Diego Luna as Cassian Andor walks through a field of scrap, with machines broken and on fire. Photo: Des Willie/Lucasfilm

Filed under:

The best TV shows of 2022

From Netflix to HBO to everywhere else, here are Polygon’s favorite TV shows of the year

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

If channel surfing was once a casual pastime, then it has become an Olympic undertaking. Not only are channels now siloed across different streaming platforms, each with their own catalog and subscription fees, but there’s more TV than ever before.

You wouldn’t be alone if you felt like riding the deluge was a Herculean feat; at this rate no one could be expected to fully keep up with even the year’s top-billed releases, let alone the whole horizon of television at the moment.

That’s where we come in.

We asked Polygon’s staffers to submit their favorite TV shows of the year. Some ranked theirs, some didn’t. Some included 25 shows, some included five. We were able to take that data and translate it into this extremely scientific*, definitive** list of the best television of the year.

Any show with a season that ended in 2022 is eligible for consideration, so scroll on and see what your next TV watershed moment is.

And if you like lists, we’ve got more lists — specifically lists of the best movies, games, anime, and books of the year.

* There was barely any science involved.
** There’s no such thing as a definitive list of the best TV shows. That’s, like, your opinion.


The top 10 TV shows of 2022

10. Reservation Dogs

The main characters of Reservation Dogs hanging out and counting their money Image: FX

Season 1 of Reservation Dogs was a pleasant revelation. The Taika Waititi-produced Hulu series finds plenty of low-key comedy and thoughtful character interaction among a group of Indigenous teenagers living on an Oklahoma reservation and haplessly trying to build their gangster brand. But season 2 is a wonder: It expands the show’s world, focusing each half-hour episode on a different character, building out some of the show’s adults and expanding the ambition of what started as a wry hangout show. The familiar deadpan Waititi style of comedy is still there — these characters are still pretentious, needy, deeply emotional, and a little baffled at the way the world works, like so many Waititi characters before them. But writer, producer, and co-creator Sterlin Harjo gives the show its own unique flavor, from focusing on real reservation slang and culture to keeping the characters colorful, idiosyncratic, and surprising. The season 2 episode “Mabel,” a touching side story about the community’s death rituals, is a particular standout, both for its frankness and for the way it simultaneously takes mortality seriously and tweaks the audience about getting too far up in their own feels. —Tasha Robinson

Reservation Dogs is available to watch on Hulu.

9. What We Do in the Shadows

Guillermo and Nandor stand on a train in What We Do in the Shadows. Photo: Russ Martin/FX

No one is doing it like What We Do in the Shadows. Even after four seasons, the whole documentary crew following around a group of vampires and their capable familiar turned bodyguard hasn’t grown old (much like the vampires themselves, ba-dum tss). This season tossed the characters in totally new situations — energy vampire Colin Robinson was reborn as a small child with the head of a grown adult; ambitious Nadja decided to open up a nightclub; and the ever lofty Nandor decided to resurrect all 37 of his spouses so he could pit them against one another and figure out which one it was he wanted to marry. Y’know — just vampire things! Amidst all the tomfoolery (and one of the most hilarious parody episodes out there), What We Do in the Shadows also gets really dang sad and bittersweet at points. There are laughs and there are tears and there are dozens of quotable mispronounced words. —Petrana Radulovic

What We Do in the Shadows is available to watch on Hulu, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

8. Players

Creamcheese sitting in a Fugitive chair in the scrim room Photo: Lara Solanki/Paramount

The creators of one of the funniest television shows of the past decade (American Vandal) return with a hilarious and surprisingly moving mockumentary esports series following a North American League of Legends team through the conflict between two players: a cocky veteran who co-founded the team and an upcoming superstar who’s poised to be the new face of the sport. The showrunners themselves call it an “esports love story,” and the surprising emotional resonance at the core of Players elevates it from hilarious mockuseries to one of the best new shows of 2022.

Veteran Creamcheese, a lovably overconfident idiot, is one of the co-founders of Fugitive Gaming. As the pressure to win his first-ever title continues to mount, the veteran drifts from the team he helped start, especially as Fugitive’s owner asserts control. Creamcheese clutches at straws in a last attempt for legacy, which is played equally for humor and emotion in the Vandal guys’ capable hands.

