Screen Scholars Top 20 TV Shows of 2022: 20-11

Even though we’ve waited for some great 2023 shows to start rolling out–have you guys watched Paul F. Goldman yet–we still have some scholarly opinions about the year that was (even if it ended roughly 20 days ago). And in the age of Peak TV, we hope you find this both fun and gives you a chance to discover some of the shows you missed amid the rabble. Here’s the first half of our countdown today, and we’ll follow with our top ten tomorrow. In case you haven’t watched any of these–especially the last one–THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS, so SPOILER ALERT!

20 Better Call Saul [AMC] 20

Pulling off a final season of any show can be tricky, but when you are essentially writing the final chapter of a beloved universe, well, that’s near impossible. And Vince Gilligan nailed it (mostly anyway) with the endgame of the BadiSaul-iverse(?) fitting fan service effortlessly into a plot that even gave us a sense of unlikely closure (and even peace) for the prequel’s Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill and Kim Wexler. Time jumped around, gasps abounded, and Carol Burnett even showed up as a key component of the collapse of Sau. It could not satisfy everyone, but as always it was a thrillride, a well-written character study, and a boom for the sales of Blue Bunny Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. – Jason Thurston

19 Kevin Can F**k Himself [AMC+] 19

The most daring show on television came to an end last fall (Tony Soprano walked so Allison could–literally?–run). Following Allison and Patty’s incompetence in season one (and we can hardly blame them, who amongst us has the experience to hire a killer?) Allison pivots from murdering Kevin to faking her own death and sets on a slow and winding path toward self-fulfillment. This time allows for two satisfying developments: more people come to see that Kevin isn’t a clown so much as a toxic boil on the ass of humanity (Sam in particular wakes up the direness of Allison’s situation), leaving him deserted by his friends, family, and new girlfriend by the series finale. It also opens a window into what Allison wants, which it turns out, is a life in Worchester with Sam, Diane, and most of all, Patty. Her journey allows her to realize her life would be better with a divorce than a dead husband, and with Kevin alienated, she can safely ask for it. – Katherine M. Hill

18 Our Flag Means Death [HBO Max] 18

Rhys Darby just has a knack for making weird characters relatable, and few are as weird as Stede Bonnet, the ancient wealthy Barbadian landowner who leaves his vast estate and confused family to sail the seven seas in search of plunder. Oh, and he also gets into a will they won’t they with Blackbeard the Pirate (played to barbarous/benevolent glory by Taika Waititi). It’s one of the craziest shows in a year when the bizarre ruled and it somehow works as a comedy, as an adventure serial, and as an unlikely rom-com – Jason Thurston

17 His Dark Materials [HBO] 17

This adaption of Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels is full of surprises. Mainly by not pulling punches from the source material. The themes are often adult and this show does not coddle, even if it sometimes seen a kids show. There may be too much content these days, but it really is a great time for genre fiction. Lin Manuel Miranda do your thing. – Brad Filicky

16 Somebody Somewhere [HBO] 16

If you are familiar with Bridgett Everett, it’s probably as a boisterous, larger-than-life personality. She started as a standup with a risque cabaret tilt, and may be best known for her showcase cameos on her pal’s Inside Amy Schumer. This makes it all the more striking that her first scripted show would be so low-key, even downright bucolic, as she portrays a version of herself who, after feeling the big city lights, must return in her 40s to her Midwest home town to help her family grieve after her sister’s death. Jeff Hiller, after a lifetime of small roles in everything you watch, finally gets an above-the-line role as her abiding best friend, while Michael Hagerty shines in what would sadly turn out to be his final role as her gruff, but supportive, dad. – Jason Thurston

15 Stranger Things [Netflix] 15

Who would have guessed Kate Bush would have one of the biggest hits with a song almost 40 years old when the premier throwback sci-fi/fantasy show featured it as Max’s Theme in its fourth season? Thanks, Stranger Things! We mourn certain characters. We relish in the triumph of others. No show should be as good as this one was in so far into its run. This is why I love genre fiction. Finally, Eddie you were a legend. – Brad Filicky

14 Bob’s Burgers [Fox] 14

How does a beloved animated sitcom improve after twelve seasons and a feature film? More heart. We’ve consistently chosen the Belcher family (and all that come with them) for our Best Ofs (and our What to Watches–and our readers often award Bob’s a top spot during March Madness), and this year is no exception–season thirteen is easily the show’s best. Sure, putting on a production of Hamlet for the Belcher’s eccentric landlord and a bad summer vacation sound like standard fare, but the writing, direction, and character development–particularly of Louise, who has grown significantly since 2011–are significantly elevated than seasons past. – Katherine M. Hill

13 The Great North [Fox] 13

It’s back-to-back Animation Domination as this quietly brilliant comedy about a quirky Alaska clan just keeps getting better and better, hitting its stride as its second season bled into its third this year. This year brought many new adventures for the Tobins, from Beef joining a mom’s group to Moon trying to get over being a child of divorce to Judy savagely sabotaging her school play. Of course, Judy comes back to her senses and learns something along the way. Though its drawn and its characters reside far away from the rest of the world, the Tobins are one of the most realistic families on the small screen, and this little program always manages to be warm without being corny. – Jason Thurston

12 Hacks [HBO Max] 12

Hell hath no fury like a comedienne’s scorn, that was the underlying premise as season two rolled in. Ava had to grapple with the explosive inebriated email she sent throwing her now kinda friend/boss/mom figure Deborah under the bus. But no biggie Deborah assures, aside for a teeny lawsuit, there are no hard feelings! This season we get out of the glitz of Vegas and see Deborah out of her comfort zone on the road which of course leads to even more hijinx and great banter. Jean Smart still shines in this hilarious tale of unlikely friendship and starting over again at any age. Two emoji thumbs up. – Navani Otero

11 The Sandman [Netflix] 11

I was very skeptical–but hopeful–for this adaption of (and i’m not being hyperbolic here) one of the greatest artistic achievements of humanity. Boy, was I happily surprised, We got TV moments from the comics i never thought we’d see (24 hours, dream of 1,000 cats to name a few). Flawless casting… we don’t deserve this show but are lucky to have it. Thank you, Neil Gaiman for being involved. – Brad Filicky

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