Ed Martin's Top 25 Programs of 2022 -- Part Two

By Ed Martin Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Ed Martin's Top 25 Programs of 2022 -- Part Two

I can't believe these annual Best of the Year lists used to be limited to ten programs. As usual, I have put together my Top 25, and I could add at least ten more outstanding shows from 2022. But in keeping with tradition I want this to be a list unlike any other you will read, and I guarantee there are programs on it that won't appear anywhere else, even though they deserve recognition. What follows are programs 13-25. You'll find my Top 12 here.

Pam & Tommy (Hulu, pictured at top) -- This limited series about the tumultuous '90s-era relationship between rocker Tommy Lee and actress Pamela Anderson (during her Baywatch heyday) and the ordeal they endured following the video and online release of their infamous sex tape was sexy, funny, infuriating, thought-provoking and, when the focus was on Anderson, unexpectedly moving, reminding us (in the era of so-called influencers) that pop icons are people, too. Lily James was a revelation as Pam, but one might argue that Sebastian Stan stole the show as Tommy, especially in the scene where he has a heart to heart with a very perky and personable body part.

Andor (Disney+) -- Given the dizzying output of science fiction and superhero series on Disney+ it should come as no surprise when genre fatigue sets in. But then Disney hits a genuine home run, as with the Marvel entry WandaVision and more recently Andor, fresh from that galaxy far, far away, and everything is energized all over again. I don't think any Star Wars production has more closely captured the spirit of the very first (and still the best) movie (Episode IV -- A New Hope, back in 1977) than this one. Diego Luna is terrific in the lead role of Cassian, a serious young man of humble beginnings on a path to greater things than he might imagine … not unlike young Luke Skywalker. Yes, it would help if the writers developed Cassian a bit more … but that once was true of Luke, too -- and look how he turned out.

Bad Sisters (Apple TV+) -- Series creator, producer, writer and star Sharon Horgan pulls no punches with the saga of the Garvey sisters, whose troubles began with the sudden deaths of their parents many years ago and piled on from there. Some call Bad Sisters a dark comedy; others a thriller. Both are correct, but above all I would categorize it as an uncommonly insightful human drama. Watch a few episodes of this show and you'll realize how often those words are overused.

House of the Dragon (HBO/HBO Max) -- I'm in the camp that felt we didn't need more Game of Thrones, as its once-formidable narrative couldn't even hold up during the original's flawed final season. I mean, who needs another battle for the iron seat, with all the attendant ultra-violence? House of the Dragon, though, is slowly proving me wrong. I'm not there yet, but if this story of the reign of House Targaryen keeps the flying, fire-breathing beasts coming I expect I will be.

The Dropout (Hulu) -- I hadn't heard of Theranos before this Hulu limited series came along (one that, as with the same streamer's Dopesick, everyone should see). In fact, when I first heard the word, I flashed on a certain formidable foe from the MCU. Theranos was a privately held health technology company founded by a wildly ambitious teenager that came to be valued somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion, even though the breakthrough technology that it claimed to have created (which arguably would have put millions of people on affordable and convenient paths to better health) didn't actually exist as promoted. Elizabeth Holmes, the crafty and calculating young woman at the center of it all, was played to electric perfection by Amanda Seyfried, who took home an Emmy Award for her performance. As with Julia Garner's portrayal of Anna Delvey (another master manipulator) in Netflix's Inventing Anna, Seyfried's triumph was all about the voice.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (HBO/HBO Max) -- The highest praise I can give to this self-explanatory drama series is that it held my attention from minute one even though my personal interest in dramatic true-life sports stories pretty much started and stopped with the 1971 ABC TV movie Brian's Song. Of course, the seventies vibe that pulsed throughout Winning was more fun than I imagined it would be; John C. Reilly gave what may be the television performance of the year as late team owner Jerry Buss; newcomer Quincy Isaiah excelled in his engaging portrayal of a young Magic Johnson, and the cast included the always welcome Sally Field, too. So, all that helped.