Rookie Organizm, a hotshot prospect from Philadelphia, is a confident, quiet kid. He’s got a ton of talent but a lot to learn about being one part in a successful team. When he’s thrust into the spotlight early by people who see him as a potential payday, Organizm must sort out his own priorities in the face of mounting pressure by everyone around him.

In addition to those two central figures, Players delivers an array of memorable side characters. There’s coach Braxton, who cares very deeply about Fugitive and even more about the people that comprise it. There’s April, Braxton’s partner in life and work, and the person who actually keeps the organization running. There’s Guru, an ex-player who theatrically retired to start a lifestyle brand as a streamer. The documentary-style approach inspired by sports series like The Last Dance mixed with the show’s fealty to the hyper-specific setting of professional League of Legends is simply a match made in heaven.

Players is a bit of a miracle, managing to be both an effective sports drama and a hilarious mockumentary series (it’s consistently funny, too, not just filled with quippy one-liners). The attention to detail is staggering, and longtime fans of the game and esport will be pleased at how accurate everything looks and sounds. The cast is made up of a mix of actors, real esports personalities playing themselves, and real esports players playing fictional characters — the creators wanted the room filled with experts so that every single moment felt and sounded authentic. It’s a perfect mix for one of the most impressive shows of the year. —Pete Volk

Players is available to watch on Paramount Plus.

7. Yellowjackets

Three characters in Yellowjackets standing in front of a burning crashed plane in a still from the pilot Photo: Kailey Schwerman/Showtime

No show arrived with as much pizzazz in late 2021 as Yellowjackets did. With a pilot directed by Karyn Kusama, the show jumps between a group of teen girls in the 1990s, stranded in the wilderness after their plane crashed en route to a soccer tournament, and their older counterparts, each still coping with the traumatic experience — and also being mysteriously blackmailed by someone about their time in the woods.

Yellowjackets is creatively confident from the jump, deftly balancing its highwire act and slowly unfurling its grand designs, even when you have no idea what to make of them. Even with a slightly mellow (by their standards) finale, Yellowjackets season 2 will have my full attention. Whether it’s handling messy characters, woodsy abortions, or supernatural cultism, Yellowjackets is clearly top of the class. —Zosha Millman

Yellowjackets is available to watch on Showtime Anytime, Prime Video, Pluto TV, or for digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

6. The Rehearsal

Nathan Fielder standing with a laptop on a sling looking intently at two men chatting over a table in The Rehearsal Image: HBO

The Rehearsal is a show about regrets.

Nathan Fielder’s stunt comedy series is ostensibly about avoiding mistakes at all costs. Nathan walks his subjects (and himself) through countless “rehearsals” of intimidating life events, so they can ensure they don’t get it wrong. Remarkably, it turns into a show about how to deal with mistakes when they inevitably happen (in real life or in making a television show), moving from rehearsals of events in the future to reenactments of events from the past. And it’s hard to think of a show that sparked more passionate audience discussion.

Alissa Wilkinson at our sister site Vox.com put it perfectly:

The most interesting part of The Rehearsal, by far, is the reactions of the audience to what’s happening on screen — which is, in the end, criticism. Fielder has somehow managed to reach out of the TV and drag us into relationship with the show in a way that’s often reserved for experimental documentaries. Our reactions, whatever they are, can be an excellent reminder that we know much less about others than we think we do. And that the medium of TV, with its frame around the action and its plot-driven narrative, rarely dependent on an unreliable narrator, encourages us to think we know what we’ve just seen. Even in a reality TV world, when you’d think we know how edits and directorial choices manipulate reality, Fielder has pulled off making us doubt everything once again.

Of all the shows I’ve watched this year, it’s The Rehearsal that my mind keeps coming back to. And I don’t regret a minute of it. —PV

The Rehearsal is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.

5. House of the Dragon

A Targaryen man sitting at a table in a still from House of the Dragon Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

There’s any number of metrics by which you can measure House of the Dragon’s success: In the fantasy show showdown with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power it reigned supreme as a more thoughtfully plotted prequel; it pulled in a record number of viewers for HBO; it got people excited about blonde people in Game of Thrones again, in 2022. These are not nothing!

Fortunately these all matter less than the best part of the show: It’s just plain good. At its most basic form, House of the Dragon is great TV, grounding every twist of the knife in nuanced, thoughtful characters. Westeros may be full of bad eggs, but in the hands of this show it’s blessedly hard to fully root against almost anyone. Each choice — in front of and behind the camera — blends together to make an intricate portrait of flawed people dooming a kingdom to a war it didn’t deserve. It was measured and layered at every step, making the conflict feel earned in a way late-Thrones could never manage.

