Seth’s Favorite Television of 2022

While we are in the midst of watching Better Call Saul, I decided to hold out on including it on a list until we finish in 2023. It would be on here if I didn’t. That said, there are some incredible shows I got to see in 2022. In a media landscape that is exploding like the universe after the Big Bang so many things get lost in the shuffle. Have you ever just browsed Netflix and found dozens of shows multiple seasons in that you have never heard of before. Warner Discovery started what could be a horrific trend this year, by shelving completed and close to finished projects for the sake of tax write-offs. I am guessing it is scary time to want to develop your own series, afraid to pursue you passion project as it might become someone’s tax loophole and your potential audience never sees it. In these instances, piracy is an ethical act, a form of curation & preservation that the major media conglomerates are blind to. There were animated series made by queer & BIPOC creators that got trash canned by Warner this year, even physical DVDs pulled off the shelves. Fuck that corporation and fuck the new owners. My hope is we can see creative people using the self-distribution models and smaller streaming platforms to get their passion projects out there. Let the big boys starve to death. They deserve it. On to my favorites.

Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix, 8 episodes)

Nick Antosca earned my respect after his fascinating run on the horror anthology Channel Zero. So when I saw he had a new horror mini-series on Netflix, co-created by Lenore Zion, there was no question I was going to watch it. I was not disappointed. Based on the novel of the same name by Todd Grisom, Brand New Cherry Flavor is a horrific exploration of the film industry circa 1995. Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) is a young filmmaker on the run from something horrible in her past. She makes a deal with crooked producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange) and gets burnt. Overcome with anger, Lisa gets help from the enigmatic Boro (Catherine Keener), a witchy figure that promises she can cast a spell that fucks up Lou’s life. And she does, but it comes at a cost to Lisa. This is a dark Alice in Wonderland, with the audience & Lisa plunging deeper into the abyss. It has a surprisingly & genuine upbeat ending, though. Lessons are learned, and trauma is overcome. And I loved that the story wrapped up nice and neatly; there was no need for another season.

Pam and Tommy (Hulu, 8 episodes)

There are always things on these lists that I didn’t expect to like but ended up loving. I honestly didn’t care about the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tape, yet this mini-series made me really care about & better understand everyone involved. I didn’t even know the story of how the video got outside their home in the first place. Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) is renovating Tommy Lee’s mansion when the famous musician suddenly stiffs the workers and fires them. Rand leaves his tools behind and, in a fit of anger, breaks into the house. He decides to steal something valuable to compensate for the loss, so he takes a safe. Back home, he cracks it open and finds a VHS tape. You know what’s on it. The series doesn’t follow a linear structure, using episodes to spotlight the three significant figures in the story and give us their backstories. By the end, it’s hard to hate anyone, but you are undoubtedly mad at almost everyone except Pamela. She really got so mistreated as a result of the scandal. Shame on the media, and shame on us.

Saturday Morning All-Star Hits (Netflix, 8 episodes)

I’ve definitely tapped out of Saturday Night Live at this point. I’ve discovered enough “alt-comedy” at this point, but SNL is just too broad for me. Every once in a while, we get someone that shines through, though. Kyle Mooney’s digital shorts often elicited a chuckle from me, and I really enjoyed his feature film Brigsby Bear. With Saturday Morning All-Star Hits, he plays twins Skip & Treybor. Beyond their strange resemblance to the 80s duo Nelson, they host a line-up of Saturday morning cartoons. We get to see these oddly mature cartoons whose characters often deal with addiction, relationships, and general ennui. Skip & Treyboy have their own storyline of jealousy, with one rising up the ranks while the other being forgotten about. We get a lot of meta-humor these days, but this one stuck with me because of the deep pathos involved. It’s funny, but it’s also really sad. It’s hard to compare this to anything else, but it definitely shares some DNA with Tim & Eric’s work, minus the aggression that entails. If you like weird shit, this one should go in your queue.

The Kids in the Hall Revival/Season Six (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes)

I didn’t think I would enjoy these Canadian comedians coming back again, but dammit if it wasn’t one of my favorite television comedies of the year. What can I say? If you know, you know. The most brilliant thing about this revival was how the Kids changed their comedy to fit their ages. These are all men in their late fifties/early sixties. They don’t look exactly how they used to and don’t feel it either. Aging is a big part of this season’s sketches: how your body gets weird and how you become concerned with minutiae to avoid the big problems. The Doomsday DJ sketch got a lot of play online, which is good, but there’s so much here that should also have a big spotlight on it. Also, for my birthday this year, Ariana got me a cameo from Kevin MacDonald which is fantastic.

