Like most entertainment critics, I've already shared my list of top 10 shows of 2022. But there are individuals who deserve special recognition. Here are the names, in alphabetical order, that stood out:
Kate Bush. The English pop star remains a recluse but she burst back onto the scene thanks to the clever use of her 1985 single "Running Up That Hill" during key moments on "Stranger Things." It was the perfect marriage of pop and peril.
Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon. "George & Tammy" would have been a fairly standard series about Tammy Wynette and George Jones if it weren't for the stellar performances from its stars. The duo hit all the right notes, even providing their own vocals, a risky proposition when you're mimicking two of country music's most memorable voices.
Seth Meyers. He may have switched to an informal wardrobe on "Late Night," but there's nothing casual about Meyers' work ethic. His regular segment, "A Closer Look," remains the sharpest, funniest rant on network TV. But what really stuck out this year was his "Day Drinking" bits with Lizzo and Post Malone. Watching celebrities gulp down disgusting cocktails has never been so intoxicating.
Tim Blake Nelson. He's long been one of Hollywood's most reliable character actors. But 2022 was a particularly memorable year with standout roles in "Cabinet of Curiosities," "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" and "George & Tammy." Best of all: his voice-over work as an evil clown in "Lost Ollie," a character who manages to simultaneously break your heart and chill you to the bones.
Conan O'Brien. The best reason to finally sign up for SiriusXM is the addition of the Team Coco channel, which runs new material, clips from his various talk shows and repeats of his podcast, "Conan Needs a Friend." It's a treasure trove that confirms O'Brien's status as a comedy giant.
Jenna Ortega. This 20-year-old star of "Wednesday" had the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Christina Ricci. She succeeded — and then some. The series is already one of Netflix's all-time biggest hits. Her self-choreographed dance in Episode 4 became a viral sensation, proof that even the gloomiest teen can get a case of boogie fever.
Michelle Pfeiffer. The actor works so infrequently these days that it's easy to overlook her brilliance. Her nuanced performance as Betty Ford in "The First Lady" was just the reminder we needed. It's hard to believe that Emmy voters didn't nominate her or co-stars Gillian Anderson and Viola Davis.
Cecily Strong. The longest-running female cast member in "Saturday Night Live" history got a sweet farewell in her final episode with guest host Austin Butler leading a group rendition of "Blue Christmas." Strong deserves even more. She was the show's strongest utility player since Phil Hartman.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Neal Justin covers the entertainment world, primarily TV and radio, for the Star Tribune.