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The CBC’s entertainment reporters and producers spent hundreds of hours watching television in 2022.
This year offered a mix of very big budgets (Prime Video’s The Rings of Power spent $465 million US on the first season), long runtimes (Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 finale was 2.5 hours long) and a list of whodunits (in shows like The White Lotus, Only Murders in the Building and The Afterparty).
Here are our top picks for the best shows on TV over the past year:
Let’s be honest: Being an adult fan of Star Wars can be a trying existence — or at least it was until Andor arrived. Gone are the Baby Yodas, Jabbas and the merchandise-ready aspects of the universe. Instead, showrunner Tony Gilroy delivered a slow burn of a story, tracking the seeds of rebellion and how Cassian Andor evolves from a petty scoundrel to hero. Andor is about the faceless cruelty of the Empire and those casually crushed in its cogs. It’s about a cunning spymaster willing to do terrible things for the greater good and the saddest droid in the world — B2EMO. And the writing! “I burn my decency for someone else’s future.” Bring on Season 2, cowards! Available on Disney+. — Eli Glasner
The word “relentless” comes to mind as I think back to The Bear, a frenetic look at the world of high-stakes, low-payoff restauranteering. Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), a world-class chef trained in French cuisine, is handed one hell of a hoagie when he inherits his brother’s dysfunctional Italian beef sandwich shop in a grimy Chicago neighbourhood. The FX show’s rapid word-of-mouth spread is a testament to its Kitchen Confidential-esque realism. And its standout is comedian Ayo Edebiri, playing the sweet but straight-laced sous-chef Sydney. If you’re looking for a delicious, eight-episode burst of high-octane TV, this one’s for you. Available on Disney+. — Jenna Benchetrit
One of the best, most exciting and certainly smartest TV shows this year was Jeopardy! As a longtime viewer of the enduring quiz competition, Seasons 38 and 39 were very fun to watch. We got to follow the thrilling streaks of super-champs like Amy Schneider and Canada’s own Mattea Roach, who earned the fifth-longest run in the show’s history. Jeopardy! will never have quite the same heart and soul as it did with Alex Trebek, but Ken Jennings has the charisma and credibility of a truly great successor, sharing the lectern with Mayim Bialik — a grounding presence in the tensest of game-show times. Available on cable. — Laura Thompson
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Was the year’s most-expensive television series worth it? Yes, yes it was. For fans of Middle-earth, it was a show packed with nostalgia, beautiful cinematography and whimsical characters to which you quickly become attached. The season is set thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings, diving into the origins of elves, hobbits and Sauron. While the breathtaking views of New Zealand took viewers into a magical escape, the show’s best feature was Galadriel, an elven warrior who risks her life to avenge her brother. Viewers are also introduced to a community of harfoots, the land of dwarves and a stranger that literally falls from the sky. Available on Prime Video. — Arti Patel
WATCH | ‘Epic’ Rings of Power series takes LOTR fans thousands of years into the past:
Somebody Feed Phil
On the rare occasion the family gathers around the tube together, the comfort food we feast on is Somebody Feed Phil. If Mr. Bean had a kindly Jewish uncle, he would be your amiable host, Phil Rosenthal. Powered by a bottomless stomach and appetite for engaging with everyone, Rosenthal brings his curiosity and enthusiasm to cities, restaurants and street-food vendors around the world. Half the charm is just Rosenthal himself: this goofy, googly-eyed TV producer who created a second career by going places and eating stuff. Come for his silly grin and Borscht Belt sense of humour; stay for the kindness, the endless teasing of his off-camera brother, Richard, and the sumptuously illustrated gastronomy. Available on Netflix Canada. — Eli Glasner
The White Lotus (S2)
For Season 2 of HBO’s luxury chaotic paradise, The White Lotus, a new group of vacationers are introduced in Sicily. Just like its first season, the show begins at the end, revealing a looming death on resort grounds. Audience members play a fun, head-scratching game of whodunit as we understand each cringe-worthy character and the baggage they carry with them. The satirical comedic-drama is packed with a stellar ensemble cast, including the return Jennifer Coolidge, alongside Theo James, Aubrey Plaza and Micheal Imperioli. As the story unravels, the show’s creator Mike White puts power, tension and dilemma on display. With each reveal, twist and turn, you’ll be left wondering — and wanting more. Available on Crave. — Griffin Jaeger
