The 18 TV shows we’re most excited to watch in 2022

Pamela Adlon in "Better Things." (FX Networks/TNS)
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Los Angeles Times staff  (TNS)

As the backlog brought on by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic clears — even if the pandemic itself does not — 2022 promises a bumper crop of prominent TV titles. “The Walking Dead” comes to an end, “Game of Thrones” becomes a franchise and “The Lord of the Rings” moves to the small screen. The original “Law & Order” is back for Season 21, the ‘80s Lakers are back for “Winning Time” and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s tempestuous relationship is back in the spotlight with “Pam & Tommy.”

And that’s just for starters. Find 18 more new and returning TV series, selected by L.A. Times staff, to mark on your calendars for 2022. That way, if you’re stuck inside as often in the new year as you have been the last two, you can’t say we didn’t leave you prepared.

“Abbott Elementary” (ABC, Jan. 4)

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You drop your child off in the car line, you read the news and you think you know what’s going on in education. But forget policy decisions: Who’s watching the watchmen? Using a mockumentary format, creator Quinta Brunson shows that school really is not just a building, it’s the people inside. She plays an upbeat new teacher who quickly learns that there are other things to deal with besides the students, including colleagues who’ve seen it all, administrators who haven’t seen enough and inner workings that spill out. Maybe I have more skin in the game because of my family of educators — and I would watch a sock commercial on a loop if the great Sheryl Lee Ralph were in it — but I laughed out loud more during one episode than during entire seasons of some other vaunted comedies. Brunson has proved already that she knows funny with her internet exploits and “A Black Lady Sketch Show.” It’s nice to see her continue to use her powers for good. —Dawn M. Burkes

“This Is Us” (NBC, Jan. 4)

Death has been close at hand in real life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, so gathering ‘round a fictional TV series as marked by it as this one can be a strange feeling — at once cathartic and painful, like picking at a scab. The farewell season of NBC’s heart-tugging drama is sure to toe that line as it reaches the end of its time-jumping narrative, which has been working toward the death of elderly Rebecca Pearson (played by Mandy Moore), the matriarch of the close-knit family at its center. Created by storytelling twist-enthusiast Dan Fogelman, “This Is Us” made its debut in 2016 and quickly became a bright spot for broadcast TV with its dose of heartfelt moments and steady pace of plot mysteries. If past seasons are any indication, there will be tears. And maybe some frustrations. —Yvonne Villarreal

“The Righteous Gemstones” (HBO, Jan. 9)

This impolite dysfunctional family comedy, set around a Southern megachurch, the first season having ended with multiple resolutions and even a note of spiritual uplift, a second season, arriving after two years, would not have seemed, in narrative terms, necessary. But trouble is perhaps what these characters — church head John Goodman and his immature grown children, including series co-creator Danny McBride — attract or deserve. Guests this season include Eric Andre as a glamorous Texas preacher planning a Christian time share beach resort, Jason Schwartzman as an investigative reporter and Eric Roberts as a disturbing figure from out of the past. —Robert Lloyd

“Naomi” (The CW, Jan. 11)

At this point, you could be forgiven for yawning when you hear that another comic-book adaptation is on the way. But my reaction to the news that “Naomi” was coming to TV was almost giddy. After seeing the pilot episode, with its bubbly popular teen (Kaci Walfall) finding that her world is not what it seems — and neither is she — I’m now determined. The show is in the CW mode of these adaptations, colorful in the right ways and designed to appeal to a younger audience than, ahem, me. But the young actors carry big weight without the added expectations of, say, another “Superman” series. A show based on lesser-known IP is a gift that just may free up the writers to do more than adapt. And I think that’d be something to see. —Dawn M. Burkes

“How I Met Your Father” (Hulu, Jan. 18)

Of course I loved “How I Met Your Mother” when it first aired, but like many early and mid-aughts shows about a very white friend group figuring out life in New York City, the long-running CBS sitcom hasn’t exactly aged well. And this gender-flipped reimagining debuts after the original’s still-debated finale, as well as a shelved attempt in 2014 that starred Greta Gerwig. Still, I have high hopes for this new version from “This Is Us” alumni Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, which is narrated by Kim Cattrall and features a (relatively more diverse) cast led by Hilary Duff. —Ashley Lee

“The Gilded Age” (HBO, Jan. 24)

With “Downton Abbey,” Julian Fellowes proved he knew how to tell a story about the British aristocracy that was witty, heartfelt and delectably soapy all at once. Later this month, we’ll find out if his sensibility translates to an American setting when “The Gilded Age” premieres on HBO. Set in 1882 in New York City, the long-gestating series, which has been in the works since at least 2015 and was originally going to be made by NBC, stars Dame Christine Baranski — our very own Maggie Smith — and Cynthia Nixon as sisters from an old-money Manhattan family. Louisa Jacobson plays the niece from rural Pennsylvania who comes to live with them when her father — their estranged brother — dies, while Carrie Coon is the ambitious wife of the stupendously wealthy railroad tycoon next door. Expect all the Fellowes tropes — sharp-tongued society doyennes, squandered family fortunes, nouveau-riche strivers — delivered with an American accent. —Meredith Blake