Would It Kill You To Laugh? (Peacock, comedy special)
Kate Berlant: Cinnamon in the Wind (Hulu, comedy special)

As the kids say, I don’t “stan” many things, but I certainly stan John Early & Kate Berlant, the sardonic Nichols & May of the 21st Century. Their sense of humor was sort of my sense of humor before I discovered them, so it was like magic when I did. I found my people. Early & Berlant excel at playing the most disingenuous people, often punching up at Hollywood executives, self-absorbed actors, and any & all “creative types” who live their lives up their own asses. They also mock themselves, which their Peacock special excelled at. Framed around a fictional reunion between the two, they revisit old feuds and engage in passive-aggressive barbs. Berlant’s solo special on Hulu is more of the same, but with her individual twist on it. It’s a mockery of a privileged person who does indeed have trauma but is going about expressing and processing it in all the wrong ways. Her recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel had me cracking up at the crickets in the audience. Not everyone likes this style of comedy, but I adore it and want more of it.

Outer Range Season One (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes)

Another “out of nowhere” pleasant surprise. Josh Brolin stars as Royal Abbott, a Wyoming rancher fighting the greedy land claims of his neighbor Wayne Tillerson. Two things happen that start a chain of slow-burning, life-altering events. Autumn (Imogen Poots), a stranger, shows up at the Abbott ranch asking if she can camp there for a bit. Royal reluctantly agrees, not yet understanding how she will uproot his life. Second, the rancher discovers a massive hole in his pasture. When he reaches inside, he’s flooded with images. A past life, the future, another dimension? It’s not entirely clear. But now he knows why Tillerson wants his land. But how does that old man know? Throughout these eight episodes, Royal watches as his family is torn apart. You don’t get many answers by the end, but this is just the opening act of a much bigger story. Dripping with existential horror & dread, I found Outer Range to be one of the most emotionally satisfying pieces of television I watched all year long. 

Star Wars: Andor Season One (Disney+, 12 episodes)

There is a robust debate for the culture to have about whether corporate-produced media can actually be used in revolutionary movements. I would be lying if I said Andor did not stir something in me. I’m also conflicted because it was put out by Disney, arguably the evilest media company on Earth. While named after Diego Luna’s character from Rogue One, this show isn’t really about him. It’s about the birth of the Rebellion. Showrunner Tony Gilroy manages to make the Empire truly scary but also something that can be defeated. In turn, he shows the fragility of this embryonic resistance movement sprouting up, disconnected, across the galaxy. We spend time with the working class, political prisoners, and even effete liberals on Coruscant in the core. Some of the best writing in a mainstream show happened in Andor this year, with beautiful monologues that nail down what it means to fight for something, for a better world. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t moved to tears, especially by that final speech. Fiona Shaw is an actress who just never disappoints. But I still know this is from the Mouse, and that makes me think a little bit, is this a force for good or simply the appropriation of the language of the oppressed? 

Reservation Dogs Season Two (FX, 10 episodes)

I really liked Reservation Dogs Season One, but I LOVED Season Two. These ten episodes spend most of their time with the four core characters doing their own things, broken apart due to circumstances last season. Bear is trying to be “the man of the house,” taking on a summer job as a roofer and getting hazed by his adult colleagues. Cheese ends up in a foster home run by Marc Maron but gets a new family that delivers the happy ending he deserves. Willie Jack is on her own transformative experience, sitting down with Daniel’s mom in prison and discovering how her ancestors can give her the strength she needs. And Elora Danan she’s thrust into adulthood when her grandmother passes; she is now the owner of a home and still feeling restless overwhelmed at how fast life is moving. Few television shows capture that transition from kids to adults, as well as Reservation Dogs. And it’s also one of the few places you can go to for Indigenous American voices in the media. I also want to applaud this season for showing the first, close to an accurate depiction of what being on psychedelics is like (it lasts a long time). I cannot wait for more of this show.

