Best TV of 2022

21 Dec

It was quite a year for big, bold, cinematic TV series. The shows I’ve chosen as my top 5 of the year run the gamut- different genres, different locations in time and place, even different languages and accents. What they have in common is unique characters whose stories are told with clever writing that keeps you tuned in episode after episode. In no particular order:

Mo: You may have known that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country- some say the most diverse- but you don’t appreciate it until you see the city through the eyes of Mo Najjar, the fictional counterpart of Mo Amer. He’s Palestinian, his girlfriend is Mexican, and his best friend is Nigerian. We see as he does what he can to scrape by without papers, selling junk for cash from the trunk of his car, working as a laborer on an olive tree orchard outside the city, and eventually, getting involved with local underground criminals. “Mo” sets a tone that is at once light when showing the ridiculousness of Mo’s life and the situations he gets himself into, and dramatic when focusing on his memories of his past fleeing Palestine then Kuwait, or trying to reconcile with his girlfriend. The whole show is a fun ride, and yes, it is great to see Arab representation, like Mo’s insistence that flavored hummus is a war crime (I’m right there with you).

Los Espookys: If Mo is a great opportunity to see Arab representation on TV, “Los Espookys” is a chance to see representation of oddball Latinos. It’s sadly not coming back for a 3rd season, though I was genuinely surprised that it even got a second season. Who is “Los Espookys” for? I imagine that those of us who enjoy the show- bilingual Latinos who appreciate off-kilter humor- are a tiny sliver of the public. Part of the joy of the show is seeing what weird details the crew will come up with, like Andres getting a job modeling staircases in a showroom, or Tati finding a side gig rewriting literary classics based on audiobooks. The universe of “Los Espookys” is weird and wonderful, and it’ll be missed.

Severance: This show was hard to watch, because it was so thoroughly creepy. Menace lurked around every corner of the underground offices inhabited by the worker drones of “Severance”. With each episode, more secrets about the world of “Severance” are revealed, like why someone would choose to have their work and personal lives literally severed in two. Although it was often hard to watch, it was worth it to see more of the mystery of this company and its town be revealed. I was also impressed by Adam Scott, who ably carries the show in a dramatic turn as a widower who prefers living severed to remembering his deceased wife. I can’t wait for season 2.

Pachinko: It’s rare when a book is successfully adapted for TV and movies. It’s even rarer when the adaptation surpasses the source material. That’s how good “Pachinko” is. I’ll admit that the English-language, 1980’s set portion of the show is the weakest bit, but the heart of this story of three generations of a Korean family in Japan is the story of the first generation as matriarch Sunja moves from her home in Korea to Japan. The epic scale of the story, the acting from all the main players, the story of immigrants striving to make it in a new land- this is why “Pachinko” was so wonderful.

Derry Girls: If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to grow up in a war zone, or wondered how life can really go on while conflict flares up all around ordinary people, “Derry Girls” shows what that looks like. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1990’s, the show follows a group of friends as they navigate their high school years during the violence of the ancient conflict that engulfed Ireland 25 years ago. It’s possibly the funniest thing I watched this year, and I loved the 90’s setting- like the girls trying to get into a Fatboy Slim concert, or the hijinks around trying (and in Clare’s case, failing) to get a train for a weekend getaway. Martin Scorcese knows what’s up- “Derry Girls” was the best.


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