The Big Issue's 38 best TV shows of 2022

Our writers pick the best TV shows of 2022 – from Sherwood to Harry and Meghan, Yellowjackets to SAS Rogue Heroes and Ru Paul's Drag Race

Some of the best TV shows in 2023

Some of the best TV shows in 2023

What are the best TV shows of 2022? It has been another incredible year for television – with more channels producing greater quantity and better quality small-screen fare than ever before. The golden age of television has gone on for so long, it’s now just the new normal.

So we asked our team of Big Issue writers to vote for their favourites of 2022. How many have you seen?

1. Sherwood – BBC1 / iPlayer

Writer James Graham created a star-studded prime-time police show, an in-depth study of a post-industrial Red Wall community, an examination of the long-term impact of the miners’ strike (and its policing) and a state of the nation political drama full of heart, humour and empathy – all in this one six-part series.

Fine performances from a cast led by Lesley Manville, David Morrissey and Adeel Akhtar build a compelling, entertaining and provocative show that dares to ask big questions. Crucially, and pertinently, it asked who the police and criminal justice system is there to serve? And how can we rebuild trust between communities and in our justice system?

Stunning, important drama offering a timely look at the repercussions of the state-sponsored destruction of communities via divide and rule tactics – in this case the police and government response to the miners’ strike and the use of so-called spy cops to infiltrate and undermine community cohesion. Proper public service broadcasting and a worthy chart-topper. Read our interview with Lesley Manville, David Morrissey and James Graham here AL

2. Heartstopper – Netflix

First as the webcomic that went viral, then as a million-selling graphic novel series and now a beautifully made Netflix series. Creator Alice Oseman’s teen romance clearly resonates with audiences. Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) is young and awkward, out and proud, happy with his supportive group of misfit pals.

Then, he develops a major crush on his school’s popular rugby star Nick (Kit O’Connor). As graphic flourishes augment key moments in their relationship, the two tiptoe towards romance. O’Connor and Locke really capturing the breathless, innocent act of falling in love for the first time. A wholesome, heartwarming, charming, uplifting depiction of queer love and a simply lovely drama. AL

3. This Is Going To Hurt – BBC1

Darkly comic and brutally honest, This is Going To Hurt will put anyone off a career in medicine. Adam Kay has created a character, based on himself, who is all at once sarcastic, charming and at times cruel. It is a triumph Ben Whishaw manages to make him endearing. 

And, even with the bleak subject matter, This is Going To Hurt is incredibly funny. This is thanks mostly to the fast pace and well-timed comic asides – at one point, Whishaw is elbow-deep inside a patient and tells the audience he is wearing her like Kermit the Frog. 

But the real star of this BBC One drama is newcomer Ambika Mod as junior doctor Shruti, whose story is harrowing. It is a visceral look at the reality of life in the NHS. Just a reminder: this is set before the pandemic plunged the medical world into crisis. Read our interview with Adam Kay here IM

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4. The Bear – Disney+

A talented and celebrated chef inherits his family’s sandwich joint in Chicago in this near-perfect, wholly original series. When prodigal son Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (played, incredibly, with shades of a young Al Pacino by Jeremy Allen White, whose crisp white t-shirt should win its own awards) returns to his working-class community after his brother takes his own life, the scene is set for dysfunctional relationships, workplace chaos, and a culture clash between the fine-dining merchant and his fast-food family and friends, played out by a beautifully drawn motley crew of oddballs.

Jeremy Allen White stars in The Bear on Disney+
Jeremy Allen White stars in The Bear – one of the Best TV Shows of 2022. Image: Disney

Neither comedy nor drama, but something almost entirely new, The Bear is stuffed with humanity as Carmy and his crew graft their way to a new understanding. And it is served in half hour portions you will want to binge and then return to for seconds. So tuck right in. AL

5. Slow Horses – Apple TV+

How frustrating that the crime series of the year was only available to Apple TV subscribers. Because this adaptation of Mick Herron’s much loved novel was quite sublime. Following a team of failed / lazy / incompetent MI5 rejects, its combination of hilarious Hot Fuzz silliness and rather touching portrayals of characters dealing with disappointment, ruined ambition and squandered enthusiasm was irresistible. Led by the slumped, cynical, past his best Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), the team somehow find themselves on the trail of a potentially seismic case. With a fantastic cast including  Kristin Scott Thomas, Jack Lowden, Saskia Reeves, Sophie Okonedo and Paul Higgins (I mean, come ON!), what’s not to love? JG

6. We Own This City – Now / Sky Atlantic

It’s David Simon, it’s Baltimore, it’s state corruption. Basically, We Own This City is the closest you can get to The Wire without rewatching The Wire again.

