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Best TV shows of 2022: Heartstopper, The Gilded Age, Wednesday and more

Best TV shows of 2022: Heartstopper, The Gilded Age, Wednesday and more

The assortment of TV shows this year feels more varied than ever. We’ve had evocative period dramas and thrilling science fiction, charming comedies and tender YA romances, not to mention fascinating documentaries and action packed animation. Whatever your favourite genre, there was something to cater for every televisual taste. Here are some of our favourites.


Julia Child has been a part of popular culture since she shot to fame on The French Chef in the early 60’s. The many parodies and portrayals of Child haven’t always been kind, but HBO’s biographical drama starring Sarah Lancashire as the titular chef, author and TV personality has kindness, warmth and comfort in spades. It’s a slow and uplifting series that explores not just Child’s life and rise to fame, but also her impact on the world of television production. Lancashire is truly terrific in the role; her chemistry with both David Hyde Pierce, who plays her unfailingly devoted husband Paul, and Bebe Neuwirth (hello Frasier reunion!) as her acerbic yet supportive friend Avis, is part of what makes this such a funny, charming heart-warming show. – Natalie Xenos

The Last Movie Stars

Ethan Hawke’s six-part documentary on the life and work of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was pure cinephilia heaven. Featuring countless movie clips, never before shared photos, and a spectacular slate of talking heads (including all Woodward and Newman’s surviving children), The Last Movie Stars painted a vivid picture of not just two formidably talented actors, but the joy and effort of maintaining such a famously strong marriage throughout a lifetime of challenges. Intimate and moving, it’s hard to imagine a better tribute to the fascinating, complicated legends. – Chloe Walker

Slow Horses

Based on Mick Herron’s Slough House spy thriller book series, Slow Horses centres around a team of MI5 rejects who have failed so badly that they’ve been relegated to menial jobs under the watchful eye of their slobbish, offensive boss Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman). They might be ‘losers’, as Lamb describes them, but they soon prove they’re not entirely useless. Breathing new life into a genre that often feels stale and unimaginative, the series maintains a perfect balance between drama, action and comedy. Gary Oldman is tremendous too. But then we’d expect nothing less. – Michael Harrison

The Gilded Age

With the success of Downton Abbey, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Julian Fellowes’ latest historical drama is just as entertaining, intelligent and visually beautiful as its predecessor. Set against the booming backdrop of 1880’s New York City, it follows the gentle, unworldly and penniless Marian Brook as she enters into the rigid social scene of her aunts Agnes and Ada (played by a bitingly witty Christine Baranski and a warmly wise Cynthia Nixon). Fictional with elements of real life inspiration, The Gilded Age has dazzling production values, a superb cast, and a sharp, sophisticated script that cuts to the very heart of the late 19th century class system in America. Then there’s the Gregson-Williams brothers’ rousing soundtrack that, second to Bridgerton, is one of the best to come out of 2022. – Natalie Xenos


For hilarious televisual silliness this year, Murderville was hard to beat. An American reworking of the BBC’s Murder in Successville, each episode saw Will Arnett’s sad sack detective Terry Seattle taking a celebrity through a zany murder case to see if they can discover the killer – the stars don’t have a script, and so need to improvise their way towards the answers. Although some of the celebrities did a better job than others, thanks to Arnett, each episode was still a delight. His chemistry with Sharon Stone demands a spin-off! – Chloe Walker


Daphne and Simon’s romance may have been the match that lit the Bridgerton-fever fire upon the series’ debut in 2020, but it was Anthony and Kate’s intense enemies-to-lovers slow burn storyline in season two that proved that this Netflix series phenomenon was no one hit wonder. Driven by the sizzling chemistry of its lead actors, Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley, and bolstered by the intense passion and deepening feelings that builds episode after episode, Bridgerton’s second season quickly became the quintessential example of an on-screen historical romance done right, with the added benefit of being wrapped up in the gorgeous costumes and set designs that come with the kind of TV budget only Netflix can provide. With scandal, drama, emotion and so much delicious tension at every turn, Bridgerton season two is eight episodes of escapism and a true celebration of everything that makes the romance genre so enjoyable for so many. – Megan Davies


