her lucrative comfort zone, aging comic Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) pushed herself to get on the road and tour her new jokes. And she forced her young reckless writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) to tag along, even though she had aired her dirty laundry to all of Hollywood. With Deborah more combative than ever and the embarrassed Ava looking at financial ruin, their cross-generational dynamic took on new unexpected layers.
And just like its ballsy women, Hacks let its plot unfurl to the point that the season 2 finale felt like a series finale (to everyone who tuned in real-time. If you were late, you probably had the benefit of knowing that a season 3 had already been greenlit.) It allowed its characters to reach goals and share dialogues that would usually be reserved for the final season of a sitcom. How will the story continue now? In doing so, Hacks displayed that it’s unlike most comedies — and in a bracket of its own.
6. The Bear
After a tragedy pushes the young, brilliant, and psychologically-scarred fine-dining New York chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) to return to his hometown of Chicago, he’s thrust into the mismanaged — culinarily and financially — world of his family’s beef sandwich shop. The Bear thrusts the viewers into that universe alongside Carmy, as egos and personalities clash in what is an intense, maddening, and claustrophobic kitchen. It’s in your face, but it’s terrific.
What pulls you in is the deeply-felt writing and the richly-drawn characters, including the off-putting forever-on-the-edge restaurant manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), the promising sous chef who reveres Carmy but has her boundaries Syndey (Ayo Edebiri), and the way everyone talks about the wonders of Carmy’s brother Mikey (Jon Bernthal, making a guest appearance). Allen White’s Carmy is forever engaging, but the others are no slouches.
Along the way, The Bear delivers half-hour episodes that grab you and never let go — most of all, the almost-in-real-time one-shot penultimate season 1 entry “Review”. The dysfunctional kitchen drama proved to be funny, uplifting, and a gut-punch — and it also proved that there’s always money in the
banana stand tomato purée. Yes, chef!
Watch The Bear on Disney+ Hotstar
All of us crave work-life balance — but Severance took that to an extreme. What if you could separate your corporate and personal memories? Like when you’re at work, you wouldn’t know anything about your life outside. (You’re the innie.) And when you’re outside, none of that work stuff would bother you. (You’re just the outie.) Would you do it? In the hands of newcomer Dan Erickson and part-director Ben Stiller, that setup took on all levels of psychological nightmares.
For one, the office itself is designed like a ghost town. The endless halls confound those within it and disguise the full extent of it. The nature of their work itself is obtuse. What are they doing? What business is the company Lumon Industries in? Is it as sinister as it seems — or is it possibly worse? I mean, why are there baby goats? And what exactly is a waffle party? Severance was built as a puzzle box, but its nine-episode first season had little interest in answers.
Instead, we were thrust into the lives of grieving Mark Scout (Adam Scott) and his juniors, who — led by the questioning newbie Helly (Britt Lower) — tried to uncover what exactly is going down at Lumon. Their struggles and rebellion might seem fantastical, but look beneath the surface, and you’ll realise that it all spoke to something real, with disturbing parallels to our own lives.
But the truly horrifying part was that by the time the finale rolled in, there were so many layers and moving parts, that Severance had you questioning both the innie and outie worlds. Season two has a mighty job on its hands.
Watch Severance on Apple TV+
A sweeping generational family portrait that delivered an acute sense of a time, people, and place — flipping between Japan-occupied Korea in the first half of the 20th century, and Zainichi Koreans in Japan in the late eighties — but also managed to be universal, Pachinko was that rare thing. Rooted in its authentic presentation that spanned three continents and languages, Pachinko was also at once one of the most cinematic and best-looking TV shows of 2022.
The writing and cinematography are elevated by nuanced, affecting performances. Newcomer Minha Kim’s Kim Sunja balanced grit, fear, and vulnerability in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Meanwhile, Jin Ha got a role fit for his talents, with his Solomon Baek silently screaming insecurity as he navigated American ambition and Korea’s demands of humility and elder respect. Youn Yuh-jung, known to many for Minari, and K-wave star Lee Min-ho (cast against type) were a boost.
Its joyful opening titles might seem out of place, in what is otherwise an exploration of how colonialism and immigration can send ripples of loss and hardship across decades, but that’s fully intentional. It’s hitting at what Pachinko wants to say, about life.