John Bernthal is incredible – and terrifying – leading a gang of dirty, racist cops who ride around town committing increasingly chilling acts and generally, as the title suggests, think they own the place. It’s a lot more focused than The Wire because disturbingly, but unsurprisingly, it’s based on a true story. SG

7. Yellowjackets – Now / Sky Atlantic

A plane has crashed in the wilderness back in the ’90s, leaving a girls’ soccer team stranded. Just what will they do to survive? Before long, school cliques have mutated into potentially cannibalistic cults. And is there something supernatural in the woods?

Juliette Lewis as Natalie and Christina Ricci as Misty in Yellowjackets. Image: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Meanwhile, in the modern day, the surviving members of the team are coping with trauma and trying to keep their secrets in the past. Yellowjackets starts bonkers and gets madder from there. But behind the Lost-style oddball twists lies a complex meditation on female friendship, ageing, the deleterious effects of fame and the compromises we all make to keep ourselves afloat. Beautifully cast with an eye to their real-life experiences in the ’90s, Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey and Juliette Lewis particularly shine as three of the grown-up survivors. LK

8. Severance – Apple TV+

“Workplace-thriller” is an interesting genre, granted, but Severance has a cool premise. Essentially, this company has found a way to end all work-life balance discussion by ensuring employees have two separate lives – in and outside the office. Not, like, the quiet bloke from IT who goes raving every weekend. They literally have no knowledge of the other side of their life because they’ve been zapped in the brain.

Only, the experiment is not quite going to plan. The show is unsettling – we don’t know what they do in their Kubrick-style office and neither do they, but there’s loads of trippy stuff happening. It all starts to unravel as this seeps into the outside world, culminating in two *absolutely wild* episodes that will have you googling when season two starts. SG

9. Am I Being Unreasonable? – BBC One / iPlayer

Daisy May Cooper’s wildly unpredictable comedy-drama is equal parts hilarious and horrifying. It starts off with an horrific death, before taking in affairs, competitive parents, savage pet deaths and flashbacks which are not all they seem. Cooper’s character Nic is both hugely vulnerable and incredibly funny, and in Lenny Rush, who plays her loveable screen son Ollie, we have a star in the making. AlanW

10. The Capture – BBC1 / iPlayer

The wheeze at the heart of The Capture is as follows: CCTV can be altered in real time, giving security services a way to generate evidence when they’re basically sure somebody did the crime. What could possibly go wrong? It’s daft – but found its feet with a second series, becoming a certified Tense BBC One Sunday Night Watch.

Paapa Essiedu joined the cast as a Tory rising star who finds himself at the centre of the storm, watching himself say things he simply didn’t say. There’s the paranoia, confusion and inevitable anger of a life falling apart – with any attempt to wrest control back only making things worse. Zoom out and it’s a decent riff on the logical endpoint of deepfakes and the dangerous intersection of government and big tech. GB

11. Peaky Blinders – BBC1

How do you finish one of the biggest hits on TV? A drama that spawned a million haircuts and a national love of flatcaps, as well as creating one of the coolest anti-heroes of our generation? By having Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), our lead, count down the days until his death, lacing through a story about old Joe Kennedy, Oswald Mosley, booze and gun-running and inter-family warfare.

