The Best TV Shows of 2022
"You ate my mother!" has to be one of the best TV scenes of the century.
I think that the tone for TV was set in early 2022, back when Tumblr users decided Blorbo was a thing. Personally, I enjoyed going back to my immensely nerdy roots over the past year, indulging in fixating on my TV besties. I'm not sure fandom feelings ever truly die.
Outside of obsessing over fictional favourites, 2022 has had some extreme moments for TV. It's hard not to think of it as a year of cancellations, with Netflix and HBO Max seemingly going to head-to-head to axe the most content - even going as far as removing content outright in some cases. As the economy and industry continues to go completely haywire, it's hard to say whether or not 2023 is going to continue in the same trend.
It wasn't all bad, though. April treated us to a live-action adaption of Alice Oseman's queer coming-of-age series of Heartstopper, which earned an incredibly rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. The following summer was jampacked with queer releases, with the third season of The Umbrella Academy finally dropping, featuring Elliot Page's first appearance since he came out. During that time we also had a massive Kate Bush resurgence thanks to the release of Stranger Things 4, which also led to my Tumblr dashboard having the most slash shipping on it since about 2015. My personal favourite release from what shall now be known as the hot queer summer of 2022 was definitely the campy vampire romance First Kill, which was sadly cancelled after one series.
While some of our favourites unfortunately won't be returning in 2022, hopefully 2023 will also prove to be a big year for TV. And please, for the love of god: no more cancelled cliffhangers. Before we leap into 2023's new releases, let's take a moment to rewind and think about some of our favourites from this last year.
Barry (Season 3)
Do you want to suffer? Maybe you'd enjoy my show of 2022! As a hybrid between black comedy and thriller Barry (2018-present) started off a little uneven but truly came into its own this season. The premise is silly - a hitman (Bill Hader) wants to quit his job and chase his dreams of becoming a Hollywood actor - but the trauma that ensues is anything but. It took quite a bit of set-up to explore the plot's ramifications in full, and we see in this season how much it benefited from an incremental build-up.
I think this show does more in half-hour segments than some shows do in twenty-two lots of fifty minutes, and this season was jam-packed with heart-wrenching character development and outstanding acting. There is so much hurt shared between the characters at this point that it bursts out of the season in twists of the knife. The show juggles the petty drama of fame with a brutal underbelly of trauma and criminality, without ever degrading the potential pain that either situation can bring.
Not to mention there are canon gay characters - gay mob bosses at that! Fair warning, they struggle the most explicitly they have so far against violent homophobia in their arcs this season, but it's not gratuitous; it feels thematically aligned with the rest of the show. So if you have a strong stomach for violence and abuse cycles painted with shocking realism, please give this show a shot. You won't regret it. ~ Mal Morgenstern
Extraordinary Attorney Woo
I’m not usually someone who watches courtroom or legal dramas. About the closest I normally get is toying with the idea of playing the Ace Attorney trilogy, or maybe a good detective show. Despite that, when I heard about Extraordinary Attorney Woo - a programme about an autistic junior lawyer (played by the fantastic Park Eun-bin) with a penchant for marine life - I was hooked on the premise alone. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed: the procedural’s slick visuals, interesting characters, and memorable soundtrack kept me firmly on the line.
Following a case-per-week format, Yu In-Sik and Moon Ji-Won deftly weave short-term courtroom scandals together with long-term soap opera storylines following the eccentric cast of lawyers, clients, and Woo’s loved ones. Although one must wonder why one team of lawyers appears to be the dumping ground for all the wildest cases that come to the firm, it certainly makes for an interesting watch. I hope Hanbada offers mental health support as a part of their employee benefits, because god knows that if my day job was that wild I’d need it…
Frequently throughout the series, Woo would use her knowledge of whales and dolphins to enhance her understanding of a case, to connect with others, and to grapple with situations she didn’t otherwise understand. Each time she had a “eureka!” moment, whales and dolphins would pirouette across the screen via the use of either gorgeous wildlife shots or beautiful CGI effects.
Seeing the way Woo’s aquatic interests enhanced her life with such depth and intensity was completely moving. One of my own special interests is marine life (I have the long-term dolphin sponsorship certificates and embarrassing stories of crying in sea life sanctuaries to prove it). It’s easy to be made to feel ashamed or childish for your interests and passions; particularly for those among us who are neurodivergent.
I must admit that I entered the show with a little trepidation. Without naming names, autistic representation in the media has never been good. Extraordinary Attorney Woo continues to be deeply and frequently imperfect in that respect. I do, however, think that the show represents an interesting point in neurodivergent representation. It rarely shies away from showing the cruelty of the ableism and its intersections that both Woo and her clientele experience, without straying into becoming trauma porn. Autistic joy is as significant, if not more so, throughout the series than Woo’s hardships are.