And by cutting through class, shame, resolve, and pride — values that hold more importance in Asian cultures — Pachinko connected with me on a deeper emotional level than any show this year.
Watch Pachinko on Apple TV+
3. My Brilliant Friend
How can a TV show consistently be so good, and still consistently get ignored? The decades-spanning exploration of the bonds between Lenù (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace) — those that pull them together, and push them apart — in post-WWII Italy has been nothing short of phenomenal. Even when nothing earth-shattering seems to be happening on the surface, there’s an entire world turning upside down in every glance, every touch, and every word.
In its third season, My Brilliant Friend grew up, as the dual leads’ teenage troubles were replaced by children and marital issues. It also brought about the beginning of the drift between Lenù and Lila, even as they continue to look at each other in their lowest moments. Most of all, it’s been admirable to see Girace and Mazzucco bring such depth and growth with their characters — they’ve played them across their most formative years, from teenage into early adulthood, and the bulk of the series’ run — and made all the more special as they aged out of their roles in the final moments.
Not only is the show deeply personal, but it’s also socio-politically massive. The penultimate chapter dragged My Brilliant Friend into Italy’s violent, fractious late 1960s and early 1970s, with student protests, workers’ rights, feminist movements, and all-out organised crime warfare serving as the fiery backdrop. In one episode, Lenù goes from taking care of her children to massaging her husband’s ego, and unknowingly providing a safe haven for childhood friends who may be involved in a terrorist bombing. All while trying to grapple with her stalling literary career.
Through its gorgeous production, incisive direction, and literary backing, My Brilliant Friend remains the most essential and empowering depiction of female friendship and agency on TV.
After the double whammy that was utterly unengaging The Book of Boba Fett, and the nostalgia-laden Obi-Wan Kenobi, I had more or less given up on Star Wars on TV. Disney had squandered all the potential The Last Jedi had promised in the galaxy far, far away. And now, the one to follow these two TV disasters would be a prequel spin-off, charting the life of the deuteragonist of a prequel spin-off, to a film that started it all 45 years ago. Not big on originality, are we?
But while I was expecting more filling-in-the-blanks-that-no-one-asked-for storytelling, Andor creator Tony Gilroy had something else in mind entirely. Not a single Jedi shows up, lightsabers are never drawn, there are no chase sequences in space, and not a single beloved character is forced to do a cameo. (Emperor Palpatine is mentioned more than once, but he remains a symbolic figure.) Instead, the latest Star Wars series gave us a grounded tale about what it takes to kick-start a rebellion.
Neatly divided into three-episode arcs that effectively serve as feature films inside a 12-episode season, Andor threw its title character Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) into a variety of situations — to discover what he’s made of. And each ‘movie’ culminated in a thrilling, all-guns-blazing ‘finale’, as Andor displayed the riotous combination of episodic TV married to serialised arcs. Kudos to its directors and writers, who showed that Star Wars can be so much more than it has been.
As much as I loved what Rian Johnson did, The Last Jedi was an evolution. It made us question the galaxy’s tropes and archetypes while benefitting from the very aspects that gave it its power. This blows up the idea of “what is Star Wars” — with pacing, mood, and dialogue off the charts. Andor was the revolution.
Watch Andor on Disney+ Hotstar
1. Better Call Saul
When Better Call Saul is around, there is simply no other show quite like it. It’s so good that had it aired in 2021, I would’ve had no qualms about putting it in the first position — over everything else that I chose last year. As the timeline pushed beyond the years of Breaking Bad, the final season of this top-notch spin-off became braver, wholly unexpected, and more deliberately placed.
Not only did it give us an elaborate con and weeks of black-and-white with “Gene Takavic” (Bob Odenkirk), Better Call Saul season 6 delivered an elaborate career-ending con in the world of colour involving Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), which led into some of the most harrowing, nail-biting sections featuring Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton).
And even when it indulged in bringing back Breaking Bad favourites, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) — I really would’ve preferred had it been kept a surprise — it wasn’t about servicing fans, but its story. It remained entirely focused on its protagonist. This is how you do cameos.
Poetic in its handling and fiercely acted all around, the highlight was still Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Saul Goodman’s (Odenkirk) main accomplice, with their arc going full circle at the end. I’ve to admit it initially threw me off — is this a delusion, I wondered? — but only because Better Call Saul had trained us on a cynical worldview, where Saul/ Jimmy McGill did anything he could to get ahead.