With some beautiful and simple tributes to the late Helen McCrory, new tracks by Thom Yorke’s The Smile, and enough whiskey to drown a navy, this was glorious, OTT, beautifully rendered television. All with a final twist setting up the forthcoming movie. ‘It’s a sort of working-class revolution within a family’: Read our interview with Steven Knight and Sophie Rundle here PM

12. Life After Life – BBC2 / iPlayer

This BBC series achieved what the legions who loved Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel considered impossible; a TV adaptation of a complex time-straddling story executed with a quiet elegance and poetic sensitivity equal to the book’s. Ursula Todd dies just moments after being born. But then begins life again, and gets a little further before dying and being reborn. Over and over again. With each death comes a family in shock, overwhelmed by grief – this is not a quirky sliding doors-style romp.

Thomasin McKenzie in Life After Life
Thomasin McKenzie in Life After Life photo: BBC

The story of her lives is dark and serious and sorrowful, and as she tallies up her own losses and heartbreaks, increasingly tough to watch. But it is all so exquisitely rendered and acted (Thomasin McKenzie, Jessica Hynes, Sian Clifford, Jessica Brown Findlay) you’ll stick around until the last death, and be glad that you did. Read our interview with Thomasin McKenzie and Sian Clifford here JG

13. Wednesday – Netflix

The latest creation from the imagination of Tim Burton found its TikTok moment in the title character’s spectacular goth dance routine to The Cramps’s Goo Goo Muck. Choreographed by actor Jenna Ortega, the deadpan routine has been aped all over the internet – including by Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga.

Its huge impact is a tribute both to Ortega’s pitch (black) perfect performance as Wednesday Addams and to Tim Burton’s enduring ability to steal audiences away into his skewed worlds of outsiders and misfits. Wrapped around that scene is a spooky, ooky take on the Addams Family, with a pleasingly high quotient of camp humour and gore. LK

14. A League of their Own – Prime Video

A feelgood drama, ostensibly about the Rockford Peaches – one of the original women’s professional baseball team formed during wartime – but like Friday Night Lights before it, this series is resolutely not about sport. Instead, baseball is the way in to a story exploring queer love with Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden at its heart.

Melanie Field, Abbi Jacobson and D'Arcy Carden in A League of Their Own. Image: Sky
Melanie Field, Abbi Jacobson and D’Arcy Carden as Jo, Carson and Greta in A League of Their Own. Image: Sky

Adapting and expanding Penny Marshall’s brilliant 1992 film was a risky move – but this eight-part series keeps the charm and humour of the original while adding more depth and exploring the intersections of racism and homophobia. A home run. AL

15. Inventing Anna – Netflix

Anna Delvey is the ultimate Marmite character. Hailed by some as the epitome of a Girl Boss, never taking no for an answer to swindle New York’s most privileged figures out of thousands of dollars, while loathed by as many others as a con artist, manipulator and a liar. And the best bit? This ‘character’ isn’t simply a work of fiction – it’s all true, with a strong dose of artistic licence. 

If you’ve managed to stay hidden under a rock for the last year, you’ll be gripped from the first episode, asking incredulously, “Will she get away with it?” And even if you know how it ends, it’s one hell of a ride. EB

16. Derry Girls – Channel 4

For Northern Irish natives, Derry Girls has always skirted as close to documentary as comedy. In its final season, Lisa McGee’s sublime, hilarious examination of teenage life in ’90s Derry explained the Troubles through the prism of Ireland’s beloved Tayto crisps (and the two besuited potatoes that act as representatives north and south of the border); presented a love letter to Barry’s (NI’s answer to Blackpool); and whipped the rug out from under us with a truly shocking death.

Derry Girls
The final series of Derry Girls was one of the Best TV shows of 2022. Image: Channel 4

But the big moment came in the very last episode, dedicated to the Good Friday Agreement. If you weren’t there, it’s easy to forget how important that moment was for Ireland, north and south (we wouldn’t have Brexit if people had longer memories). But McGee captures the humanity and the hope, the guilt and the complication. UK viewers flooded social media to say they’d learned more from Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James than in their school curriculum. Never has required viewing been such a pleasure. Read our interview with Lisa McGee about the final series of Derry Girls here LK

