Opinion

15 TV shows to watch in early 2022

Part one in our series exploring what TV is worth watching this year

I know what you're thinking. Hey, I haven't even made peace with 2020, let alone 2021 — how the hell is next year's TV schedule supposed to make me feel better?

I'm not a therapist, and I too have been wrung dry by COVID and politics and global warming. However, I can recommend a surefire combination of cutting down your social media usage and watching some terrific new TV shows, plus some returning favorites, to lift one's mood.

And unlike the current availability of rapid at-home COVID tests, there is an absolute bounty of TV hitting your screen in the new year.

January

Black-ish (Jan. 4, ABC): Few broadcast sitcoms have achieved the kind of depth and insight that creator and showrunner Kenya Barris has crafted on Black-ish, which is inspired by his own life. During its eight-year run, the show has tackled the struggles of being biracial, police brutality, the Trump presidency, workplace discrimination, and postpartum depression. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross play Dre and Bow, respectively, parents to a wonderful clan of children, including Zoey (Yara Shahidi), who have grown up on the show. Jenifer Lewis' performance as Ruby, Dre's plainspoken mother, makes Black-ish truly unmissable.

Euphoria (Jan. 9, HBO): The second season of the smash hit drama is returning with Zendaya, its Emmy-winning lead. I was initially skeptical of the show's premise — an ensemble cast playing a group of high school students as they confront drugs, trauma, identity, sexuality, friendship — but Zendaya's performance as Rue Bennett anchors the drama into something refreshing and unique. 

The Righteous Gemstones (Jan. 9, HBO): I cannot wait for the return of this guillotine-sharp satire of evangelical Christian culture. Created and written by the one and only Danny McBride, the black comedy is easily one of the best shows on TV today. And if you, like me, were raised in the South, parts of the show may well strike you as almost documentarian. If you start now, you've got about a week to catch up before the premiere, but let me just hook you: The first season ends with a woman firing a gun directly into her husband's a--hole. Don't tell me you don't want to know more.

How I Met Your Father (Jan. 18, Hulu): Lizzie McGuire is back! No, not on the Disney Channel; Hilary Duff stars in a standalone sequel to How I Met Your Mother. She plays Sophie, who, I assume, is telling her children the story of meeting their father. More interesting than this setup is the fact that Kim Cattrall will be playing the adult Sophie. I'm starved for Samantha Jones on And Just Like That…, so I'll take some Cattrall any way I can get her.

Ozark (Jan. 21, Netflix): I recently developed dark circles under my eyes, which I do not regret, while binge-watching all three previous seasons of this show over the course of about a week. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney play Martin and Wendy, transplants from Chicago who move in a hurry to a small Missouri town to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. But the true star of the show is Julia Garner, who plays intelligent spitfire Ruth, a member of the money-laundering operation with justifiable shifting loyalties. I won't give away any more, but I promise you this show is worth your while. It's one of Netflix's few, true gems.

Billions (Jan. 23, Showtime): Damian Lewis and his sketchy Noo Yawk accent used to be on the show, but both exited Billions at the end of Season 5. For the show's sixth and final season, Corey Stoll joins the main cast to play Mike Prince, the new owner of Axe Capital, who is ready to spar with Chuck Rhoades. Played by Paul Giamatti, Rhoades is a crusading U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a BDSM practitioner, modeled on Preet Bharara and Eliot Spitzer (I'm sure you can guess which aspects of both inform Rhoades' characterization). Maggie Siff plays a therapist and Chuck's soon-to-be ex-wife; the terrific Asia Kate Dillon plays Taylor, a math genius at Axe Cap, and the first nonbinary character on American TV. Billions has as many twists and turns as New York City has rats, but I'm hoping Corey Stoll breathes much-needed new life into the show.

The Gilded Age (Jan. 24, HBO): An intriguing new costume drama, set in the same time period as Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, hits HBO at the end of next month. It stars Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski, Carrie Coon, and Morgan Spector, and features battles of race, class, and wealth. Downton Abbey architect Julian Fellowes created the show, which was originally intended to serve as the American part of the Grantham saga. 

The Afterparty (Jan. 28, HBO): Did you enjoy Only Murders in the Building? Lucky for you, its mystery format continues: Creator Christopher Miller (Lego Movie, The Last Man on Earth) is combining Rashomon with a murder at an apartment building hosting a high school reunion. Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Ben Schwartz, and Dave Franco star as tenants.

February

Inventing Anna (Feb. 11, Netflix): The saga of German con artist Anna Delvey will be the subject of not one, but two TV shows in 2022. The first, written by Shonda Rhimes, premieres in February, and stars Julia Garner as Anna Sorokin (Anna's real name), who hoodwinked multinational banks, supermodels, ritzy arts venues, DJs, magazine editors, boutique hotels — honestly, it's easier to list everyone she didn't fool. Anna Chlumsky (Veep) also stars.

Bel-Air (Feb. 13, Peacock): How many TV shows start as joke YouTube videos? In March 2019, Morgan Cooper uploaded a mock trailer reimagining The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a dark, gritty drama. Somehow, major TV networks took it seriously, and two years later, Cooper landed a two-season order at Peacock, and an actor named Jerry Madison will play Will Smith. I will watch the pilot, albeit with considerable skepticism.

Better Things (Feb. 28, FX): Pamela Adlon created, writes, produces, directs, and stars in this bittersweet comedy about an actress raising three children alone. The parallels to Adlon's own life are clear — after divorcing her now-ex-husband, Adlon raised their three daughters by herself — but the show, which premieres its last season in February, is imbued with a radically brutal honesty. And unlike a lot of other shows purporting to fight for women, Better Things is authentically feminist. 

Killing Eve (Feb. 28, Hulu): Do I really need to tell you to tune into the blockbuster British production's final season? I didn't think so.

March

The Dropout (March 3, Hulu): Amanda Seyfried stars as disgraced startup founder Elizabeth Holmes, who is currently on trial in federal court for fraud because practically every word she ever uttered about Theranos, her blood test company, was a lie. Naveen Andrews (Lost, Bride & Prejudice, Sense8) stars as Holmes's equally criminal business partner and former boyfriend Sunny Balwani, whose in-real-life criminal trial is set for 2022. A TV show about the rise and fall of the world's youngest self-made female billionaire? I am in

Atlanta (March 24, FX): Creator, star, writer, and director Donald Glover took a lengthy hiatus from the critically acclaimed comedy-drama, but his creation returns for its third season, set almost entirely in Europe. I for one cannot wait to see what Paper Boi has been up to.

Bridgerton (March 25, Netflix): I've admittedly never seen it, but if the universal breathless lust — I mean, love — for the show on social media is any indication, I don't have to tell you to watch it; you're already waiting with bated breath.

This is part one in our series covering what television to watch in 2022. Part two, covering April-June, will be published in March.

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