The year is halfway over, and already we’re drowning in fantastic television. The content carousel never stops turning, so it’s up to you to grab what you want as it makes its rounds. The half of 2022 has offered up a dazzling number of series for premium watching. Ozark made its big Netflix return, Amazon has offered us a beautiful look into the lives of three young adults on the autism spectrum, and ABC (yes, ABC, the network) has turned out the best comedy of the year. Apple TV+ also muscled its way into the streaming game with two of the year’s biggest hits, pachinko and Severance, each bound to take home Emmy gold. If this all serves as any indication for the second half of the year, it’s not going to be a matter of whether or not there’s any good television, but whether you have the time to watch it all.
To stay ahead of things, we’ve chosen a handful of series that you should get in your queue. It’s best to make the most of your summer and start watching now, because the year is only getting more stacked. Coming down the pike, we still have a Lord of the Rings spin-off, a confirmed third season of Ted Lassoand a new Game of Thrones prequel. Clearly there’s no time to waste. Here are the 20 series we at Esquire are most excited about—so far—in 2022.
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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Paramount+’s recent explosion of Star Trek programming has provided some hits and misses, but in Strange New Worldswe have the best pull out in decades. This back-to-basics return to the episodic storytelling of The Original Series is set during the captaincy of Christopher Pike, who preceded Captain Kirk aboard the Enterprise. If you’re not a Trekkie, have no fear: there’s no learning curve here, and there’s a lot to love for any science fiction fan. Uplifting, exhilarating, and gloriously retro, Strange New Worlds is a character-driven series where each episode pairs a top notch sociocultural story with some good, clean, spacefaring fun.
(Read an exclusive interview with star Ethan Peck here at Esquire.)
When a breakout hit heads into its second season, one always has to wonder: will there be a sophomore slump? Anyone worried about Bridgerton was proven dead wrong when Season Two soared. Sure, the second outing was different from the first: the enemies to lovers romance meant less steamy sex and more slow burning chemistry, but it was still hot as hell. The series also found new emotional depths in its romantic leads, who are drawn together as much by attraction as by shared burdens of grief, duty, and sacrifice. We can hardly wait for Season Three.
(Julia Quinn, author of the Bridgerton novels, spoke to Esquire ahead of Season Two’s debut. Read that exclusive interview here.)
Under the Banner of Heaven
Following the demented murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty, Dustin Lance Black’s Under the Banner of Heaven (based in part on the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer) is a horrific look at religious crime, extremism, and tests of faith. Andrew Garfield stars as the fictional Jeb Pyre, a Mormon detective assigned to investigate the murder. What he initially uncovers turns out to be an onion of a mystery, with more and more unnerving details revealed as he dives into the extremist fringes of his own church.
Barry‘s third season turns things up a notch. Following Gene’s revelation that Barry is responsible for the death of Detective Janice Moss, the third season dives back into action, thrusting Gene and Barry together in the most precarious of ways. without spoiling anything, Barry‘s long-awaited new season feels more charged than its preceding seasons. But mostly, how wonderful is it to have Noho Hank back on our screens?
Netflix’s new coming of age story skips the snobbiness of prestige TV and instead opts for something that seems to be en vogue: a straightforward, heartwarming tale. The British series follows a teenager navigating life as one of the few gay guys at an all-boys school. He soon finds an ally in the captain of the rugby team, only to discover that they may have more alike than he initially suspected. Bonus points: Olivia Colman is featured as one of the protagonist’s mothers, and yes, she steals every scene she is in.
We Own This City
David Simon returns to HBO with his greatest muse in tow: Baltimore. Unfortunately, the source material hasn’t improved too much since his masterpiece, The Wire. The good part is we’re left with a powerhouse of a limited series, chronicling the disastrous Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. Full of corruption and misgivings, it makes for perfect fodder for one of Simon’s Baltimore character studies. Jon Bernthal, Jamie Hector, and Josh Charles shine as the leads in what is sure to enter Simon’s canon of greatness.
does Minx sometimes lean into cliche? Sure. But there’s still something intoxicating about HBO Max’s Porn Valley set feature starring Jake Johnson and Ophelia Lovibond. The latter plays a feminist writer hoping to jumpstart her own feminist magazine in the 70s. The former is her publishing meal ticket. The catch? He’s a smut mag king. Hilarity reviews.
The time between Upload‘s first and second season was grotesquely long. (So goes the world of pandemic premieres.) But even still, the sci-fi series about the afterlife is still as fresh and inventive as it was in Season One. The new batch of episodes don’t spare any comedy but manages to weave in a story about wealth disparity and how it continues to affect the people of Upload‘s universe, even after their departures.