17. The Dropout – Disney+

The true story of the criminally ambitious Elizabeth Holmes’ is so morbidly perfect for dramatisation, it is almost unnerving. It has deception, scandal romance and horrific tragedy – it’s no wonder Disney+ snapped it up. At its core The Dropout is a fascinating character study of the great female fraudster, played with nuance by Amanda Seyfreid. It’s worth a binge watch. IM

18. Clark – Netflix

This audacious Swedish Netflix drama pushed the boundaries of believability to a preposterous degree. Incredibly, it is based on a true story. And when you Google the craziest bits you find it’s these which are most closely grounded in fact. It’s based on the autobiography of notorious gangster Clark Olofsson, whose string of offences – drug trafficking, attempted murder, assault, bank robberies – saw him in prison for most of his adult life. When he was free, according to the ridiculously charismatic Bill Skarsgård‘s portrayal anyway, he spent his time freewheeling from parties to joyrides to luxury holidays – with lots of drugs and dances and athletic sex along the way. He so charmed the hostages of one bank robbery that they fell half in love with him – the term Stockholm syndrome derives from that case. There’s no life lesson to be found here. But, wow, what chutzpah. JG

19. Harry & Meghan – Netflix

The most talked about television series of the year is also one of the best. Across six, long and impeccably edited and filmed episodes, we hear the inside story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s life inside the Royal Family. Because Harry and Meghan had so much editorial control – “when the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?” asks Markle, in the opening film – we can assume nothing is included by accident.

So, parallels, drawn by Harry in emotional scenes, between the treatment of his wife and the way his late mother was harassed before her untimely death, are especially poignant. The depiction of the racism encountered by Markle inside the royal family and from the UK press is especially distressing. And veiled digs at the lack of support from the new Prince and Princess of Wales are even more pointed.

Yes, it’s a one-sided documentary. But the revelations are important and the light Harry & Meghan shines on the Royal Family is instructive. The overriding impression is that the couple are happier and healthier on the outside. AL

20. The Boys  – Prime Video

Who’s the tall, blond American who wraps himself in the flag and whips crowds into a frenzy? The psychopathic populist who, deep down, just wants to be loved? No, not him. It’s The Boys’ archvillian, Homelander.  

Season Three of superheroes-gone-bad satire The Boys sees it reach its full, bloody stride, poking a thumb in the eye of every facet of US politics and pop culture, laughing in the face of Fox News, the alt-right, corporate America, Hollywood, Marvel, and more. Just beware of, quite possibly, the most disgusting opening episode of a TV series ever made. You have been warned. AR

21. Bridgerton – Netflix

Following the amazing debut of Bridgerton, which brought us into a world of regency glamour and romance, it was inconceivable that the second season could be any better. But, it was. Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey had amazing chemistry, which made their slow-burn romance all the more worth it when they finally succumbed to their intense feelings.

Claudia Jessie plays Eloise Bridgerton Cr. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
Claudia Jessie plays Eloise Bridgerton. Image: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Bailey’s speech is one of the most beautiful things ever written for TV. It should be compulsory viewing for anyone who is in love or wants to be. Read our interview with Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte, Golda Rosheuvel, here MT

22. Stranger Things – Netflix

In the era of the streaming giant, TV series have grown and grown and grown, many bloating far beyond what their stories can sustain. Stranger Things is a rare example in which more truly is more. The fourth series of Netflix’s sci-fi smash hit saw episode run-times expanding far past the traditional one-hour mark. The finale hit a monster 2.5 hours. So what was it that made Stranger Things worth your (vast) investment of time? It’s the characters.

STRANGER THINGS. David Harbour as Jim Hopper in STRANGER THINGS. Photo: Netflix © 2022
David Harbour as Jim Hopper in Stranger Things – one of the Best TV shows of 2022. Photo: Netflix © 2022

Horror is only scary when you care about the people in danger. We’ve watched the young residents of Hawkins grow from kids to teens, while navigating friendships, love interests and bereavements – as well as battling demogorgons and saving the universe. Every emotional beat of series four was earned, from the Satanic Panic subplot to the glorious Kate Bush-fuelled fightback. And if your heart didn’t burst for Winona Ryder’s Joyce and David Harbour’s Hop when they reunited? Well, I just don’t know what to say to you. Read our interview with Stranger Things star David Harbour here LK

23. The Staircase – Now / Sky Atlantic

True-crime dramatisations of gruesome murders are not my bag. But this show had Colin Firth and Toni Collette as real-life husband and wife Michael and Kathleen Peterson, so it had to be worth a look. Meticulously put together by creator Antonio Campos, the show, at its heart, is a question. Did Michael bludgeon his wife to a bloody and terrifying death at the bottom of the stairs?