Released in December 2022, and yet already one I’ve rewatched, Smiley is a queer rom-com drama. A Netflix España production, it tells the story of Álex and Bruno who have a chance meeting when Álex tries to call a guy who suddenly ghosts him after weeks together and mistakenly calls Bruno. This leads to a meet-cute gone wrong as they hit it off and hate each other. There are ups and downs with laughs and genuine tears and surprises. It’s a truly beautiful and imperfect relationship. There are a whole bunch of satellite relationships too, which showcase all kinds of romances, from the rocky roads of long term relationships to puppy love to those unlucky in love. You’ll cheer, you’ll scream and you’ll cry. – Nick Gomez

Miss Scarlet and the Duke

One show that’s most likely flown under the radar of many a period drama lover is Miss Scarlet and the Duke. After premiering on Alibi in 2020, the mystery crime-drama made a triumphant return earlier this year for a second season that was even better than the first. Set in Victorian London, the series follows intrepid female detective Eliza Scarlet and her reluctant partner/rival/love interest DI William ‘Duke’ Wellington as they investigate crimes across the city. Eliza is very much a modern woman trying to make her way in a man’s world – a task she handles with poise and more than a little sass. But the true joy of this series, aside from the assortment of outlandish mysteries, is the tumultuous will-they-won’t-they relationship between Eliza and Duke. It’s worth watching for that alone. – Natalie Xenos

Babylon Berlin

After three seasons of extraordinarily complex world-building, the remarkable cast has become so enormous as to be almost insupportable – as such, this year’s fourth season was undeniably unwieldy, with at least two plotlines that just didn’t need to be there. And yet a sub-par run of Babylon Berlin still has more to offer than 95% of other shows airing at the moment: the joys of seeing Lotte and Gereon together at last, a dance marathon at the Moka Efti, some delightful spy craft from the ever-capable Frau Behnke, and a whole phalanx of completely unexpected twists and turns. – Chloe Walker

Vampire Academy

Between AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, Netflix’s First Kill and Showtime’s Let the Right One In, it’s fair to say that 2022 was the year of the vampire show comeback. Peacock’s adaptation of Vampire Academy is another new vampire series joining the ranks, but this show sets itself apart with its own unique take on the mythology, as royal Moroi vampires rule over non-royals and the human dhampirs who keep them safe from the rabid, feral threat of the Strigoi. With this supernatural vampire hierarchy, Vampire Academy opens itself up to being so much more than just another vampire show. It delivers all the threat and danger you’ve come to expect alongside political intrigue, court politics and class distinctions that allow for some glorious character development, intriguing social structures and complicated relationship dynamics too.

It’s helped along by star turns from leads Sisi Stringer and Daniela Nieves, as well as a narrative that offers up plenty of star-crossed romance and forbidden love affairs alongside action-packed fight scenes, high stakes and big peril. By the end of its first season Vampire Academy had successfully shaped itself into a show that’s dark, dangerous and entirely compelling, offering a fresh take on a familiar concept – and the promise of plenty more where that came from too if and when it does return for season two. – Megan Davies


Adaptations of the beloved always run the risk of losing the core of what makes something special and resonant. Written by the author of Heartstopper, Alice Oseman, Heartstopper manages to both be a tribute to the comic and it’s own iteration, widening the world by focusing not just on the budding romance between Nick and Charlie, but Elle and Tao. Heartstopper is a heartwarming and honest YA series with a sensational soundtrack of queer artists, moving performances and the warm fire that comes from those first sparks of attraction. – Nick Gomez

The Curse

Sometimes all you want from a TV show is something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Curse could never be accused of being too serious. Set in the early 1980s London, this six-part crime caper follows a gang of bumbling crooks who become embroiled in a gold heist. Written by the comedic team who also star as the hapless felons, it’s insanely silly and very funny. It also ends on a cliffhanger, making the upcoming second series a must-watch for anyone who thought six episodes just wasn’t enough. – Michael Harrison

Karen Pirie

There’s so much to love about ITV’s crime-drama Karen Pirie – an adaptation of Val McDermid’s female-led detective series, which sees the titular DS assigned to reopen the historic case of a murdered barmaid. For starters, the mystery at the centre of the show is one full of twists, turns and satisfying red herrings. Then there’s the Scottish landscape of St Andrews, which is almost a character in itself. But it’s Lauren Lyle’s Pirie who holds the entire series together. She’s such a watchable, likeable character – entirely uncomplicated and determined to do the right thing. Even when the right thing means going against everyone else around her. If you want a show that has brains, heart and excellent performances, forget all the sub-par crime dramas and just watch this. – Natalie Xenos