It no doubt helps A Song of Ice and Fire fans sleep at night to know that House of the Dragon has a grand design in place (hopefully) allowing the show to be free of any season 8 concerns in the new show. But most importantly, House of the Dragon shows just what television can do when it uses its long form storytelling to its fullest extent, letting every moment build and not wasting a single second of its time. —ZM

House of the Dragon is available to watch on HBO Max.

4. Peacemaker

A shot the end of the Peacemaker opening credits, with the whole cast posing Image: HBO Max

If Guardians of the Galaxy showed how James Gunn could paint within the lines to form one of the better MCU scripts, then Peacemaker shows what he can accomplish when given relatively free rein. The C-string hero Peacemaker was best known for inspiring Watchmen’s Comedian or being the consummate asshole of The Suicide Squad.

Post-Peacemaker, Gunn showed him in all his human glory: flawed, intense, wounded, caring, an impeccable dancer, bisexual, Vigilante’s best friend. Throughout it all, John Cena as Peacemaker manages to fine-tune some genuine pathos, while also anchoring a rock-solid cast adept at Gunn’s tonal swings. At this point, it’s one of the few superhero projects that feels easy to root for the next chapter of. Here’s to many more eagle hugs. —ZM

Peacemaker is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

3. Severance

Adam Scott sitting on his desk with a file cabinet behind him in a still from Severance Photo: Apple TV

Severance doesn’t seem like it should work as well as it does. Every bit of the sci-fi thriller — from its tightly tuned performances to the evocatively low-key score, even to the concept of the show itself — feels like a high-wire act, a series of plates spinning atop sticks and staying perfectly balanced. The world where Lumon Industries has allowed (or, more disquietingly, required) workers to sever their work and home identities is trippy and methodic, like an Escher painting come to life.

After all, what do your work and personal self have in common beyond just happening to be the same person? As Severance unpacks just how different those interests are, the result gets more and more chilling as it expertly reminds us of what is actually lost even in the cleanest of work-life balances. —ZM

Severance is available to watch on Apple TV Plus.

2. Better Call Saul

Jimmy McGill standing in front of a sign that reads “El Camino DINING ROOM” at night in Better Call Saul season 6 Photo: Greg Lewis/Sony Pictures Television, AMC

It’s very rare that a prequel surpasses the work that preceded it, but Better Call Saul may have pulled it off. Across six seasons, a pitch that seemed suspect at first — a show about Breaking Bad’s comic-relief lawyer, Saul Goodman — won over most of its skeptics to become one of the best shows of its era. In its final season, Saul hit the gas on its slow-motion obliteration of Jimmy McGill, the man Goodman once was, and leapt forward into a post-Breaking Bad timeline to ponder one of the oldest questions in storytelling: Can a tiger change its stripes? And if they try, would you believe them? —Joshua Rivera

The final season of Better Call Saul is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

1. Andor

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor walking Photo: Des Willie/Lucasfilm

On paper, Andor feels like a show burped out of IP: The show exists in the Star Wars universe as a prequel to a prequel, following Cassian Andor (a deeply felt Diego Luna) on his journey to Rogue One and his nascent rebel days. But, surprisingly, in our world it exists as something more — it is just straight-up, indisputably great TV.

As Cassian gets roped into the Rebellion, his story fractures out, showing a new, grounded level of the Rebel Alliance. It’s almost trite to (once again) point out this is a Star Wars devoid of the hallmarks of the universe, especially when faced with what the show does offer: Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) at her most compromised; the franchise’s most thoughtfully nuanced character to date in Stellan S​​karsgård’s Luthen; the best little droid to ever roll around town. In a single season Andor built up a whole community and its culture that spoke volumes about not only the characters but the world at large. This is a world in which the Empire was legitimately scary and rebellions actually fucking meant something.