The series unravels the evidence that led to his 2003 conviction – from the life insurance policy to the implausible forensics and the family friend who coincidentally also met a violent and untimely death at the bottom of a staircase. It’s also the story of a family fracturing under the weight of a terrible event. Sister taking sides against sister; son against brother. Michael always denied his involvement and the dramatisation doesn’t tie up its conclusions in a neat bow. But if the accused was hoping for any kind of exoneration or image rebrand, this show ain’t it. AliW

24. Ru Paul’s Drag Race – BBC3 / iPlayer

Reality TV is, as a rule, bad. But Drag Race is not your usual spray-tanned menagerie of walking egos or no-hope karaoke singers. These are established performers competing in a weekly variety performance of drag queen extravaganza. Throw in such royalty as Graham Norton and Joanna Lumley to judge and you have TV gold.

But the format is not the only reason the show has clocked up more than 30 seasons in 15 countries. Each contestant has a story of trauma, of fighting for the right to be their true selves. Each was forged in the fire of human experience and came out fabulous. Watch it. Laugh. Cry. Feel alive. AR

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25. Better Things – BBC2 / iPlayer

When it all gets a bit much and you need a bowl of soup or a big hug, this is the TV to watch. Sam Fox is the matriarch of a single-parent family with three children, living in glossy LA. But this isn’t overly sickly family comedy. It doesn’t romanticise family life like Modern Family or Outnumbered.

There are moments of pure nastiness – particularly in the latest season when middle child, Frankie, humiliates Sam for not wanting to look at her old wedding photos. There are many, many joyful moments too, reminding us that, usually, things do get better. Overall, this is an honest portrayal of a mother, who is also a daughter, an ex-wife, an actor, juggling all of her responsibilities while figuring out how to still be a person in her own right. EB

26. Better Call Saul – Netflix

How many prequels end up being as well received – if not better – than the original? Vince Gilligan set himself a near-impossible task by creating a Breaking Bad spinoff – and succeeded magnificently. Better Call Saul stands up as an immersive and cinematic, detail-driven work of art in its own right. Over six seasons we’ve witnessed Jimmy’s transformation from ballsy chancer to crooked lawyer, and been introduced to a cast of stick-in-the-mind characters from the rad (Nacho) to the bad (Lalo), sad (Howard) and mad (Chuck).

While we’ve been wondering what will become of Jimmy’s monochrome existence at the Omaha Cinnabon, there has also been the nagging question in viewers’ minds: what happens to Kim? Without spoilers, let’s say that the ending delivered bittersweet closure, and just the tiniest chink of hope. In a show that managed to hold its moral compass even as its characters fell into ever-spiralling corruption, it felt like a farewell to dearly loved friends. AliW

27. The Great Pottery Throw Down – Channel 4

At the moment big Keith Brymer Jones is probably crying. This comes with some certainty because at every turn on The Great Pottery Throw Down, Keith, the expert judge and beating heart of the show, is in tears. A crack in the glaze, off he goes. A lovely handle on a teapot? Keith’s bottom lip is quivering. Don’t show him a vase with a perfect base…

Rich Miller, Siobhan McSweeney and Keith Brymer Jones in The Festive Pottery Throw Down (C4, Christmas Day 2022). Image: Mark Bourdillon / Channel 4

This is potentially the most life-affirming show on TV. It draws outsiders and those who are a little odd. And here they all soar, and we become impossibly invested in what comes out of a kiln and also why a particular indent on a piece of clay means so much to those who made it. And of course Keith. Mighty Keith. Let those big salty tears flow, my man! PM

28. The Sandman – Netflix

The absolute absurdity and stunning melodrama of The Sandman is what makes it so enjoyable to watch. If you were a Neil Gaiman fan as a kid, and remember reading the graphic novels, then this show is as close to a perfect adaptation as one can get.