This Is Going to Hurt (AMC+) -- It's a shame AMC Networks ended 2022 on such a turbulent note, because it had a great year with the series finales of Better Call Saul (which included new details about the classic series Breaking Bad) and The Walking Dead (though the fearsome franchise is far from finished) as well as the premiere of the scary good Interview with the Vampire, the first entry in its universe of Anne Rice novel adaptations, and this engrossing comedy-drama about the overextended young doctors at a chaotic National Service Hospital. It's based on the memoir of former doctor Adam Kay, who left medicine after enduring a particularly traumatic event. He's played by Ben Whishaw, who delivers yet another career-best performance.

DAHMER: Monster -- The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (Netflix) -- In this streaming super-smash from Ryan Murphy, the stifling details of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment and the ghastly events that occurred within felt almost documentary-like. You could smell the madness as it permeated the building, just like Glenda Cleveland, the woman who lived next door to Dahmer (portrayed here in an award-worthy performance by Niecy Nash-Betts). DAHMER's weird, clunky title didn't stop it from becoming one of Netflix's most-viewed shows ever. Coming off his Emmy Award-winning work in HBO's Mare of Easttown, not to mention his various freaky roles in FX's American Horror Story, star Evan Peters once again proved that he is one of our most versatile young actors.

Days of Our Lives (NBC/Peacock) -- NBC marked the start of the "traditional fall television season" in September by moving (some say "exiling") its long-running (and only remaining) daytime drama to Peacock (also the home of the wacky Days companion franchise Beyond Salem and the memorable holiday movie A Very Salem Christmas). It's tough to tell yet if this move was fatal for Days, or if it has drawn much needed attention to NBCU's streamer. But the episodes that have been running on Peacock since September were, we are told, already produced for airing on NBC, so we have yet to see what head writer Ron Carlivati and his talented team will do with the unbridled creative freedom that streaming allows. Absent the restrictions of broadcast television, will it be more outrageous? Sexier? More provocative? We won't know until the "stream-worthy" episodes begin in February. Until then, we can only wonder if the "three-ways" from that startling October episode really were intended for daytime broadcast on NBC or if they were edited into an existing episode to spice things up early in Days' Peacock run. (They are pictured above. One was rather long, the other very short, and I'm not going to tell you which was which.)

Dancing with the Stars (Disney+) -- The other broadcast favorite that was "transferred" to streaming was ABC's long-running competition Dancing with the Stars, which has a new home on Disney+. It was a sensational season (Charli D'Amelio! Shangela! Natasha! Selma Blair's triumph! Len's farewell!), but I don't believe that moving it off its longtime broadcast platform did it any favors at all. I'd like to see it move back to ABC, where it belongs. If it must continue to stream, wouldn't it be a better fit on Hulu?

Garcia! (HBO Max) -- The characters in this cinematic graphic novel adaptation might seem more at home in the MCU than a television series from Spain. The title character in this entertaining import is a super-soldier, I mean super-spy, who was cryogenically frozen 50 years ago and thawed out in the present (sound familiar, Cap fans?). Fighting the bad guys immediately resumes (absent knowledge of the many changes in the world that occurred while he was out of it). The main character is actually a driven female reporter named Antonia. (It's been a great year for formidable women reporters in scripted shows: See also ABC's Alaska Daily and Netflix's Inventing Anna.) Veki Velilla (as Antonia) and Francisco Ortiz (as Garcia) are just great together.

America's Got Talent (NBC/Peacock) -- Still my favorite competition series, and, for me, the only broadcast series that makes summer viewing fun. As exciting and joyful as it is, though, it's the heartfelt stories told by some of the contestants, and their desire to dedicate their performances to loved ones they have lost, that keeps me fully engaged. Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara remain the best panel of judges on any reality show, and Terry Crews is the ideal host.

Young Sheldon (CBS/Paramount+) -- Now in its sixth season, this underappreciated prequel to The Big Bang Theory remains a unique treasure, shedding ever more insight into the mind of the adult Sheldon Cooper by expanding its focus on the family members who shaped the distinctive grown up that young Sheldon would become. The storylines this year, involving older brother George Jr. trying his heartfelt best to process the fact that he is about to become a teenage dad, Meemaw running her own shady business and Mary at odds with the congregation at her beloved church, have added unexpected depth and surprising grace to this still very funny show. Watching Ian Armitage grow into the title role is still great fun, and I treasure every scene with Zoe Perry and Annie Potts. Plus, Jim Parsons continues to give us the best TV narration since Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and the City.

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