Like so many shows on this list, there are countless reasons it’s so damn compelling — indeed, sit with almost any corner of Andor and there’s a depth that feels luxurious to dive into. There’s the blocking of Mon Mothma constantly confined within the frame, or the thrilling trilogy of prison episodes (bolstered by the incandescent work of Andy Serkis). You can dig into any one of the villains, each one less powerful but maybe more fearsome than Emperor Palpatine himself, with their bureaucratic brutality. And that’s all anchored in Cassian’s plot — not the usual arc of the Star Wars universe bending toward hope, but a tragic, thorny story about a man losing so much he gives himself over to the cause, till death do them part.

By the end of the season, Cassian is well on his way to becoming the Rebel leader he will be, which (as we know from Rogue One) will be the last thing he ever does. His journey, like everyone’s here, is profoundly doleful. But Andor manages to make that mean something, finding a deeper resonance in the world of Star Wars and bringing the whole universe along with it. The show may always be playing in Star Wars’ sandbox, but it takes the franchise’s natural sense of scope and wonder and holds it to a higher standard. It’s one the Star Wars universe is more than able to handle, and we’re all better for it. —ZM

Andor is available to watch on Disney Plus.


The best of the rest

The shows that just missed the cut (or had dedicated fans on staff who made damn sure they were included).

Girls5eva

Renée Elise Goldsberry as Wickie, Erika Henningsen as Young Gloria, Ashley Park as Ashley, Busy Philipps as Summer, Sara Bareilles as Dawn in Girls5Eva Photo: Heidi Gutman/Peacock

If you are not already watching Girls5eva — a show about a group of former girl-group members who decide to reunite at 40, with the manic joke-per-minute ratio of 30 Rock and the comedic earworms by the same guy who wrote joke songs for 30 Rock — then it might be because you don’t have Peacock. Or maybe you don’t want to! All I’ll say is that seems bizarre to me. Not only was Girls5eva season 2 a little knottier and more ambitious than its freshman outing, but it’s the only show I know of where there’s a joke about the Property Brothers secretly longing to make a show where they just flat-out fight people. And it’s definitely the only show I know where the Property Brothers show up as themselves to carry out (and fully commit to) the bit. Don’t you want to be the person gasping for air as you plead with your friends to watch this show?? —ZM

Girls5eva is available to watch on Peacock.

The Righteous Gemstones

Edi Patterson, Danny McBride and Adam Devine loudly praise the lord on stage in The Righteous Gemstones. Photo: Ryan Green/HBO

Danny McBride’s raunchy story of American failchildren reached new heights and excesses in season 2, adding Jason Schwartzman and Eric Andre to a cast already stuffed to the brim with comedic talent. As my esteemed colleague Joshua Rivera put it, “a single Danny McBride episode will often say more about America than an entire season of one of your little rich people dramas AND have a great fart joke.”

The second season of Gemstones builds on the foundation of the first season, and continues to hold its place as can’t-miss television (especially if you’re okay with the occasional vomit-based gag). It introduces new context for the upbringing and background of family patriarch Eli (John Goodman), linking the showmanship of pro wrestling directly to the theatricality of evangelical megachurch shows, all while methodically cataloging the repeated failures of his (hilariously inept) children to build their own legacy. McBride and co. highlight the absurdity of our current moment with comedy that is at once astutely observant and uproariously vulgar. —PV

The Righteous Gemstones is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

The Bear

Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) standing in a walk-in fridge talking to Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) while Marcus (Lionel Boyce) pokes his head in the door. Image: FX Networks

The Bear is set, mostly, inside a Chicago restaurant that’s been taken over by prodigal son, Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, who returns to the city after years spent training at culinary school, working in one of New York’s finest restaurants, and winning some of the culinary world’s most prestigious awards. While this is, on paper, a perfect setup for a sitcom (and The Bear is one of the funniest shows of the year), the show is at its best when it’s deep in the chaos of the kitchen, following its terrific characters through the claustrophobic, dizzying, panic-inducing stress of a dinner rush. And, just like Carmy, The Bear manages to channel all its kitchen’s out-of-control chaos into a perfectly balanced dish in the end. —Austen Goslin

The Bear is available to watch on Hulu.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Anson Mount as Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount Plus

There was a time when the future of Star Trek was a film franchise, all bold action and J.J. Abrams lens flare. But unsurprisingly, the final frontier is right where we have traditionally found it: back on TV. And in a time where we’re more inundated with new Trek TV than ever (at least, assuming you have a Paramount Plus hookup), Strange New Worlds stands head and shoulders above as the best.