Sort Of (S2)
Sort Of is easily one of Canada’s best television series, and the second season of the sitcom is its best yet. Starring and co-created by Bilal Baig, this season follows Sabi (played by Baig) as they navigate friendships, love and being a non-binary child of a Pakistani family. So much of this season is about belonging. Sabi tries to organize a safe space for the queer community as their beloved local bar shuts down and, at the same time, we find our main character trying to find their place in their own family after a loss. As a South Asian viewer, I was brought to tears at some of the simplest representations of Sabi’s family — from her mother secretly attending a dance class, to a funeral where generational differences quickly become obvious. Available on CBC Gem. — Arti Patel
WATCH | Cast of CBC’s Sort Of reflects on show’s ‘funny and sad and heartache-y’ world:
A tech thriller meets office drama to striking effect in Severance, which premiered in early 2022 as the labour force reckoned with a mass return to the workplace. The show’s mysterious biotech corporation, Lumon Industries, has popularized a controversial surgical procedure that literally separates a person’s work life from their personal life. When gold-star manager Mark (Adam Scott), a grieving widower in the real world, is confronted with a glitch in the simulation, the company’s enigma starts to unravel, revealing a sinister fate for its employees. A smart, suspenseful commentary on cogs-in-a-machine corporate culture. Available on Apple TV+. — Jenna Benchetrit
By now, Steve Carell has done more than enough to shed fears of typecasting. Still, the once-buffoonish star of The Office continues to take darker and darker roles — now culminating in The Patient. The 10-part miniseries isn’t exactly earth-shattering in its message (the importance of family and dealing with regret), and its execution could be said to succeed only as a gimmick (a serial killer kidnaps a therapist to work through his trauma). But its balance of suspense and emotionality is one of the best this year, while Carell proves once again his ability to carry an entire show on his back. Available on Disney+. — Jackson Weaver
90 Day Fiancé (S9)
Long-distance couples — who met on vacation, online dating or even waiting for a taxi in Ethiopia — get a K-1 visa, live together in the U.S., and have 90 days to get married, or the partner from abroad goes home. 90 Day Fiancé, now in its ninth season, has mastered the formula, with pre-nup drama, babies and immigration fraud testing the “thick and thin” of relationships from the jump. With high stakes, a compelling cast and multiple spinoffs that just keep giving, it’s reality TV worth tuning in for. Available on Discovery+. — Laura Thompson
Heartstopper offers a fresh look at love; it’s genuine and refreshingly real. Based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series of the same name, the show follows high-schoolers Nick and Charlie on a journey through their budding romance and path to self-discovery. Unlike many of its queer predecessors, the show doesn’t focus on trauma or tragedy. Instead, it offers optimism for new generations, celebrating love in all its forms. Jam-packed with sweet scenes that will have LGBTQ+ viewers and allies alike wiping tears and reminiscing, this show is a sweet escape. Available on Netflix Canada. — Griffin Jaeger
Am I Being Unreasonable?
Almost entirely off the back of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s success, we can now say Fleabag is officially a genre. The confessional, guilt- and grief-infused dramedy-style, framed around a character failing to launch, has been seen in everything from Sort Of, to Russian Doll, to even Mare of Easttown — and now, Am I Being Unreasonable? The six-part BBC series stars Daisy May Cooper — along with her real-life best friend, Selin Hizli — in a story about day-drinking, after-school pickups and premature death. Along with a marvel of a supporting cast — perhaps most impressively 13-year-old newcomer Lenny Rush — Cooper’s writing and performance is a master class in character development, while the narrative flips so quickly between funny and terrifying, you start to see how the genres are inherently linked. The Guardian called it brilliant, the Independent called it flawless, and we call it one of the best shows of 2022. Not yet available to stream in Canada. — Jackson Weaver