Whilst they started off in a bad place, and ended in a position of uncertainty, the chief delight of this second season of Hacks has been watching veteran stand-up comedian Deborah Vance and her new young writer Ava learn to appreciate each other as they take a cross-country tour of America. Hacks is too spiky a show to ever lean too far into schmaltziness, but it’s hard not to be moved by the depiction of two women helping each other through what remains largely a man’s world; the laughs – which are many – feel extra earned for all the struggle that’s gone into crafting them. – Chloe Walker

The Seven Lives of Lea

Nostalgic, cool and seemingly a series that’s managed to fly entirely under the radar, The Seven Lives of Lea is the supernatural murder mystery drama with a time travelling twist that your streaming watchlist has been missing this year. This series follows French teenager Lea as she stumbles upon a dead body at an outdoor party in 2021 only to wake up the next day 30 years in the past in the body of a young man named Ismaël. When she returns to her own body the next day, Lea realises that it was Ismaël’s body that she found by the river, and that her own connection to the dead boy doesn’t end there. Over the course of the next week, Lea returns to 1991 night after night, inhabiting a different body each time, and she sets out to uncover the mystery and prevent Ismaël’s death.

Between cold cases, family drama, teenage angst and the warm, colourful, ‘90s nostalgia-wrapped package it arrives in, The Seven Lives of Lea is a tense, intelligent and well-crafted series that offers twists, turns and intrigue at every corner. It makes for a thrilling and unique sci-fi series that’s well worth a Netflix binge-watch. – Megan Davies

Young Royals

The Swedish teen-drama about a Prince, Wilhelm, being sent to a boarding school to sort out his bad behaviour and falling for a local scholarship student, Simon, had a sweet and dramatic first season. Wille and Simon admitted their feelings for one another but ultimately couldn’t make it work after a scandal where footage of the two of them together was released to the public. Season 2 gives us vengeance Wilhelm, who has a newfound determination as he works to deal with the person who filmed them. Meanwhile, Simon finds new romance and we get to see him enjoy some sweeter and cosier moments, without the veil of secrecy over the relationship. Oh, and Simon writes and sings a beautiful song for Wilhelm. – Nick Gomez


Being a parent can be hard. And if you watch Breeders, it’s likely to put you off ever starting a family in the first place. Starring Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard, the show is a dark comedy (and we’re talking reallllly dark at times) about the ups and downs of the Worsley/Grant family. The third season was full of humour, pathos and in typical Breeders fashion, a healthy dose of profanities. It doesn’t always make for the cheeriest of watches but it’s one of the most realistic explorations of parenthood you’ll find in any TV show. Freeman and Haggard’s comedic timing is absolutely spot on too. – Michael Harrison


It’s been ten years since Tom Cruise originally took on the role of Jack Reacher, and six years since he reprised the part in Never Go Back. You might say we didn’t need another iteration. But if you’re saying that, then you’ve definitely not watched Amazon’s action thriller starring Alan Ritchson as the former military policeman turned drifter. Whether you’ve read Lee Child’s novels or not, it’s easy to get on board with Ritchson’s portrayal of a man hell-bent on vengeance. The action sequences are expertly choreographed and the dialogue whip-smart. It’s just an effortlessly cool series too, packed with witty one-liners and star turns from Willa Fitzgerald and Malcolm Goodwin, as well as Ritchson himself. This is a trio you’d absolutely want on your side when the sh*t hits the fan. – Natalie Xenos

The Flight Attendant

There are few shows that go down quite so easily as The Flight Attendant – from the effortlessly effervescent lead performance of Kaley Cuoco as Cassie, to the globe-hopping storylines, to the buckets of style with which it’s constructed (tell me a better title sequence in anything airing right now, I dare you), each episode pretty much comes with an entertainment guarantee. But it’s not shallow entertainment – this year’s run focused on Cassie’s desperate struggle to maintain her sobriety, and went to some dark, honest places when illustrating just what that struggle entails. – Chloe Walker