The cast is dynamic and hot, but that’s not the only reason SNW has earned its place on the list. Rather, it’s in the way it inventively imagines a new universe out of a world we’re intimately familiar with, using the Star Trek blueprint as a way to boldly go into new formats, questions, and forehead prosthetics. They aren’t all winners, but Strange New Worlds’ episodic format makes it easy to place your trust in those being the exception, not the rule. —ZM

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available to watch on Paramount Plus.

Our Flag Means Death

Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby wearing fancy formal wear in Our Flag Means Death. Photo: Aaron Epstein/HBO Max

Viewers who tune into David Jenkins’ pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death because they’ve heard so much about Thor: Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi in the show, or about its tender bromance-turned-romance, may be surprised to learn that neither of those elements really kicks in until episode 4 of a 10-episode run. Jenkins explained to Polygon why that had to happen to make the story work, but the result is that viewers who want the series’ full emotional impact have to stick with it through some light early comedy that recalls the early episodes of What We Do In the Shadows.

That comedy has its own charms, and sets a lot of important gears in motion, but it also only teases at Our Flag’s full powerful impact, as Waititi and his longtime partner-in-movies Rhys Darby, playing comic versions of real-life pirates Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet, both endure personal identity crises and find the answers in each other. Our Flag never stops being tongue-in-cheek for long, and the parade of comedy ringers pulling cameos — including Leslie Jones, Fred Armisen, Will Arnett, Nick Kroll, and Kristen Schaal — keeps the action lively. But by the end of the first season, it’s also a sweet, smart invitation for viewers to run off and become pirates themselves — or at least examine their assumptions about their own lives and loves. —TR

Our Flag Means Death is available to watch on HBO Max.

Derry Girls

Sister Michael reads a leaflet called “The Habit” while wearing her habit, seated in a chair in Derry Girls. Image: Channel 4

Derry Girls is an objectively perfect television show, and I’m as excited about this third season as I am sad to see the show ending. Set in Derry, Ireland during the Troubles, the show follows a group of girls (sorry, James) attending a Catholic School. It’s got all of the typical high school teen antics, but way way dumber and way funnier. If you’ve watched earlier seasons you’ll remember hit moments like pot brownies at grandpa’s wake, a weekend long bonding trip with Protestant boys, and Sister (George) Michael looking about ready to end it all.

This season kicks things off with a bang — specifically the girls panicking about passing their exams, and accidentally helping two random men rob all the computers from their school. Episodes are around 20 minutes each, and packed with a ridiculous number of jokes. I highly recommend closed captions, so that you can understand everything the wee wains are saying (leave them alone Jerry!). —Nicole Clark

Derry Girls is available to watch on Netflix.

Station Eleven

Kirsten and Alex walking together after a punk rendition of Hamlet in Station Eleven. Both are wearing costumes made from salvaged materials. Photo: Ian Watson/HBO Max

There is perhaps no show easier and harder to recommend to people this year. Station Eleven, based on the novel of the same name, traces a handful of characters as they live through a deadly pandemic and figure out what life “after” looks like. Its pilot is immediately gripping, thanks to careful writing and images that sear themselves into your mind; it is also, of course, horribly timed, given the on-going pandemic and the waves of unresolved grief that wash around our ankles every minute of the day.

And yet Station Eleven is one of the most beautiful things, start to finish, TV has gotten this year. As Nicole Clark put it in her look back at the season:

Station Eleven is that rare piece of pandemic media that dwells less on the heroism of a solution, or the thrill of a core cause, and more on the idea of the persistence of community and the creation of art. Even as the show forges numerous circuitous connections between its characters, much of its plot is left open-ended. The show’s vignettes work out more like a collage that convey emotional tones. “Survival is insufficient” is more than a mantra painted on the side of the troupe’s wagon. It’s a thread that binds episodes together; it’s a reason to stay alive at all.

It might not always be the easiest of watches, but it’s among the most rewarding. —ZM

Station Eleven is available to watch on HBO Max.

All Creatures Great and Small

James Herriot, wearing a grey coat and blue trousers, walks a small dog on a rope leash next to a child. Image: PBS Masterpiece

In a television world stuffed to the brim with police procedurals and 10-hour movies cut into one-hour increments, All Creatures Great & Small stands apart as a charming veterinary serial set in the lush Yorkshire Dales countryside. The second season of All Creatures retains and builds on the appeal of the first season, with top production design, beautiful cinematography, and complicated characters filled with life.