The production design, script, and acting all come together for a spectacular ten-episode run, exploring how myth and reality can come face-to-face with each other. If you’ve been watching nightmarish reboots, then The Sandman is an absolute dream. Read our interview with The Sandman star Asim Chaudhry here MT

29. Abbott Elementary – Disney+

You know when you just want to put on a funny, heartwarming, easy-to-watch, usually (North) American sitcom for half an hour while you switch off from work/wake up/try to focus on something other than your hangover? The Office, Parks and Recreation, Schitt’s Creek, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Black-ish, The Good Place… you get the picture.

Quinta Brunson’s Abbott Elementary is that, but rather than being set in a paper merchant, police department, local government or wherever The Good Place was, it’s in a school and is about teachers. It’s something everyone can relate to and is already winning awards. But, as is often the case with these shows, there’s a sense in the first season that it’s just getting started. SG

30. The Crown – Netflix

The binge watch didn’t last quite as long as the desperate anticipation for the latest season of The Crown. But it still hooked us in. This season features the Diana on Panorama drama, former Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed’s growing resentment of the Royal Family, Fergie’s feet, Philip’s fling, and, of course, a much more sympathetic depiction of the oh-so-risqué tampon-gate between Charles and Camilla than was available at the time.

A slow-burning, biographical, political, increasingly-recent period drama about a nepotistic, over-privileged family may not sound like the stuff of TV dreams. But with its clipped accents, wonderful wigs, and spicy scandals, watching The Crown is almost as fun as the late-night fact-checking that follows each episode. EP

31. Anatomy of a Scandal – Netflix

A political scandal, one-too-many flashbacks and Sienna Miller’s face in a courtroom – all filmed via canted camera angles – made this an engaging, yet forgettable mini-series. Anatomy of a Scandal was written in the wake of multiple British politicians being accused in sexual harrassment cases. The series attempts to untangle class and consent, focusing on the insidious web of privileged boys’ clubs in and around the seat of power in this country.

And while we won’t dispute the derogatory reviews pointing out how big concept meets flat script is not a recipe for great TV, any content that tries to tackle the knotted topic of sexual consent within a power dynamic – especially a political one – is worth four hours of our time. Read our interview with Sienna Miller on Anatomy of a Scandal here EP

32. Anne – ITV / ITVX

Maxine Peake stars as campaigner Anne Williams in this series charting the long, gruelling fight for justice for victims of the Hillsborough tragedy that resulted in 97 people, including Anne’s son Kevin, losing their lives.

Maxine Peake plays Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams in ITV's Anne. Image: ITV
Maxine Peake plays Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams in ITV’s Anne – one of the Best TV shows of 2022. Image: ITV

Equal parts inspirational and enraging, Anne asks vital questions about who has access to justice and who the law is there to serve. It also shows how stacked the odds were for a woman fighting for justice when so many politicians, tabloid newspapers, and police officers were against her. ‘The criminal justice system can be a very hostile place’: Read our interview with Maxine Peake on Anne here AL

33. SAS Rogue Heroes – BBC1 / iPlayer

Steven Knight takes Ben Macintyre’s bestseller about the formation of the SAS and adapts it into Peaky Blinders in the Desert. There are clear character tropes. Troubled leader David Stirling (the very watchable Connor Swindells) is Tommy Shelby with an education, though with less of Cillian Murphy’s force of personality. Paddy Mayne, with whom Stirling formed the formidable force, is played by the electric Jack O’Connell as the sweary, somewhat unhinged, hard-drinking Irishman who will always rise to fight. He’s Arthur Shelby with a deeper appreciation of poetry. 

There are moments of hyper-real violence, a lacing through of real historical figures, a sense of finding your own code outside of the law and a manipulation of more contemporary music (this time AC/DC). But there’s more to it than a reductive comparison. Knight has a knack for making riveting television with more heart than a cursory glance would lead you to believe. A loud, sometimes angry, magnetic and oddly soulful treat. PM

34. The Responder – BBC1 / iPlayer

Despite a slightly dodgy Scouse accent, Martin Freeman excels as wired police officer Chris Carson, whose eventful night shifts, depression, rage and marriage issues threaten to break him, and his moral compass, completely.

