Okay, what may possibly—maybe—be my last of these. I feel like there’s only so far you can get into 2023 before “Best of” lists for 2022 become a little passé. I was thinking about doing toys, too? But… eh… we’ll see. If the tens of you who read these things really want that, let me know. In any case, TELEVISION! A medium that has produced stories so impactful, heartfelt, and epic that they rival movies these days. Of course, as the line between what is TV and what is a movie sometimes blur, sometimes it’s hard to keep them straight. What was Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, really, than a series of short films? Well, the answer to that is a TV anthology. But, in my heart of hearts, they FELT more like films. But I didn’t include them on that list. So, I am kind of a hypocrite in that regard. Anyway, onwards and upwards. As usual, you can find all the various posts I’ve done on my favorite things here, with the handy tag YearlyFavorites2022.
I hadn’t intended it when I first made this list, but all but one of these were new in 2022! That’s really just by accident. And the fact that quite a few of my returning favorites has seasons that I’d call just… well, okay. Enjoyable, but they did not necessarily make a huge impact. Like the movie list, I’ve decided to rank these.
10. Star Trek: Lower Decks
Paramount+. Hey, we’re going to start out with this list’s lone exception! This is the show that was not new in 2022. It took me a bit to get to Lower Decks. Then it took me a bit to really get into it. But halfway through season 1 I was hooked. I binged it and season 2 pretty much together, and awaited season 3 with much anticipation. The jokes don’t always hit that hard. Sometimes they elicit more of a smile than an actual guffaw from me. But, I’d say the hit to miss ration is pretty great. What the show does brilliantly, though, is be about more than just the humor. There’s a lot of heart here, with characters that grow on you by leaps and bounds as the series progresses. Also, there is a deep DEEP love for Star Trek (in particular the 24th Century iteration) on display that makes me smile so much.
9. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Disney+. Speaking of things that made me laugh, She-Hulk is another great example. I’ve had a hard time feeling motivated to watch MCU series as of late. I still haven’t seen Hawkeye, Moon Knight, or Ms. Marvel. Though I did watch the first episode of the latter and it was great. For whatever reason, I think I’ve needed a little bit of a superhero break. She-Hulk had a couple things going for it. For one thing, I’ve always liked the character of She-Hulk. I was introduced to her first via the Fantastic Four (my favorite superhero team growing up) and John Byrne’s run on the book. Dan Slott also did a fantastic run on the main title I enjoyed a lot. The show draws a lot on Byrne and Slott’s run, much to it’s credit. Second, I am a big fan of Tatiana Maslaney. She’s so freaking talented. I was a big Orphan Black fan, and was happy to see her in 2020’s Perry Mason. The CGI for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law can be a little ropey at times, but at least Maslaney’s performance seems to shine through. Plus, this is the show that gave us Wong & Madisyn!
Paramount+. Speaking of people not liking things, there’s a couple on this list (besides Woman…) that have, for whatever reason, divided fans. Halo, I think, I enjoyed because I’m NOT a huge Halo fan. I played Halo 5 when it came out, and that was really the first one I played a lot of. I was just never a big third-person-shooter fan. I’m still not, really, but I had a good time with it. The plot, as it was, felt largely inconsequential to me. So, maybe I was well positioned to enjoy this series. The CGI was fantastic, as was the design and costuming. I was intrigued by the story, and I liked all the characters, including the Spartans and characters like Kwan Ha. I did feel like the finale could maybe have been a bit stronger, but overall I’m really excited for the next season. It’ll keep me engaged with Paramount+ between Star Trek series.
Netflix. I have to admit. I was not super excited for this series. Even though the casting seemed great, I just wasn’t sure how I felt about a spin-off focusing on Wednesday. Wednesday, as played by Christina Ricci, was my favorite member of the Addams Family, to be sure. But Tim Burton’s been a little hit and miss for me, lately. Netflix’s attempts at YA television have also, for my tastes, felt a little too generic or lightweight. The great exception being the sorely-missed The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I needn’t have worried. Wednesday is very much a YA take on the Addams, but with the expected whimsy and wit you’d expect from prime Tim Burton. Jenny Ortega is, it must be said, freaking amazing as Wednesday. She has the deadpan humor down pat, but she’s also called upon to do some very subtle acting that requires her to show a wide range of emotion within a limited spectrum. But she’s not alone. Christina Ricci is there, fabulous as always. Now, it was a little hard for me to get her Yellowjackets character Misty out of my head. But that’s just a testament to how great that character (and show are.) The other standout to Wednesday has to be Gwendoline Christie as Principal Weems. I adore Christie anyway, but she brought so much humanity and character to the character. It was hard not to fall in love with her, even when she was at cross purposes with Wednesday. Plus, the costume department decked her out with the best costumes this side of Nurse Ratched in Netflix’s Ratched.
6. Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime. Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a massive epic that cares about quiet character moments as much as epic battles. It sweeps you away with its beauty and darkness in equal measure. So, of course, a lot of “fans” bitched about it. I don’t know. I give up trying to figure out people. There’s so much middle of the road, blah storytelling in the world I can’t imagine not being hugely impressed and involved in this. But, hey, opinions are opinions. The only real criticism I have of the show is that, after spending a bajillion dollars an episode, the opening credits are kind of uninspired. Especially the rather ham-handed way the title appears on the screen. But that’s my only real critique. I love Elrond and Prince Durin’s relationship. And Princess Disa! So great. I adored everything with the Harfoots, especially Nori and the mysterious stranger. Finally, there’s Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel. Galadriel is one of my favorite LOTR characters, especially as portrayed by Cate Blanchett. I found Clark’s performance exciting and interesting. I am really excited for season 2.
5. Interview With the Vampire
AMC+. This was one of the biggest surprises for me. I liked the movie, and I have a vague fondness for Anne Rice’s work, although I’ve not read any of it. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but I’ve enjoyed the media adaptations and always thought her work seemed intriguing, despite not having taken the plunge. Perhaps having a partner who is VERY into her helped. In any case, the creators here did some brilliant things to make the story feel fresh, while staying true to the story. Having Louis be a person of color works on so so many levels. The writers really engaged with the concept, and brought new shades to the work. The acting, across the board, is fantastic. Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid (as Louis and Lestat respectively) are a fantastic on-screen couple with chemistry to spare.
4. Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Netflix. My love for GDT is well documented. Er, by myself. So, the idea of him producing, curating, and being involved in the storytelling of an anthology series that told stories both old and new—well, I was hyped. Like all anthologies, there are entries that I thought worked better than others. But as a whole I thought they were of very high quality. I feel like if you asked 10 different fans of the show to rank the episodes, you’d get ten different answers. As it should be. (If you’re interested in my ranking, you can see it here.) I’m delighted the series happened. A second season hasn’t been greenlit yet. It seemed to be a hit for Netflix, but then again determining what will or won’t get a renewal is a mystery to most everyone outside of Netflix. Guillermo del Toro, for his part, seems a bit mixed on a renewal:
We got the thing I published on Twitter about a billion views, or whatever that is. It is a very mysterious process to get the yes or the no. Either way is good news for me because producing eight features in one year was really, really difficult. I would love to provide another season to get some really interesting people behind the camera, protected, and cherished, but on the other hand, I have a feature coming that I will start shooting probably in August, announcement soon to come, and I know it would be very difficult. If they say yes, we’ll make the effort and do it, but if they say no, I’ll go almost, “Phew.”From ScreenRant
Even if it took a couple years off between installments, I’d love to see GDT do more installments. As anyone is a fan of his knows, his head (and notebooks) are bursting with ideas. Ideas he’ll never have enough time to finish himself. So getting them (and other’s) out in the world with his hand helping to guide others feels like a win in my book.
Disney+. The absolute best thing to come out of the Disney era of Star Wars. Second only to, funnily enough, Rogue One for me. Period. It also, apparently, was one of the least watched? Sigh. I just hope Disney knows what a special thing it has on its hands. The series was released to critical acclaim, at least. Hopefully more and more Star Wars fans give it a shot. Because, frankly, it reminded me how good Star Wars could be after the rather dismal showings of Rise of Skywalker, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. I didn’t hate any of those, but the storytelling in them varied greatly in quality, to put it nicely. They were all watchable, but it didn’t seem fair that Grogu (and his helmeted guardian) should have to carry the entire live-action franchise on their backs. Andor is smart, timely, about something, and very very Star Wars. All while having little to do with the Force, which was a nice change of pace. Andor wasn’t just the best Star Wars TV show ever. But it was a strong contender for best Sci-Fi TV show of 2022. In fact, I’d say a lot of people would rank it above my number 2 pick, but this is a list of my favorites, not a “best of.”
2. Strange New Worlds
Praramount+. These are the voyages. Anson Mount’s introduction on Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Christopher Pike was like a seismic event in Trek fandom. Followed quickly by Rebecca Romijn’s Number One and Ethan Peck’s Spock. Calls for a spin-off began pretty much immediately, and I was one of the people calling for it! I’d been a Pike fan since the first time I’d seen “The Cage,” in glorious color, during a special that aired between the first and second seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was a big fan of Marvel’s “What If…?” comic book, and the pilot was basically a big “What If…?” for Star Trek. A different captain and a different crew. When Marvel published Star Trek: The Early Voyages (in the 5 seconds they had the license in the late 90s) I ate that book up.
The idea of getting an actual TV series of Pike and crew on the Enterprise was so incredibly exciting. I have no idea whether they had planned a series all along or it was fandom that spurred them on, but whatever the reason… finally 2022 brought us the premiere of Strange New Worlds. From the opening credits, to the casting, the characters chosen, the set design, and the exciting updates to the classic look… I was over the moon.
