The limited series has arguably become the dominant creative genre in television, given the attention and praise showered on shows like “The White Lotus” (pick your season), which can tell a self-contained story like reading a great book.
The continuing series, however, remains very much alive and well, even with a number of long-running shows coming to an end this year (so long, “Better Call Saul” and “Ozark”) and a few others hitting creative rough patches, relatively speaking to previous seasons.
With that in mind, here’s an alphabetical breakdown of the best new series introduced in 2022 – replenishing the supply of binge-worthy TV – as well as a bonus rundown of the finest limited series. And before anyone asks about a couple of conspicuous oversights, while “Andor” rallied from its slow start, that wasn’t enough to make the cut; and “Abbott Elementary” technically premiered in late 2021. (A pre-list reminder that HBO and Warner Bros. TV, like CNN, are owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Best new series
“The Gilded Age” (HBO): Not “Downton Abbey,” perhaps, but a reasonably good simulation is still plenty great when Julian Fellowes is conjuring the upstairs/downstairs-esque situations involving moneyed New Yorkers in the 1880s, with a sensational cast headed by Carrie Coon and Christine Baranski.
“House of the Dragon” (HBO): After a slow start, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel picked up momentum as the season lustily progressed, leaping ahead years at a time and building toward an epic showdown that demonstrated both the corrosive effects of power as well as when considering air travel, choose your dragon carefully.
“Interview With the Vampire” (AMC): The skepticism about trying to turn Anne Rice’s books into an episodic show melted away in this tense, engrossing and extremely bloody series, featuring standout performances by Jacob Anderson as Louis and Sam Reid as Lestat, as well as Eric Bogosian as the reluctant journalist tasked with hearing Louis’ story/confession in a pandemic-ridden future.
“The Old Man” (FX): Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow classed up what sounds on paper like a pretty by-the-numbers spy thriller, with the former playing a dangerous one-time operative living off the grid and the latter his handler assigned to track him down.
“Pachinko” (Apple TV+): Operating in different time frames, Apple’s look at the occupation of Korea by Japan in the early 20th century and the generations that followed offered fascinating history while still being frequently heartbreaking and a really good soap opera. As an added bonus, it wins as the best opening-credit sequence on TV (except perhaps for “Peacemaker”).
“Severance” (Apple TV+): The intoxicating idea of a company that takes the idea of work-life balance very, very seriously – allowing employees to sever their work memories from what happens on the outside – yielded an inordinately weird and twisty drama, developing slowly but closing with the kind of strong finishing kick that fuels excitement for a second season.
“Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi’ (Disney+): A twin dose of “Star Wars” nostalgia deftly wrapped its way around the movie trilogies, with Ewan McGregor sliding back into his role as an older Jedi Knight – again forced to confront his one-time Padawan – and the animated anthology filling in key details about Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku. Together, these Disney+ series illustrate how much producer Dave Filoni’s animation contributions, now being translated to live action, have enriched and stoked the flames of the “Star Wars” galaxy.
“Wednesday” (Netflix): Despite some complaints about turning this “The Addams Family”-inspired series into a CW-style drama, Jenna Ortega’s wide-eyed (as in unblinking) performance in the title role was so consistently enjoyable it overcame any such quibbles. Coupled with the glorious look brought to the whole exercise by director Tim Burton, that’s reason to dance, Wednesday-style.
Best Limited Series
“The Dropout” (Hulu): Hulu’s bang-up year with fact-based limited series peaked with this deep dive into the rise and fall of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, with Amanda Seyfried delivering the performance of her (relatively young) lifetime, from the wide-eyed stares to the way her voice rose and fell depending on the situation.
“The Patient” (FX): Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson delivered a one-two punch in this cat-and-mouse standoff between a kidnapped therapist and the serial killer seeking his help. Even if the ending didn’t quite live up to the buildup, it was still one of those shows where you couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
“The Staircase” (HBO Max): Colin Firth and Toni Collette starred in this stark and provocative dramatization of the story about a dead wife, Kathleen Peterson, and the trial of her husband, Michael, told in a previous docuseries, cleverly weaving in the how media coverage and that earlier project impacted the story. Consider it a sign of just how loaded the limited-series format was in 2022 that in whittling it down to five choices, this was the last to make the cut.
“We Own This City” (HBO): Although based on real-life corruption, abuses of power and politics within Baltimore’s police department, producer David Simon’s crisp and spare series could easily pass as a sequel to his landmark drama “The Wire.”
“The White Lotus” (HBO): Having Jennifer Coolidge in the second season has somewhat blurred the lines in terms of the show’s limited-series credentials, but the continuity that really counts comes in what writer-director Mike White again accomplished in terms of turning this tale of flawed tourists into one of TV’s most engrossing and meme-worthy titles.