Written by ex-copper Tony Schumacher, the action is as unrelenting and intense as Carson’s fragile psyche. It’s exhausting to watch, but it underlines the toll jobs on the frontline can take on the likes of Carson’s mental health. Read our interview with The Responder creator Tony Schumacher here AlanW

35. The Lazarus Project – Now / Sky Max

The world, it turns out, has a reset button. Time can be pushed back, but only if the world is in mortal danger. And only a select group of people will remember everything from the alternative, erased version. Look: If you’re watching The Lazarus Project to discover how to plausibly build a time travel machine, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But good sci-fi is never really about the science.

Paapa Essiedu in The Lazarus Project
Paapa Essiedu plays George in The Lazarus Project – one of the Best TV Shows of 2022. Photo: Sky

It’s fun, novel, and of course, the concept of ‘you can go back in time but only if the world is in danger’ is open to abuse. But above all, The Lazarus Project left us convinced Paapa Essiedu should be flown straight to Hollywood to fill any Tom Hanks-style leading role going. Read our interview with The Lazarus Project creator Joe Barton here GB

36. The Newsreader – BBC2 / iPlayer

This Australian drama, set in a TV newsroom in 1986, was a real unsung gem. Beautifully nuanced performances from Anna Torv and Sam Reid as pioneering news anchor Helen Norville and ambitious reporter Dale Jennings plus perfect period detail (suddenly the late 1980s looks ancient, when did this happen?) set up a great series.

But what makes The Newsreader so special is how it uses real life big stories of the day – the Space Shuttle disaster, Halley’s Comet, the Aids epidemic, Chernobyl and new evidence emerging that a dingo and not her mother Lindy was responsible for the death of baby Azaria Chamberlain – to explore journalistic ethics and news values in changing times. Smart, stylish, superb… AL

37. AIDS: The Unheard Tapes – BBC2 / iPlayer

This incredible, innovative three-part documentary series took us into the heart of the Aids crisis in Britain in the 1980s. Using audio interviews with gay men and their friends conducted by pioneering researchers at the time, an archive of frank, intimate discussions of life during the Aids epidemic was created. It has since been housed at the British Library.

Pete (Willie Hudson) in Aids: The Unheard Tapes
Pete (Willie Hudson). Hear Pete’s story in Aids: The Unheard Tapes on BBC2 / iPlayer. Image: BBC/Wall to Wall Media Ltd

The BBC brought this real-time oral history project to life using actors lip-synching to original recordings, to powerful effect. These are interviews with people without the luxury of hindsight. Many people we hear from will not live to know that, by 1997, combination therapy will save and extend the lives of so many diagnosed with HIV.

So the stories here serve as a testament and a tribute to a community that worked together to raise awareness, fight prejudice and searched for ways to combat this devastating virus. They also serve as a reminder of the heartlessness of some politicians of the day, whose prejudice blinded them to the humanity of people who needed their help. Read our interview with researcher Dr Wendy Rickard here AL

38. Conversations with Friends – BBC3 / iPlayer / BBC2

Romantic drama not for you? Think again. Because when a new Sally Rooney novel-turned-series streams on the BBC, building on the fever of the aching and tender Normal People, and with the same naturalistic tone, we should be all in.

While the lead characters are intellectual, pretentious, “no-one-understands-me” types, the writing wraps them with empathy as the series picks at the grey area of monogamy, desire, neglect, and social discomfort. Across 12 languid, luxurious episodes, Conversations with Friends is an awkward but wondrous rites-of-passage, dealing with what it means to be human. EP

Words: Adrian Lobb, Laura Kelly, Paul McNamee, Alastair Reid, Jane Graham, Sam Gelder, Alan Woodhouse, Alison Wright, Isabella McRae, Evie Breese, Greg Barradale, Eliza Pitkin, Michele Theil

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