The series is significant in its representation of autism because of its unrepentant willingness to lean into complication, nuance, and grey areas. As well as contrasting inequalities caused by ableist societies with deep and meaningful acts of autistic pleasure, it also walks the tightrope between presenting autism as a superpower and presenting it as something that is exclusively sad, shameful, or hindering. Although there is still room for growth in the representation of autism, Extraordinary Attorney Woo creates a 3D representation of the experience that stands up to scrutiny, in addition to being a thoroughly enjoyable watch. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
What’s your favourite idea? It’s been six years since the final episode of Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling’s iconic web series; the parody kids show whose puppets’ disgusting, organic hearts held within them a dark satire of adulthood. Each installment left the internet thinking, “Huh? What was that all about?”, thriving in ambiguity and comment-section analysis; it’s still one of the best things ever created for YouTube.
The eagerly awaited sequel proved to be an actual nightmare of development that saw a mysterious pilot episode shown at Sundance Festival only to be canned by the creators after, rightfully, turning against the meddling of American production partners and ending up with UK’s Channel 4 for a new series of DHMIS that both nails and embellishes the spirit of the original.
Our three favourite guys are again visited by eccentric teachers to learn about aspects of modern life through songs that take a bleak, satirical turn; and once again they begin to push the boundaries of the show, uncovering the surreal mystery behind their repetitive existence. But in expanding the shorts to half-hours (with an ad break), the whiplash pace and shock value of the originals make way for more jokes, ear-worms and time with the characters as they explore sitcom scenarios like a workplace, a road trip, a house party and um… planning the funeral of a loved one.
So that six year wait was worth it; the potential for a quick cash-in on virality became instead an artful collision of film-making, art, and musical craft that pokes at the lies of society, adds to DHMIS’s legacy and provides just as much thoughtful fan-theory fodder as the original. ~ JC
Ah, vampires. A mainstay of classic horror that has unfortunately been dealt a pretty crummy hand in terms of representation. For every Vampires vs. the Bronx, there’s two Breaking Dawns - and that's to say nothing of that awful X-Files episode. One common thread throughout the best vampy media is campiness. Can you imagine if Joel Schumacher had played The Lost Boys completely, ahem, straight? It would’ve been a disaster! Too often, directors fall into a trap by trying to skimp on the camp vamps, leading to clusterfucks of hammy dialogue and pretentiousness.
Thankfully, First Kill is no such case. It blends the best of all worlds - the engaging characterisation of True Blood, the sinister atmosphere of Nosferatu, and the trashy camp joy of the first Twilight film. It follows Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook), a teenage vampire from a powerful family of “legacy” vampires, with enhanced powers and a controlled bloodlust. She lives with her parents and sister in relative peace - that is, until a family of vampire hunters move into the neighborhood.
Juliette soon meets Calliope (Imani Lewis): her new classmate and the youngest member of the vampire-hunting family. The first episode culminates in an incredibly tense scene where both girls attempt to murder each other - but it’s not that simple. What begins as an act of mutual rebellion against what they’ve believed their whole lives blooms into a forbidden romance. It’s truly captivating watching their chemistry blossom throughout the series.
As a romance story, First Kill excels - Victoria Schwab’s characterisation and writing is electrifying, with fantastic dialogue, cinematography, and thrills throughout. It’s the acting that really elevates the show to the top of the TV horror pantheon, though. Both leads are absolutely incredible, and the supporting cast is phenomenal too, from Dylan McNamara’s creepy turn as Juliette’s estranged brother, to Aubin Wise’s stunning performance as Calliope’s devoted mother.
What makes First Kill so special to me is its adept blend of queer romance, comedy, and pure horror Some episodes will have you screaming with laughter (“You ate my mother!”) and terror in equal measure. In a world full of vampires, ghouls, and ghosts, the things you should really be afraid of are the institutionally corrupt police and cultish right-wing conspiracy theorists. The fact that it was canceled after just one series is criminal. Standalone series don't get much better than this, though, and First Kill can stand proud as the best vampire series I’ve ever seen. ~ AC
Mal Morgenstern is a writer, visual artist, and musician. Follow them on Twitter here.
JC is a musician, graphic designer, and one-third of dinopunk band Nervous Rex. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.
AC is the Head of Written Content at QSO Media. Read more of their articles here.
Enjoy QSO Media’s content? Support alternative LGBTQ+ journalism by buying us a Ko-Fi.