But right at the end, the best show of 2022 chose love. Overshadowed at this year’s Emmys — but still eligible next year thanks to its split two-part airing — Better Call Saul season 6 better get the love it deserves in 2023.
Watch Better Call Saul on Netflix
- Release Date 19 April 2022
- Genre Crime, Drama
Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Michael McKean, Giancarlo Esposito, Tony Dalton
Michael Morris, Peter Gould, Gordon Smith, Ann Cherkis, Thomas Schnauz, Vince Gilligan
Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison
- Release Date 21 September 2022
- Genre Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Diego Luna, Genevieve O’Reilly, Stellan Skarsgård, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, Forest Whitaker, Robert Emms, David Hayman
Toby Haynes, Ben Caron, Susanna White
Kathleen Kennedy, Tony Gilroy, Sanne Wohlenberg, Diego Luna, Michelle Rejwan
- Genre Drama
Elisa Del Genio, Ludovica Nasti, Anna Rita Vitolo, Luca Gallone, Imma Villa, Antonio Milo, Alessio Gallo, Valentina Acca, Antonio Buonanno, Elvis Esposito, Dora Romano, Antonio Pennarella, Nunzia Schiano, Gaia Girace, Margherita Mazzucco, Giovanni Amura, Gennaro De Stefano, Francesco Serpico, Federica Sollazzo, Clotilde Sabatino, Ulrike Migliaresi, Christian Giroso, Eduardo Scarpetta, Giovanni Buselli, Giovanni Cannata, Francesco Russo, Bruno Orlando, Daria Deflorian, Matteo Cecchi
Saverio Costanzo, Alice Rohrwacher, Daniele Luchetti
Lorenzo Mieli, Domenico Procacci, Mario Gianani, Guido De Laurentiis, Elena Recchia, Jennifer Schuur, Paolo Sorrentino, Luigi Marinello, Sara Polese, Laura Paolucci
- Release Date 25 March 2022
- Genre Drama
Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Min-ha, Jeon Yu-na, Lee Min-ho, Jin Ha, Yoon Seo-ho, Anna Sawai, Soji Arai, Kaho Minami, Steve Sanghyun Noh, Jung Eun-chae, Felice Choi, Jeong In-ji, Mari Yamamoto, Ian H.W. Kim, Jimmi Simpson, Yeji Yeon, Han Joon-woo
Kogonada, Justin Chon
Soo Hugh, Kogonada, Justin Chon, Michael Ellenberg, Lindsey Springer, Theresa Kang-Lowe, Dani Gorin, Richard Middleton, David Kim, Sebastian Lee, Jordan Murcia
- Release Date 18 February 2022
- Genre Sci-Fi, Thriller
Adam Scott, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, Patricia Arquette, Jen Tullock, Zach Cherry, Tramell Tillman, Yul Vazquez, Dichen Lachman, Ethan Flower
Ben Stiller, Aoife McArdle
Patricia Arquette, Adam Scott, Ben Stiller, Mark Friedman, Chris Black, John Cameron, Andrew Colville, Aoife McArdle, Nicholas Weinstock, Jackie Cohn, Dan Erickson
- Release Date 17 August 2022
- Genre Drama
Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss Bachrach, Abby Elliott, Ayo Edebiri, Liza Colón Zayas, Lionel Boyce, Edwin Lee Gibson, Richard Esteras, Matty Matheson, Chris Witaske
Christopher Storer, Joanna Calo
Christopher Storer, Hiro Murai, Joanna Calo, Josh Senior, Nate Matteson
- Release Date 22 August 2022
- Genre Drama, Fantasy
Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy, Rhys Ifans, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Sonoya Mizuno, Fabien Frankel, Olivia Cooke, Graham McTavish, Matthew Needham, Jefferson Hall, Harry Collett, Tom Glynn-Carney, Ewan Mitchell, Phia Saban, Bethany Antonia, Phoebe Campbell
Miguel Sapochnik, Greg Yaitanes, Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel
Miguel Sapochnik, Ryan Condal, George R.R. Martin, Ron Schmidt, Jocelyn Diaz, Sara Hess, Vince Gerardis, Karen Wacker, Angus More Gordon, Alexis Raben, Kevin Lau