Atlanta Season Three & Four (FX, 10 episodes each)

While Reservation Dogs appears to just be getting started on FX, the network said goodbye to one of its flagship shows this year. Atlanta dropped two full seasons in a single calendar year, both excellent but highly different from each other. Season Three sends Earn & friends to Europe. They feel out of their depth, struggling to make sense of themselves in a place so unlike what they are used to. All at the same time, Ariana & I were having the same struggle with alienation and culture clash. That season would jump back to the States for some incredible one-off episodes that often felt like Jordan Peele-style social horror. Then Season Four. How could Donald Glover, Hiro Murai, and associates top things? Wow. What a send-off. Every character gets the closure we wanted, but they earn it (no pun intended). Atlanta continued to remind us that life is not simple or easy but worth living. You need to acknowledge the mystery but keep going. That final shot made me love a character who was my least favorite for most of the show’s run. Bravo. I cannot wait to see what the creative behind this program will do next.

Barry Season Three (HBO, 8 episodes)

I say I’m surprised by Bill Hader, but I should not be at this point. The man is a genius. This season of Barry kept ratcheting up the stakes, yet never lost sight of the humor. Instead, when things get terrible, the show leans into the humanity of its characters. That’s hard to do when over half the cast is composed of some really awful types, straight-up murderers. Hader’s Barry has lost the fucking plot when the season starts; his brain is fried from the things he’s done, living in bizarre stasis. His girlfriend, Sally (Sarah Goldberg), is consumed by her new network pilot, confident she has a hit on her hands. Even NoHo Hank seems to have found love. Barry is off on an island of his own misery. But not for long. By the end of these all-too-short eight episodes, everything is on fire, and relationships are obliterated. Goldberg delivers one of the best performances I have seen all year when Sally snaps once she realizes her dreams are over. And then that snap back when Barry speaks, and she comes to understand who this man is that she has let into her life. Season Four cannot arrive fast enough. Also, that motorcycle chase was incredibly shot.

Severance Season One (Apple TV+, 9 episodes)

I jumped on the bandwagon just before the season finale. I kept seeing rave reviews across my feeds, but I was busy with other things. Fine. I’ll watch it. I probably won’t like it. So foolish. From episode one, I was hooked. That ride down the elevator by Mark (Adam Scott) and the sudden turn baffled me. What is this place? What are these people doing? It just got stranger from there. The more we learned, the more questions I had. It’s not a wild goose chase; this is not a JJ Abrams hollow mystery box. A story is unfolding here, saying something about being a worker in the United States today and how desperately we cling to our personal lives as so much of our time gets swallowed up by our bosses. And how people use mindless labor to avoid their inner pain. It’s also a well-shot show, with every episode directed by Ben Stiller. I didn’t know you had this in you, Ben. Keep going. That final episode is built to frustrate us, teasing us with things to come. Season Two will be where the show proves if it has something or is stringing us along. I want this one to be a home run from season one to wherever it ends. If you have been holding out on this one, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP.

The Rehearsal Season One (HBO, 6 episodes)

A lot of great television came out in 2022, but nothing will stick with me for the rest of my life like Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal. I didn’t know what this would be, and I am so thankful for that. With each episode, the comedian’s bizarre experiment took such unexpected turns. It starts as simple as a Fielder project can begin. He’s developing a system that allows a person to rehearse an upcoming situation that could cause them anxiety. I wouldn’t say it starts out simple, it’s weird, and it just gets stranger from there. Billed as a reality show, I was questioning how much was scripted & staged by the end, and that’s the point. Fielder is exploring some of his thoughts about family (he was recently divorced) and how media shapes real people’s personas when cameras are on and footage is edited. You should go knowing as few details as possible. By the season finale, Fielder had me getting genuinely emotional, something I did not expect from him. But then he makes you question if feeling that is another manipulation. In my opinion, there is nothing like this on television now, and it defies genre classification. I was surprised to hear a second season is in the works, and I have zero ideas where he can take this next. But I trust him completely. Though should I?


2 thoughts on “Seth’s Favorite Television of 2022”

  1. With KITH the Tory, Dory, Rory, and Cory sketches and Hotel LeRut Sylvie and Michelle trying to reach an IPAD were gold. Doomsday DJ and Friends with Mark were top tier.

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