“Inventing Anna” (Netflix, Feb. 11)

Shonda Rhimes’ reign at Netflix already kicked off with a bang — both figuratively and euphemistically — with 2020’s sexy period drama “Bridgerton,” on which she served as an executive producer. But February will at long last bring her first creation since “Scandal” premiered in 2012. Based on Jessica Pressler’s New York magazine story “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People,” “Inventing Anna” stars Emmy-winning actress Julia Garner (“Ozark”) as wannabe socialite Anna Delvey, a young Russian woman who grifted societally elite New Yorkers before she was arrested in 2017. Anna Chlumsky, Anna Deavere Smith, Anthony Edwards and Arian Moayed (Stewy from “Succession”!), as well as several Shondaland favorites, round out the cast. The article was Rhimes’ first major acquisition under her hefty overall Netflix deal, which began in August 2017; production on the drama began in fall 2019 in New York City before the pandemic derailed the timeline. Rhimes’ storytelling has already shown its command on the platform with the streaming success of her ABC dramas “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” so there’s the promise of a fun ride. And between Garner’s Russian accent here and Amanda Seyfried’s take on Elizabeth Holmes’ uncanny baritone voice in “The Dropout,” there’s something reassuring about knowing that our ears will be well-rewarded as we head into Year 3 of the pandemic. —Yvonne Villarreal

“Bel-Air” (Peacock, Feb. 13)

This “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reimagining is no ordinary Hollywood reboot. It only exists because filmmaker Morgan Cooper self-funded a trailer that presented a grittier version of the ’90s sitcom’s premise: a young teenager gets transplanted from the streets of West Philadelphia to the wealthy world of L.A.’s Westside. That short film went viral, caught the attention of Will Smith and scored a two-season deal with Peacock. I’m excited to see a reboot that aims not to replicate what once was but switches things up with a different genre, a new creative voice and a cast of fresh faces. —Ashley Lee

“From” (Epix, Feb. 20)

A family on vacation passes through a town where they ask a polite resident for directions. They follow his directions and drive away, but wind up back in the town again. And again. It becomes clear that they are trapped, and something wicked in this town lives. Judging from the trailer, this Epix series is plenty ominous — and it looks like a winner. The executive producers are from “Lost,” and the drama stars “Lost” alum Harold Perrineau, who was one of the standouts in that series. —Greg Braxton

“Better Things” (FX, Feb. 28)

By the time its fifth and final (sob!) season premieres in February, it will have been nearly two years since Pamela Adlon’s astonishing semi-autobiographical comedy aired a new episode, and yet the details of past seasons remain seared in my mind: a chaotic, one-shot ramble through a family’s morning routine; a tightly choreographed dance number; a faux living-room funeral; a piano bar rendition of “On the Street Where You Live”; a highly concentrated, hyperbolic love letter to New Orleans that made me so homesick I had to pause it to catch my breath. If I’m torn between my eagerness to see the new season and my state of denial that it must come to an end, I can at least say this with no ambivalence whatsoever: There is no series on TV that leaves me awestruck more frequently that this one. —Matt Brennan

“The Dropout” (Hulu, March 3)

If your interest in Elizabeth Holmes hasn’t been satisfied by the popular podcast, bestselling book or documentary, then you’re in luck, because there’s yet more Theranos content on the way. The rise and fall of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire will get the scripted treatment in “The Dropout,” arriving on Hulu in March from executive producers including Elizabeth Meriwether (“New Girl”) and Liz Hannah (“The Post”). Oscar nominee Amanda Seyfried rocks a black turtleneck and — we can only assume — lowers her voice a few octaves to play the Stanford dropout who promised to revolutionize the health care industry with her blood-testing company and instead became the face of one of the greatest cautionary tales in Silicon Valley history. With a verdict due in Holmes’ fraud trial any day, it’s a story whose ending is still being written. —Meredith Blake

“Atlanta” (FX, March 24)

As long-awaited returns go, “Atlanta” has its FX counterpart “Better Things” beat: Donald Glover’s audacious slice of life returns this spring after a four-year hiatus, the sort of gap only a series as artfully unorthodox as this one could pull off. Building on the boundary-pushing aesthetic of Season 1’s “B.A.N.” and Season 2’s “Teddy Perkins,” trailers for the Europe-set third season — which finds Earn (Glover), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and Van (Zazie Beetz) on tour in London, Paris and Amsterdam — combine absurdist humor about race and racism with unsettling intimations of an irredeemably warped social fabric: “It’s after the end of the world,” a chorus chants in one promo, accompanied by dissonant, horror-inflected strings. “Don’t you know that yet?”