Apple TV+ knows a good thing when they see it, so they’ve taken the novel of the same name, placed Academy Award winner (Youn Yuh-Jung) at the forefront, and created something spectacular. In the upswing of Korean-language series available to American viewers, pachinko exceeds the hype.
The Girl From Plainville
Based on the Esquire story of the same name, Hulu’s adaptation of The Girl From Plainville is a twisted version of the haunting story of Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy. With Elle Fanning and Colton Ryan in the aforementioned roles (respectively), the series attempts to get inside the head of Carter, following the real-life texts that encouraged her boyfriend to take his own life.
Deepen that voice and don that turtleneck, we have some investing to do. hulus The Dropout is the first semi-fictionalized venture depicting the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the notorious scammer who convinced a whole slew of high profile investors to bet on her “innovative” medical company. Only issue, of course, is that the company that purported to be able to take a drop of blood and run diagnostic tests… couldn’t actually do that. Amanda Seyfried steps into the role of Holmes brilliantly, capturing the laser-focus of a desperate businesswoman and the naiveté of a young woman who believed she could pull it all off.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty
If you can embrace this show for what it is (Adam McKay at his most Adam McKay) you’ll agree with us it belongs here. The miniseries takes the heyday of 1980s Los Angeles and the rise of the Lakers, Dr. Jerry Buss, and Magic Johnson and turns the dial way up. What results is one of the most compelling sports miniseries we’ve seen in some time. (The cast is stacked as well, with the likes of John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, Quincy Isaiah, and Gaby Hoffman on board.)
Every time someone says network is dead a series like Abbott Elementary comes along. The half hour comedy from creator (and star) Quinta Brunson isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it keeps things simple, and in doing so has become one of the funniest feel-good series in years. Set in an elementary school in Philadelphia, it follows a crew of primary school teachers just trying to get by on what little the government will give them. It also doesn’t help that they have an objectively terrible principal (played to perfection by Janelle James) standing in their way at almost every turn.
If there’s a show that’s perfectly nailed the surreal vibes of 2022, it’s Severance. Following an office where your work memories are separated from your personal memories upon arrival and dismissal—sounds like perfect corporate strategy, right?—the show explores the many ways in which we split ourselves in half, especially the parts that refuse to stay put.
It’s hard to put Somebody Somewhere into words. It’s less like watching a story and more like watching an experience. Bridgett Everett shines as a woman who is trying to find grace and acceptance amid a ton of grief and sadness. Raw and unfiltered, the series is part comedy, part drama, and entirely too realistic for anyone who has ever had dreams of leaving their hometown. (Bonus: the star-making turn from Jeff Hiller takes the series from a 10 to an 11.)
After a long hiatus, Euphoria‘s glorious, if not extremely stressful, return is proof that the series it not a one season wonder. Picking up after Rue’s Season One relapse, the series from Sam Levinson has moved at a breakneck pace, with Sydney Sweeney giving a particularly notable performance. Do you want dicks in the foyer? This season has it. Do you want hot tub vomit? Got that, too. And then of course, there’s the “how long you been fucking Nate Jacobs?” heard round the world. Don’t even get us started on the play.
As We See It
Jason Katims, how dare you. The new series from the Friday Night Lights and parenthood creator debuted on Amazon earlier this year, following three autistic young adults as they wade out into the world with the assist of their aid, played by Sosie Bacon. The series has heart, honesty, and a willingness to bring the world of life on the spectrum into the mainstream. That the three leads are all played by autistic performers makes the point perfectly.
Yellowstone may have been what broke ground in the Taylor Sheridan TV universe, but it’s 1883 that offers the most nuance. Acting as an origin story of sorts, the western follows the Dutton family as they make their way west to what will eventually become the homestead fans of the original series know. Rooted by performances from Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Isabel May, the series is one hell of a watch.
Pam & Tommy
There are several intriguing things about Pam and Tommy. The CGI penis, obviously. Also, the subject matter of a stolen sex tape makes the show feel a bit icky and exploitive, as well. But damn if Lily James and Seabstian Stan don’t go all in as the titular characters, resurrecting an era of 90s sensationalism—not to mention a scandal that defined the 30 years that followed.
On a lot of these “best of” lists, you’ll see miniseries, new shows, and the occasional long-running favorite, but it’s hard to keep a series fresh season after season. That’s what makes Ozark so special. Now on its fourth batch of episodes, the series starring Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and the incomparable Julia Garner, has continued to reinvent itself and offer some of the best television on any platform.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on television, pop culture, food, and the south; he is from East Tennessee and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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