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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nick Clark,Vicky Jessop,Nancy Durrant and Elizabeth Gregory

The best TV of 2022: from House of the Dragon to The White Lotus

Hacks seasons 1 and 2

Hacks was the great discovery of the year. The show starred Jean Smart – previously a standout in 2021’s Mare of Easttown playing Kate Winslet’s mum – as a legendary but fading comedian with a residency in Las Vegas, who looks to a struggling young writer (Hannah Einbinder) to revitalise her act. In the UK, the second season dropped on Prime Video in May, just a month after the first, and it quickly built legions of devotees through word of mouth. Prime Video

House of the Dragon

There was no surprise when this spin-off prequel became the biggest series premiere in HBO history: fans were ecstatic to be transported back to King’s Landing three years after Game of Thrones’ controversial finale. Focusing on the power plays between members of the noble House Targaryen (the white haired, dragon-riding, incest-dabbling family) several centuries before the events of GoT, House of the Dragon was never going to be as galvanizing as the original (after all, how can one family’s discord compete with that of nine?) but it still had us hooked. Sky Atlantic/Now

Gangs of London

This blood-soaked, thrilling show made waves when its lead character Sean Wallace (Joe Cole) was killed off at the end of season one; in season two, London’s titular gangs are still dealing with its fallout. This new outing sees more scheming, more shock twists and more balletic displays of violence than ever before (one early scene in an Istanbul laundrette is particularly noteworthy). And of course, Sopé Dìrísù is magnificent as tortured police-officer-turned-gangster Elliot. Sky Atlantic/ NOW

The Offer

Want to find out what really happened behind the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s all-timer The Godfather? Well, er, The Offer isn’t strictly the best place to go according to a few people involved with the original. But however close to the truth or not, it’s thrilling to see the sets and actors recreated in a rollicking story, that is brilliantly led by Miles Teller as producer Albert S Ruddy. Appropriately there’s a great ensemble cast, with a star turn from Matthew Goode as the charismatic producer Robert Evans. Paramount+

The English

Emily Blunt was back on the small screen after well over a decade and, boy, was it worth the wait. This blood-soaked tale of the Old West was by turns thrilling, violent, intimate and passionate. There’s an extraordinary turn by Rafe Spall as the moustache-twirling baddie and it should make Chaske Spencer, the Native American lead opposite Blunt, a leading man. Simply brilliant. BBC Two

SAS Rogue Heroes

Buckle up for a gung-ho Second World War adventure set to a rock soundtrack including AC/DC and The Clash – anachronistic maybe, but it just works. It’s 1941, the British Army is losing ground in Africa and the only thing that might stop the German advance is a crackpot group of officers. Their plan: to create an elite parachute regiment that can harass the enemy by striking from the desert – creating the SAS in the process. It’s foul-mouthed, it’s funny, it barrels along at a fair old clip and it’s (largely) true: in other words, it’s a rollicking watch. BBC One

Stranger Things vol. 4 parts I and II

Who could have thought that this would be Kate Bush’s year? Well, she has the latest series of Stranger Things to thank for it. Now in its fourth season, the show (split across two volumes) takes us back to Hawkins, Indiana, where a deadly new threat is brewing: the sinister Vecna, whose origins may lie in Eleven’s past. The acting is as good as ever, the horror ratcheted up another notch – and the ending is pleasingly epic. We laughed, we cried, we rewatched the whole thing again the minute the credits rolled. Netflix

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

Don your unstructured linen jackets, cashmere scarves and designer glasses and head to the osteria – Stanley Tucci landed the dream job of eating his way round all of Italy’s regions and is good enough to share the experience with us. The stylish gastronome is a likeable host and almost all the dishes leave viewers salivating wildly. It was one of CNN’s most successful original series, which makes it all the sadder that there will be no new season, after the network scrapped its original programming. Time for another streamer to step up. Per favore! BBC Two


“I wish this had existed when I was a teenager” seemed to be the general response to this adorable YA series that followed the blossoming romance between a bullied gay teen, Charlie, and the upstanding, rugby-playing hearthrob Nick who doesn’t quite know what to make of his own feelings. Based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novels, its inclusive casting and sympathetic portrayal of kids trying to work out who they are stopped hearts across the globe and made instant stars of its young leads. Season two, already shot, should be with us next year. Netflix

Bad Sisters

In this Irish murder-comedy from Motherland’s Sharon Horgan, Claes Bang is controlling husband John Paul who turns up dead in the first episode. So did he die of natural causes, was it Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), his wife, or was it one of her four sisters (Horgan, Eve Hewson, Sarah Greene and Eva Birthistle) who bumped him off? The 10-episode series is a barrel of laughs, despite dealing with topics including emotional manipulation, family relationships and inherited trauma. Daryl McCormack (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) and Brian Gleeson also star. AppleTV+

The White Lotus series 2

How lucky we are to live at the time of The White Lotus, among the best TV series of recent years. Following season one’s success, the question was whether the show’s creator Mike White could produce another humdinger to follow it up. He sure did, this time focusing on the entangled lives of guests and staff at a luxury hotel in Sicily. Jennifer Coolidge returned to join a new cast which includes Tom Hollander, Theo James, Aubrey Plaza and Michael Imperioli. If season one was a meditation on money and loneliness, season two is all about sex, which of course means matters get seriously stimulating and explosive. Sky Atlantic/ Now