Was I a little sad more of the crew from The Cage didn’t make it at first? Sure. I was very fond of Doc Boyce, for instance, and it would have been interesting to see Yeoman Colt on the show. That being said, the choices they did make were spectacular. A young Uhura? Okay, that made me a little nervous at first. But Celia Rose Gooding not only picked up the torch from Nichelle Nichols, but gave the character fantastic new dimensions. Doctor M’Benga was kind and empathic. Nurse Chapel was sparky and instantly likable. La’an, Ortegas, and Hemmer… I could go on, but my point here is that I took to these characters so quickly. This was an Enterprise that was alive and vibrant. Knowing Pike and Spock’s fate didn’t take away from the stories here. It only added to them. Not only in Pike’s wrestling with his foreknowledge, but the quiet heartache of seeing Spock and T’Pring together. Because Spock and T’Pring are absolutely delightful together.
From a production standpoint, the sometimes ropey use of the “The Wall” in Discovery was refined here, extending the scope of sets to magnificent effect. The Enterprise looked amazing here. Bright and colorful at times, but it could also be moody. It was a future I’d gladly live in. And, best of all… episodic storytelling. I don’t want any of this to seem like a ding against Star Trek: Discovery. Although that series has had some storytelling problems and can be kind of messy and ham-fisted, I’ve grown to really love those characters and be invested in them. But, one thing that Discovery and Picard taught me is that I really prefer my Trek to be episodic. It’s probably one of the reasons both Lower Decks and SNW made my list. As for the stories themselves, there are times when they can be pretty on-the-nose. I like subtle storytelling, in general. I like storytelling that doesn’t always hold your hands and connect the dots for you. But, honestly? I can understand why the writers made some of the choices they did in SNW. Take one look online and you see whole swathes of people who have entirely missed the point of things like Star Trek. So, the desire to be clear and direct is one I understand. All in all, I’d say this was the best first season of any Star Trek series ever, overall. Because, generally, a lot of Treks have taken years to kind of find their footing.
1. The Sandman
Netflix. A fantasy masterpiece. Neil Gaiman was, for a very long time, my absolute #1 writer. My late teens and early twenties were dominated by his books. I’ve read a lot more now, but if I was pressed to name a favorite writer, he’d still be on the top of my list. Just with a lot of very close competition. The thing is, I hadn’t read Sandman. I ended up collecting all the Absolute Editions, but it was actually fairly recently that I read any of it. I’ve finished volumes 1 and 2 before The Sandman aired. I’m planning on reading Volume 3 and 4 shortly, followed by Death and Overture. But, as I say, it was a fairly recent development. It was fun listening to the (excellent) full-cast audio adaptation, too. And, it’s been equally fascinating to see it adapted into a series. After the rather disastrous (and unfinished) adaptation of my favorite Gaiman novel, American Gods, I was a little worried about more adaptations. Thankfully, as with the delightful Good Omens adaptation, Gaiman was more involved here. It probably helps that Sandman has a lot of material to work with and adapt, whereas the American Gods TV show tortuously stretched out one book.
Like Interview With The Vampire, there are so many smart, interesting updates here. There’s some obvious ones, like casting choices that rankled the usual knuckle-dragging crowd. The casting is, it must be said, superb. Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Gwendoline Christie (there’s that name again!), for instance, are perfection. Absolute perfection. But, to me the most interesting choices were the storytelling choices. Most of which are, in some ways, quite small. But they are universally for the better. I mean that. There’s not one adaptation choice made so far that I like less than the books. Everything so far has made the story richer and deeper. Sure, there are a few things that I kind of missed (the loopy Hell nightclub-meets-Star Wars-cantina for instance,) but what we got in their place was so powerful and successful I didn’t mind in the end.
There are new shows (and new seasons of returning shows) so often I don’t often get a chance to rewatch current shows. I rewatched all of The Sandman immediately (and most of Strange New Worlds, for those keeping score) and I plan to watch it again and again. I really hope it eventually sees some sort of physical release. Although I’m not really crossing my fingers due to the Netflix of it all. But, hey, I won’t say too much bad about Netflix. As frustrating as they can be, they did make 3 of my 10 favorite series. Finally, it’d be remiss to leave this without mentioning Tom Sturridge as Morpheus. I don’t know who I would have cast as Morpheus. But he’s perfect. It’s a role (somewhat similar to Wednesday, now that I think of it) where the actor is expected to do a lot with a character that has some limitations as far as the obvious range of emotion they can show. So there’s a lot of “in the eyes” acting. All of which Sturridge does beautifully.
What I DIdn’t Watch:
I mentioned above how there are SO MANY NEW THINGS. It actually sometimes gives me low-level anxiety, as a creator, how many stories are slooshed out toward us all the time. There is just… so… much. So some things don’t make the cut. Here are some shows I really want to try out, that, hey, might have made this list if only I’d had time. Maybe in 2023…
- Severance – I’m so intrigued. I know almost nothing about it, and plan to keep it that way.
- Peacemaker – I was a big fan of The Suicide Squad and Gunn’s work in general. This is a must… at some point.
- Lost Ollie – This looks really beautiful.
- 1899 – Well, I was interested. But Netflix giveth and Netflix taketh away. I’m not sure if this is worth starting now that it’s already been cancelled.