Our 16 favourite TV shows of 2022, from Mo to Only Murders in the Building

Some of the series we binged-watched this year and what made us laugh and cry

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As 2022 draws to a close, we take a look back at a year of great television programming.

New shows such as the highly anticipated House of the Dragon on HBO and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime Video caught our eye, as did returning ones, such as the final season of Ozark and The White Lotus season two. Meanwhile, new series such as Mo on Netflix and Pachinko on Apple TV+ were also welcome additions.

So, whether we binge-watched or patiently waited for episodes to be released week by week, there was plenty keeping us entertained. Here's a look at some of The National's favourite TV shows of the year.

Mo

There were a number of riveting shows in the year, but none more so than Mo, on Netflix. It mixed drama with humour, Palestinian personal experiences and US domestic politics. With a smart script, great casting and production, Mo Amer was able to capture Palestinian and immigrant stories that few have been able to tackle, and certainly no one has presented to a mass audience. Only eight episodes long, the first season was packed with events and ideas, and left audiences wanting more.

Mina Al-Oraibi, editor-in-chief

House of the Dragon

I wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to watch another Game of Thrones-related show, particularly after being so disappointed by the final few seasons of the previous series. Set nearly 200 years before the birth of Daenerys, House of the Dragon follows the dynamics of the Targaryen family as they steadily descend into a war over the succession to the Iron Throne.

From the first episode, any lingering trepidation I had dissipated. The 10 one-hour-long episodes encapsulated the best parts of Game of Thrones: strong dialogue, excellent pace and exciting elements of fantasy — though knowledge of the previous show is not necessary to enjoy this prequel. Anyone who appreciates good storytelling and family drama will like the show and with the second season not due until 2024, there’s plenty of time to catch up on episodes.

Juman Jarallah, special projects editor

The Bear

It’s been a while since I devoured a series in a single sitting, but The Bear had me gripped from its opening scenes. The show follows young chef Carmy, who leaves behind his job at an award-winning restaurant in New York City, to return home to Chicago to help with his late brother's failing sandwich shop.

Admittedly, it was a stressful watch — the kitchen scenes in particular, but it was also incredibly tender and touching, with moments of pure comedy. I left the series with ambitions of becoming a doughnut expert, inspired by Marcus and tried to recreate Carmy's lemon chicken piccata at home. Pro tip: don’t start watching it hungry, because you’ll be ravenous three minutes in and ordering from Eataly on Deliveroo before episode one is over.

Farah Andrews, deputy features editor

The White Lotus, season two

The highly anticipated second season of exotic resort drama The White Lotus is an honourable follow-up to the stellar first. The new cast is interesting, with the best character from the first season, billionaire socialite Tanya (played by Jennifer Coolidge) returning once again. Season two takes place in a Sicilian resort town, and the locals play a larger part in the show this time. For those wanting to enjoy a show with fascinating subplots and engrossing characters, look no further.

Faisal Salah, social media journalist

The Mole

This may be a polarising choice but I am an absolute sucker for reality TV and Netflix has rebooted the competitive series The Mole. Best described as an escape room played out on a real-life giant scale, a group of competitors have to work together and against each other to win a series of tasks. One small hurdle though: one player is the mole and is actively working against their teammates. The audience doesn’t know who the mole is until the final episode, and analysing the behaviour of every player is part of the fun of the show.

Farah Andrews, deputy features editor

Welcome to Wrexham

The show is an unlikely but true story of Hollywood stardust being sprinkled over the deeply unfashionable Welsh town of Wrexham. When stars Ryan Reynolds (Marvel's Deadpool) and Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) bought Wrexham Association Football Club last year — a Welsh football team struggling to survive in the lower leagues of English football — a hit TV show would not have seemed the likely outcome. However, the two North American stars with little or no connection to British football have beguiled viewers with an honesty, openness and endeavour that has crafted a must-see TV show. Think Ted Lasso with a hotter lead and real-time storyline.

Andy Scott, multimedia producer

Andor

This is easily the best of the Star Wars TV spin-offs so far, in part because you can still enjoy it without having any knowledge of the Star Wars universe (although it helps, of course). Part-espionage thriller, part-rebel alliance origin story that packs an emotional punch, there's also an excellent quality of talent involved. Stellan Skarsgard and Fiona Shaw are standouts. Andor takes a few episodes of scene-setting to get going but once it does, it's a thrill ride from start to finish of its 12-episode run.

Tim Knowles, head of picture desk

Ozark, season four

Ozark, in my humble opinion, is one of the best TV shows ever made and season four — the series finale — wrapped it up in a way that did not disappoint (me, at least). The season continues telling the tale of the Byrde family, who have to move from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, after getting roped into laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel.

Netflix released part one first, leaving plenty of anticipation for part two in the interim months. It could so easily have failed to hit the mark after so much drama, shocking twists and turns, and truly excellent acting. What I was particularly happy about is that the ending, despite this being the final season, left it open to more in the future, whether that’s another surprise season or spin-off (which I’ve heard rumours about).

Katy Gillett, head of features

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

As a prequel to Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power caused concern for some Tolkien fans, who worried if it would be faithful to his world. However, Rings is visually stunning — breathtaking visuals immerse the viewer in Tolkien’s world, from the rolling hills of Rhovanion to the underground city of Moria.

The plot starts slowly as viewers are introduced to a range of characters and creatures, both familiar and new, all within a world that feels largely faithful to Middle Earth. The show takes on similar themes as The Lord of the Rings — the heroic struggle against evil, duty, friendship and sacrifice — while also managing to carve out its own identity, characters and story arcs. While the writing could be stronger at times, it tells a captivating tale against a beautiful backdrop, catering to both new viewers and fans of the films.