Our central characters branch out from their established molds from the first season, too. James (Nicholas Ralph) is prioritizing what he wants in life and where “home” is, Siegfried (Samuel West) is figuring out how to show his brother he cares about him, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) is (mostly) growing up and becoming an adult, and Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is recapturing her identity as her own person. All of the actors are phenomenal, led by Woodhouse and Madeley, who are each given significantly richer material to work with this season.

With World War II looming on the horizon, the second season of All Creatures brings into focus one of the main themes of the show: the little but significant ways in which we can make a difference in the lives of those around us, animals and human alike. (As the characters often remind us, being a good veterinarian is not just about the animals — it’s the people that’s the difficult part.) A loving ode to the original series and books with one of the most charming opening credits sequences on TV, All Creatures is about the difficult, worthwhile pursuit of caring for all living things around us, as best we can. —PV

All Creatures Great & Small is available to watch on PBS Masterpiece, or for digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Slow Horses

Gary Oldman kicks up his feet with a hole in his sock in Slow Horses. Image: Apple TV

Apple TV’s brisk six-episode spy thriller is adapted from the 2010 novel of the same name and brings the kind of layered mystery and effectively twist-y plot you’d expect from the genre. Slow Horses follows a group of lovable losers from the world of espionage who have all been punished for past failures or transgressions by being sent to “Slough House,” a dead-end assignment filled with boring paperwork and a general sense of uselessness. They are led by Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), their cantankerous boss whose only moments of joy seem to come with farting. When a kidnapping plot captivates the whole nation, the rejects of Slough House take it upon themselves to save the day.

Slow Horses comes from an effective and unconventional combination of creatives: veteran action and drama directors James Hawes and Jeremy Lovering are paired with a group of writers that have largely worked on comedies (including Paddington 2 and Veep). The result is a spy thriller that nails all the notes you’d want from the genre, while also delivering sitcom-style laughs and characters. —PV

Slow Horses is available to watch on Apple TV Plus.

The Sandman

Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 103 of The Sandman Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was once thought to be one of the great “unfilmable” masterworks of comic book storytelling. And for good reason: The original 75-issue series is an odyssey of sprawling scope and scale, telling the story of Morpheus, the immortal Lord of Dreams, who undergoes an unprecedented journey of transformation and redemption after being imprisoned on Earth for a human lifetime. It is also, at its core, a story about the power and nature of stories: how they take shape, how they can assume a life of their own, and how they live on long after the minds and hearts of those who conceived them have passed.

After more than a quarter century in production hell, The Sandman has finally manifested on screen thanks to Gaiman and executive producers David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg, and the result is nothing short of fantastic. Tom Sturridge’s performance as Morpheus is impressive, as brooding, world-weary, and regal as his comic forebear. Netflix’s live-action adaptation is as bold and ambitious as any big-screen theatrical event, skillfully pulling together the comic’s first two volumes into a 10-episode season while training its sights on major events intended to be explored in further seasons to come. The Sandman isn’t just an excellent dark fantasy series. It’s a dream come true. —Toussaint Egan

The Sandman is available to watch on Netflix.

Abbott Elementary

The cast of Abbott Elementary talk in the teacher’s lounge. Photo: Ser Baffo/ABC

The sitcom mockumentary format has been done to death at this point, but against all odds, Abbott Elementary manages to refresh that formula and breathe new life into it. It just makes sense that a school would be the subject of a documentary.

The best part of Abbott Elementary is that each of the teachers just feels real, like a teacher you probably had at one point or another in your life. Sheryl Lee Ralph and Janelle James command the cast as wise kindergarten teacher Barbara and work-allergic, self-absorbed principal Ava, but from eager and sometimes naïve Janine (Quinta Brunson, also series creator) to street smart Philadelphia native Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter), all the characters are vivid, messy, and relatable in their own ways. And they all learn from each other, so no one person is the butt of all the jokes and instead they have their own separate strengths and weaknesses — and separate quirks about them that make them hilarious. Also, the added bonus of the kids being absolutely adorable makes Abbot Elementary particularly special. —PR

Abbott Elementary is available to watch on Hulu, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

The Good Fight

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Fight, looking off to the side with a city skyline behind her in the window Image: CBS

There was an easy lane for Michelle and Robert King’s spinoff of The Good Wife: yet another procedural anchored by Christine Baranski as her no-bullshit lawyer Diane Lockhart would have played to applause. But instead, the Kings showed up furious. The Good Fight premiered in 2017 in Trump’s America, and set out to not only entertain, but fully grapple with the unfathomable reality of the moment. No studio series has gone harder — politically, socially, emotionally — in the last five years.