If you’re not intrigued by now, my advice is to check your pulse. —Matt Brennan

“Benjamin Franklin” (PBS, April 4)

Ken Burns, continuing to compile his documentary encyclopedia of Very American Things, presents a two-part, four-hour tour of the life of that most interesting, industrious, entrepreneurial and frisky of the Founding Fathers. The story of a scientist, statesman, journeyman, businessman, ambassador, author, man on the $100 bill — if some article on this isn’t headlined “All About the Benjamin,” I’ll eat my three-cornered hat — “Benjamin Franklin” also promises to address the moral contradictions of a man of the future living in his present, our past. —Robert Lloyd

“Better Call Saul” (AMC, TBA 2022)

There are folks who might contend that “Better Call Saul,” the prequel to the multi Emmy-award winning “Breaking Bad,” is actually better than the original series. That opinion would definitely spark a lively debate: tracing the evolution of con man and attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into shady lawyer Saul Goodman, “Saul” is undeniably one of TV’s best dramas and easily stands on its own. It’s been almost two years since the last episode — far too long. And its return is bittersweet; it’s the final season. Lots of questions will be answered, including the fate of Jimmy’s girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who was Jimmy’s moral compass. Kim revealed her own dark side last season, a development that greatly unnerved Jimmy. Another open question is how creator Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan will connect the end of “Better Call Saul” to “Breaking Bad.” One thing is guaranteed — the finale will be tense. And there will be blood. —Greg Braxton

“Julia” (HBO Max, TBA 2022)

Based on the life of culinary goddess Julia Child, this HBO Max drama is set around her groundbreaking 1963 television series, “The French Chef.” Child pioneered the modern cooking show with her long-running program, changing the way American women connected with food and the dishes they made in their own kitchens. The casting choices for this eight-episode series are downright delicious: Sarah Lancashire (“Happy Valley,” “Last Tango in Halifax”) is Child, David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”) is husband Paul, and other notables include Bebe Neuwirth (“Frasier”), Isabella Rossellini (“Crime of the Century”) and James Cromwell (“L.A. Confidential,” “Succession”). Created by Daniel Goldfarb and directed by Charles McDougall, “Julia” explores “the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women’s movement, the nature of celebrity and America’s cultural growth,” in addition to being “a portrait of a loving marriage with an evolving and complicated power dynamic,” according to HBO Max. That’s a lot to chew on. Bon appetit. —Lorraine Ali

“The Last of Us” (HBO, TBA 2022)

Video game adaptations can be hit and miss, but I have high hopes for “The Last of Us.” Based on Sony/Naughty Dog’s acclaimed Playstation game, the TV series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been ravaged by a mutant fungus that can turn its hosts into horrific cannibals. At the center of the story is Joel (“The Mandalorian’s” Pedro Pascal), a survivor tasked with escorting a teenager named Ellie (“Game of Thrones’” Bella Ramsey) across the U.S. in hopes of creating a potential cure. The depiction and development of Joel and Ellie’s relationship is among the elements for which the game has been praised. As someone who is both inept at most games that involve shooting opponents and has an aversion to horror, I am excited that “The Last of Us” is being brought to a medium where the story will move forward without my active participation (and with my eyes shut, if necessary). —Tracy Brown

“She-Hulk” (Disney+, TBA 2022)

For years, if someone were to ask me to describe my dream superhero TV show, I would have answered “a She-Hulk legal comedy.” And now it’s finally happening. One of Marvel comics’ most well-known lawyers, Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin, and inherits his ability to turn into a strong, green giant after an emergency blood transfusion. Though she’s more than capable as a superhero — in the comics she’s been a member of a number of teams including the Avengers and the Fantastic Four — the stories directly involving her legal work are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. The comedic potential of superpowered beings that can defy the rules of physics having to answer to the rule of law cannot be overstated. Plus, the “She-Hulk” series stars Emmy-winning “Orphan Black” fave Tatiana Maslany, who only has to wow us as one person this time (that we know of). —Tracy Brown

Untitled Mo Amer Project (Netflix, TBA)

There’s nothing funny about refugees, displacement and immigration woes … unless you’re Mo Amer. This Netflix comedy series starring the “Allah Made Me Funny” comedian doesn’t have a working title or release date yet, but there’s already plenty of buzz around the production, co-created by Amer and Ramy Youssef (“Ramy,” on which Amer played a supporting role). Amer portrays Mo Najjar, a Palestinian refugee living in Houston who must jump through a series of impossible hoops — while navigating the absurdities of everyday life — as he awaits asylum and U.S. citizenship. Family dysfunction knows no borders, either, as the series also features Mo’s mother, Yusra (Farah Bsieso), older brother Sameer (Omar Elba), girlfriend Maria (Teresa Ruiz) and bestie Nick (Tobe Nwigwe), who only add to the chances for multilingual, culture-clash humor. Amer, who’s known for his Netflix stand-up specials, has also joined Dwayne Johnson in the cast of DC’s forthcoming superhero film, “Black Adam.” Let’s hope his character has green card-generating powers. —Lorraine Ali

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