Tommy Hilton, homepage editor

Pachinko

It’s rare that a TV series would impress me in the way this Korean drama did. Binge-watching the show after its weekly episode drop had completed, I rushed to go out and buy the book after finding out that a second season was already green-lit, and that the first season only covered about half the book.

Based on The New York Times bestseller of the same name by American journalist Min Jin Lee, the sweeping epic follows a family over three generations, starting in the 1900s during Japan's occupation of Korea. Beautifully shot and movingly acted, it is a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a family drama and a history lesson all in one lush production that will have you hooked right from the first scene.

David Tusing, assistant features editor

Only Murders in the Building, season two

This quirky comedy/murder mystery had me hooked from the first season thanks to the charming cast of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. It’s unexpected, but it works. Each actor holds their own, none overshadowing the other, and the characters are all loveable in their individual ways.

Season two picks up where the first season left off with another murder in their building, only this time, the trio has been framed as the ones behind it. The idea of basing the TV show around looking into a live murder investigation and making a podcast about it is pure genius, and it’s easy to think it’d be a one-hit wonder but the new season did not let us down. The original yet familiar whodunnit storyline is just as good and the cast manage to maintain the charm that lured audiences in the first place.

Katy Gillett, head of features

Twenty Five Twenty One

The K-drama on Netflix takes place in 1998, around the time of the IMF crisis that affected Asia, and tells the love story (and eventual break-up) between Na Hee-do, a high school fencer, and Baek Yi-jin, whose family has gone bankrupt because of the financial crisis. The couple meet when they are aged 22 and 18 respectively, but fall in love years later at 25 and 21, hence the name of the show. It’s actually told in flashbacks from the present day, with Hee-do’s daughter Min-chae, who reads Hee-do's old diaries from her youth.

Although the love story between Hee-do and Yi-jin is a focal point, it also hones in on the importance of friendship, family and chasing after your dreams. The series is beautifully filmed around South Korea and there are some real tear-jerker moments as there are laugh-out-loud funny lines. Although 16 episodes that all run more than an hour long may seem daunting, the show is definitely worth it.

Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor

The Staircase

Following on from the documentary that covered the trial of Michael Peterson and his conviction in the murder of his wife Kathleen, this HBO drama starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette examines the theories around how Kathleen came to be found at the bottom of the staircase in December 2001 as well as how the documentary team became involved and takes a closer look at the American legal system.

While the recreations of the possible ways Kathleen met her end make for uncomfortable viewing, and the Peterson family, along with the documentary makers, have expressed displeasure at the show, it is nonetheless well made and an interesting comparison with the documentary. The initial horror and how the family came together in their grief but gradually suspicion divides them mirrors the audience's exposure to facts around the case as well. Although Michael took the Alford plea in 2017, he still maintains he is innocent, but by the end of the series all theories are plausible — even the owl one.

Charlotte Mayhew, deputy picture editor

Shantaram

It’s been almost 20 years since the novel, Shantaram, shook the literary world. Surely, a series based on the book can’t live up to the lofty expectations, right? Wrong. The Apple TV drama manages to meet and in some ways, exceed what’s presented in Gregory David Roberts’s semi-autobiographical book about an Australian drug addict and criminal who ends up in India. The acting is delightful and the cinematography takes you back to Bombay in the 1980s.

The star of the series, Charlie Hunnam, is methodical and intriguing in the lead role of Lin Ford, but the supporting actor, Shubham Saraf, manages to steal the show to some extent as he portrays the endearing character of Prabhu without taking away from the overall story. There’s plenty of drama, enough comedy, and a cacophony of side stories within the series to satisfy just about everyone. Sure, Ted Lasso might get all the Apple TV+ accolades, but Shantaram shouldn’t be overlooked.

Cody Combs, social media editor

Heartbreak High

My love for teen dramas remains undiminished even as I settle into my forties. The heightened emotions, sense of possibility and nostalgic undertones get me every time. Even more so when a series I used to watch when I was an actual teenager is given a reboot.

The original incarnation of Australian series Heartbreak High was pretty revolutionary in its day. When set against the airbrushed, highly sanitised American shows of the 1990s, Heartbreak High was gritty and dark, dealing with issues such as racism, bullying, death and various other facets of teenage angst.

The 2022 iteration of the show continues in this same vein, although, set 30 years later, deals with a range of new issues such as gender relations, abuse and the consequences of growing up in a social media-driven age. The characters are rounded, real and diverse in a way that doesn’t feel tokenistic. And the issues are pertinent, albeit heavy, with just the right amount of knowing humour to take the edge off.

Selina Denman, luxury & travel editor

Severance

Psychological thriller Severance on Apple TV+ caused a stir on Twitter with everyone intrigued by the prospect of separating your work life from your home life by undergoing a procedure. This means that none of the "innies" have a clue who they are on the outside, nor do the "outies" know what they do for work on the inside.

Adam Scott stars as Mark, a man who wants to escape the grief of losing his wife, and undergoes the procedure. His disposition becomes sunnier as he ascends the lift to the office each day as he switches to his "innie". However, with the new arrival of Helly (Britt Lower), we soon experience the horror that the "innies" experience and as the story progresses not everything is as it seems. Also, the title sequence is a piece of art in itself, with the animation capturing the whole essence of the show cleverly.

Charlotte Mayhew, deputy picture editor

Updated: January 10, 2023, 12:33 PM
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