The Kings somehow topped themselves in the final season, which aired this fall. With Chicago caught in the maelstrom of violent MAGA warriors, white supremacists, “Antifa,” and militarized police, a dystopia we can all see from our own windows, the show wrapped up the stories of its ensemble cast: Diane, forever drowning in the despair of the moment, but looking to fight; Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald), heir to the biggest Black law firm on the planet now threatened by a commercial sellout (Andre Braugher); Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele), the investigator turned lawyer who may finally meet her match in escalating antisemitism; Jay (Nyambi Nyambi), Marissa’s cohort who finds meaning in Chicago’s Black resistance; and Carmen (Charmaine Bingwa), the series latecomer, a prodigy who has a way with clients on the wrong side of the law. In the hands of the Kings, each player swirls around The Good Fight’s cosmos of big ideas and enthralling drama. There are episodes with ticking-clock tension, and others ripped from the headlines. It’s all confrontational, and with Paramount Plus’ streaming-friendly budget, pure cinema on the small screen. Anyone looking for a House of the Dragon replacement best turn to the pinnacle of legal drama. —Matt Patches

The Good Fight is available to watch on Paramount Plus.

Ms. Marvel

Iman Vellani in front of a chalkboard as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel Image: Marvel Studios

For the first time since the early days of Phase One, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a true origin story, albeit a retconned one (honestly, for the better). It’s one of the many reasons Ms. Marvel is the best Marvel show to come out of the Disney Plus era.

Ms. Marvel balances everyday life with the perils of being a superhero. It ties in Kamala Khan’s powers with her past, dives into Pakistan’s history, and explores generational divides. As Kamala, star Iman Vellani is absolutely charming — a first-generation American who struggles to please her parents and now has to navigate her newfound powers with the turmoil of her already stressful day-to-day life. The side characters are also similarly magnetic. If there is one criticism of Ms. Marvel, it’s that it should’ve been longer — a full 12 episodes to really allow everything to breathe.

We’ll see Kamala again, though this time she’ll be fighting alongside the Avengers. Hopefully the smaller stakes and day-to-day life that made Ms. Marvel stand out don’t get lost when she returns. —PR

Ms. Marvel is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Atlanta

Darius and Van stand outside a van in Amsterdam in season 3 of FX’s Atlanta. Photo: Coco Olakunle/FX

The third season of Atlanta is a difficult one to summarize. As my colleague Joshua Rivera so succinctly put in his review of the premiere, the crux of the show is not so much in a place as it is in a mindset, one which calls attention to the strangeness of race, as well as the peculiarities and dangers of inhabiting a world that warps in response to it.

The latest season of Donald Glover’s dark comedy-drama dabbles in a new format, dividing its run time between tragicomic episodes focused on Earn and co.’s misadventures across Europe and stand-alone anthology episodes, exploring themes like restorative justice, American racial identity, and the perils of white allyship. Not every episode hits the mark, but the willingness of the show’s creators to reinvent the series offers some of the most insightful and incendiary moments Atlanta has yet offered. In short, Atlanta continues to be like nothing else on television right now, and continues to earn its reputation as must-watch TV. —TE

Atlanta is available to watch on Hulu, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

A League of Their Own

Greta (D’Arcy Carden) standing and talking to the assembled Rockford Peaches team in the locker room Image: Prime Video

The beauty of a show like A League of Their Own (beyond the fact that, as you might expect finding it on this list, it’s just good), is that it doesn’t matter what brought you here. If you like sports narratives, there’s enough of that to keep you going; if you’re a fan of the original movie, there’s gentle nods to that too. There’s family drama and killer period looks. And if you love queer TV, A League of Their Own is a must for its lovely and tender approach to several gay love stories.

And yet, the show never tips too far into being just one thing. While it has some foibles, its main mode is its thoughtfulness, unfurling the full range of its ensemble to an impressive degree. It’s hard to pick a favorite thing out of such a deep bench, but suffice it to say that A League of Their Own is here to play. —ZM

A League of Their Own is available to watch on Prime Video.