Tim Burton’s Wednesday arrived on Netflix in a creepy, kooky whirlwind and offered up a genuine celebration of all things supernatural and horror with an added Burton-esque flair, resulting in eight of the most genuinely entertaining episodes of TV seen this year. Jenna Ortega truly excels as a teenage version of Wednesday Addams, delivering her cutting comebacks and macabre musings with perfect stoicism, while still maintaining a character who is compelling enough to hold together an entire series which is, as Wednesday would be quick to point out, entirely about her on every level. With iconic Addams Family members arriving in some star-studded cameos throughout the series, and spectacular set designs and costumes to bring the dark academia wonderland of Nevermore – the boarding school for misfits that Wednesday is sent to – effortlessly to life, Wednesday has created an expansive and immersive world that balances coming of age drama and the usual teen school hijinks with murders, monsters and masses of horror-filled fun. – Megan Davies

The Legend of Vox Machina

Inspired by a Dungeons & Dragons campaign and gameplay of that campaign for web series Critical Role, The Legend of Vox Machina is an adult animation that manages to have the fantastical allure of epics like Lord of the Rings and be a send-up of the archetypes too. Thankfully it doesn’t fall into the territory of other adult animations which focus on gross-out humour or over-the-top gore. It has some of each but not enough for it to distract from telling a funny, action-packed story as the band of heroes look to save the town of Whitestone from the evil Lord and Lady Briarwood and their hordes of monsters. – Nick Gomez

Stranger Things

Two episodes into Stranger Things 4 and I was fully convinced that the Duffer Brothers’ hit retro sci-fi show was heading towards a dreadful downward spiral. With the characters scattered and separated, there was a disjointed feel to the beginning. But it didn’t take long for the series to hit its stride again. The stakes were so much higher this season, and with that came an increase in horror and palpable jump scares. Every single one of the ensemble cast had their chance to shine – whether it was long-time hero Eleven, or chief babysitter Steve, or snarky S3 favourite Robin, or unlikely saviour Eddie. The action stretched from the present to the past, and from Hawkins to California to Russia to the dreaded Upside Down. Nobody came out of it unscathed, setting the scene for the ultimate showdown in the fifth and final season. Hold onto your seats, because it’s going to be emotional. – Natalie Xenos

Black Bird

Taron Egerton has come a long way since Eddie the Eagle. Never is that more evident than in Black Bird, which sees the actor take on the role of Jimmy Keene, a convicted drug dealer who cut a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer and gain a confession from him. Based on Keene’s autobiographical novel, the crime drama miniseries is a slow burner predominantly set within the confines of a prison facility for the criminally insane. Egerton holds an easy charm and intelligence as Jimmy, but it’s Paul Walter Hauser as suspected killer Larry Hall who’s disturbingly brilliant, managing to come across as both meek and terrifying at the same time. It also features Ray Liotta’s final performance before his death earlier this year, lending the father/son dynamic between Jimmy and Big Jim even more poignancy. – Michael Harrison

Abbott Elementary

This year, preposterously talented multi-hyphenate Quinta Brunson introduced us to a cast of instantly loveable characters doing their best to help the kids of their underfunded Philadelphia school get an education. For over a decade, workplace comedies have been chasing the high of The Office (and I’m going to say, controversially, the American one…) and Abbott Elementary is the first that looks like it might get there. Season two is already airing in America, and it can’t make the jump over the Atlantic quickly enough. – Chloe Walker

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is a spectacular series that moves at a stellar pace, sweeping you along in a fantasy story of magic and dragons. The series focuses mostly on Davion, a Dragon Knight who loathes the creatures and then becomes cursed to become one, and Princess Mirana, an exile seeking to recover the stolen lotuses of her patron goddess. What makes Dragon’s Blood stand out is the pivot it takes from season 2 to season 3. As gods and monsters battle, with the heroes struggling to support or challenge both sides, the path we are on shifts dramatically. Season 3 moves from centring on Davion to Mirana and is all the better for it. The story told from then on is surprising and exciting in new ways. – Nick Gomez

Tuca and Bertie

Although it’s heart-breaking that time has been called on the ever-vulnerable Tuca and Bertie, really it’s miraculous that something as beautiful and weird was ever allowed to last three whole seasons. The final run was as gorgeously idiosyncratic as ever – what other show could have an episode where one of the main characters spends most of the duration literally trapped inside a snake, and also be full of insight about medical negligence towards women, social anxiety, and the pain of being a recovering alcoholic in love with an alcoholic yet to achieve sobriety? – Chloe Walker

Honourable Mentions: Yellowjackets, The Responder, The Thief, His Wife and A Canoe, The Summer I Turned Pretty, The Tourist, Around The World In 80 Days, SAS: Rogue Heroes, Bad Sisters

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