The Responder

Martin Freeman is superb as a policeman on nights driving the streets of Liverpool. His character Chris Carson accidentally crosses a local drug dealer and things threaten to spiral out of control, with a damaging effect on him and his family. Former Merseyside Police officer Tony Schumacher, who was advised to tell his story by Jimmy McGovern, wrote the show. Though he added that while “the story is inspired by my story, not everything that happens to Chris happened to me”. BBC One

This is Going to Hurt

At a time when nurses are going out on strike, This is Going to Hurt feels evermore poignant. It looks at the trials, trauma and exhaustion of the threadbare staff working on an NHS obstetrics and gynaecology ward. Ben Whishaw is superb as the cynical Adam Kay – the show is based on bestselling author Kay’s memoir of his time in medicine – as is Ambika Mod as trainee doctor Shruti, who has to face the huge pressures of the job and try to stay sane. BBC One


When James Graham isn’t writing brilliant plays – such as Best of Enemies, which has just won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play – he’s writing brilliant television, as shown by this year’s Sherwood. The crime drama series set in Nottingham and starring David Morrissey and Leslie Manville was about a murder that boils up simmering resentments from the miners strikes of the Eighties. It managed to be a gripping thriller, a human drama and something that spoke to the state of the nation. How does Graham do it? BBC One

The Outlaws series 1 and 2

Stephen Merchant created this fantastic Bristol comedy-thriller in which a gang of lovable rogues, brought together to do community service, find a big bag of cash. It’s great news until the nefarious people who own the bag come looking for it. A starry cast that includes Christopher Walken and Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson bring real heart to a show that looks set to be back, hopefully, for a third series. There was even the surprise appearance of a Banksy, painted specially for the show on the proviso they would paint over it as part of the plot. BBC One

Black Bird

Taron Egerton gives it his all in this chilling series from AppleTV+. He plays James Keene, a convicted criminal who makes a rather unusual plea deal with the authorities: befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall and get him to make a confession before he’s released from prison. It’s an edge-of-your-seat watch – and special praise must go to Paul Walter Hauser for making his Larry so terrifying. AppleTV+

Somewhere Boy

Danny has never left his house: his father has kept him away from society all his life in a misguided bid to protect him. But when his dad dies, Danny suddenly finds himself thrust into the real world – with all the trauma and confusion that entails. Somewhere Boy is a slow, considered kind of show: the plot unfurls with care, its characters are given well-rounded story arcs and the result is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Oh, and it’s funny: what more could you ask for? Channel 4

Big Boys

Both hilarious and deeply moving, Jack Rooke’s comedy about a pair of seemingly mismatched lads – played by Derry Girls’ wee English fella Dylan Llewellyn as Jack and Jon Ponting as Danny – who become close friends when thrown together at university, was a surprise hit when it landed on Channel 4. Loosely based on Rooke’s own life, it was stuffed with heart and sprinkled with silliness – and yielded one of the most rewarding TV coming-out scenes in recent years. Channel 4

Am I Being Unreasonable

Who doesn’t love Daisy May Cooper? This comedy/drama/thriller was a welcome return to our screens – Cooper plays Nic, who is struggling to come to terms with a tragedy she can’t share with anybody. She meets Selin Hizli’s Jen at the school gates, but as their friendship grows, it’s clear both have secrets. While this show didn’t always land, it was really audacious and as a shot at something truly original it should be lauded. There is also a star turn from Lenny Rush as Nic’s son.

The Newsreader

The Aussie six-part drama was a bit of a sleeper hit. Set in a TV newsroom in the Eighties, it focuses on Helen Norville (Anna Torv) the first female newsreader of News at Six, who becomes entangled with Dale Jennings (Sam Reid), a junior reporter desperate to get ahead. The show put fictional characters into real stories including that of Lindy Chamberlain, whose baby was snatched by a dingo. Well worth a watch. BBC Two

Irma Vep

This bonkers, postmodern show turned out to be an unexpected gem. It stars Alicia Vikander on luminous form as Mira, a US film star in France to shoot a TV adaptation of a 1915 silent film called Les Vampires. Irma Vep was directed by Olivier Assayas, who made a film of the same name in 1996. In his new small screen version, just to complicate matters, the fictional director Rene Vidal, based on Assayas, also made the Irma Vep film. If it sounds annoying, it isn’t – the characters are funny, nuanced but also larger than life, and the meta eight-parter was a complete joy. Sky Atlantic

The Sandman

The full force of Neil Gaiman’s imagination is unleashed on the small screen in the long-awaited TV adaptation of his bestselling comic book series, The Sandman. Tom Sturridge plays Dream, one of the Endless, who is imprisoned for 100 years by a magician trying to capture Death. When he finally breaks free, Morpheus finds his realm is in ruins and sets out to restore it. The result is a gorgeous, epic, thoughtful show that bears repeat watching... a must. Netflix

The Traitors

The BBC’s hit reality TV show finished on December 22 but that’s no excuse for not joining in on the hype. With Claudia Winkleman as host, 22 people gather in a remote Scottish castle for the ultimate parlour game. Some are Traitors, and some Faithfuls. The Faithfuls must root out the anonymous Traitors, and the Traitors must “kill” all the Faithfuls. At stake is a prize pot of £100,000, but the drama, betrayals and shock twists? Priceless. BBC iPlayer

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