Also receiving votes:

Russian Doll, Los Espookys, Minx, Harley Quinn, Reacher, The Boys, Beavis and Butt-Head, Willow, Paper Girls, Bluey, This Is Going to Hurt, Outer Range, Tuca and Bertie, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Chloe, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Love Is Blind, The Afterparty, Only Murders in the Building, Bridgerton, The Owl House, American Horror Story: New York City, Celebrity Jeopardy, The Legend of Vox Machina, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, For All Mankind, Game Changer, Make Some Noise, Star Trek: Discovery, The Crown, Garcia!, Stranger Things, Irma Vep, Bad Sisters, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, The Flight Attendant, The Mole, Interview With the Vampire, Westworld, Mo, Obi-Wan Kenobi

The ballots

Every staff member who submitted a ballot is listed below, in alphabetical order by last names. When staff members submitted more than 10 shows, only the top 10 are listed here.

Clayton Ashley

Senior video editor

  1. Andor
  2. Severance
  3. Peacemaker
  4. The Righteous Gemstones
  5. Abbott Elementary
  6. House of the Dragon
  7. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
  8. The Afterparty
  9. For All Mankind
  10. Stranger Things

Toussaint Egan

Associate curation editor

  1. Andor
  2. Atlanta
  3. The Sandman
  4. The Rehearsal
  5. Westworld

Austen Goslin

Assignment editor, entertainment

  1. Andor
  2. House of the Dragon
  3. Players
  4. Yellowjackets
  5. The Bear
  6. Severance
  7. Peacemaker
  8. Slow Horses
  9. The White Lotus
  10. The Rehearsal

Zosha Millman

Editor, TV

(unranked)

Damn fine cup of TV

  • Andor
  • Better Call Saul
  • House of the Dragon
  • Peacemaker
  • Severance
  • The Rehearsal

That’s just good stuff

  • A League of Their Own
  • Derry Girls
  • Girls5Eva
  • Love Is Blind
  • Our Flag Means Death
  • Players
  • Station Eleven
  • The Righteous Gemstones
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • Yellowjackets

Matt Patches

Senior editor, entertainment

  1. Station Eleven
  2. Better Call Saul
  3. Andor
  4. The Good Fight
  5. House of the Dragon
  6. The Rehearsal
  7. Yellowjackets
  8. Beavis and Butt-Head
  9. The Bear
  10. White Lotus

Susana Polo

Editor, entertainment

(unranked)

Watching it caused my soul to ascend and I have not stopped thinking or yelling about it since

  • Andor
  • Our Flag Means Death
  • Paper Girls
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
  • Willow

Highly competent TV-making

  • Peacemaker
  • Russian Doll
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks
  • Tuca and Bertie
  • What We Do In the Shadows

Petrana Radulovic

Staff writer, entertainment

(unranked)

  • Abbott Elementary
  • American Horror Story: New York City
  • Bridgerton
  • Celebrity Jeopardy
  • The Legend of Vox Machina
  • Ms. Marvel
  • The Owl House
  • The Sandman
  • What We Do in the Shadows

Joshua Rivera

Staff writer, entertainment

  1. Andor
  2. Better Call Saul
  3. Los Espookys
  4. The Rehearsal
  5. Minx
  6. Girls5Eva
  7. Peacemaker
  8. Russian Doll
  9. Severance
  10. The Bear

Tasha Robinson

Editor, film and streaming

  1. Our Flag Means Death
  2. Peacemaker
  3. Andor
  4. Reservation Dogs
  5. The Bear
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
  7. Garcia!
  8. The Flight Attendant
  9. The Sandman
  10. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Pete Volk

Curation editor

  1. Andor
  2. Players
  3. Reservation Dogs
  4. Severance
  5. Better Call Saul
  6. All Creatures Great and Small
  7. Yellowjackets
  8. The Rehearsal
  9. The White Lotus
  10. Derry Girls

Oli Welsh

Editor

  1. Better Call Saul
  2. Andor
  3. Bluey
  4. This Is Going to Hurt
  5. Chloe
  6. Yellowjackets
  7. Girls5Eva
  8. Bad Sisters
  9. A League of Their Own
Best of the Year

The best movies of 2022

Best of the Year

The best anime of 2022

What to Watch

The best movies new to streaming on Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, and Hulu (December 2022)

View all stories in What to Watch

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon