Updated: Jan 22
By Derek May:
It's been a while, I know, since we presented our annual wrap-up grading the entertainment quality of the year—but we're back now!
I felt a particular compulsion to post my thoughts against given the widely varied selections I'm seeing across the net. I'm not so much posting in contradiction of anything but more to give our readers a more eclectic curation of what is out there. Tastes naturally vary, and certainly I've made an attempt to see as much as I could. But what I present here, as from my admittedly subjective opinion, is what I hope sparks you to either give something a chance you might not have considered OR to save you some precious time on those not worth it.
Please check out the lists below and see if one of your favorites to love or hate made the cut.
And be sure to also check out the Best and Worst in Film 2022.
Best Television Series
#1 - Reservation Dogs
One of the most brilliant, original shows on television, this series has you crying one moment and laughing hysterically the next. Somehow, it manages to balance drama, comedy, tragedy, and absurdity into one delicious mélange. Even while providing a window into modern Indigenous American culture, it never fails to feel universal and accessible.
#2 - Interview with the Vampire
Easily the most faithful adaptation of Anne Rice’s literary series despite the inspired idea to move the timelines up for a more modern sensibility. Taking just enough liberties to keep familiar fans guessing and engaged, it’s the relationships brought to life by these amazing actors that cements the journey. And we finally get a proper Lestat in all his vicious glory (sorry, Tom) thanks to Sam Reid’s flawless performance, and Bailey Bass breaks out with a thunderous arrival as clever Claudia.
#3 - Peacemaker
It was a dubious gamble to center a show around a dirtbag previously left for dead, but maestro James Gunn stays true to form by turning a-holes into heroes. The high-wire act to keep titular Christopher Smith heavily flawed yet understandable, relatable, and dare we say sympathetic is a wonder to behold. Peacemaker shouldn’t work, and yet it absolutely does.
#4 - Reacher
Another adaptation that redeems a previous Tom Cruise character (huh, how about that?), we finally see the Reacher of the novels in all his massive glory. Alan Ritchson combines brains and brawn to solve a mystery both personal and political. Clever, brutish, and fun, this series satisfies on every level and leaves you ready for round 2.
#5 - Stranger Things
It’s been a minute since we last saw this band of 80s misfits, but the series roars back with one of its most compelling seasons yet. Taking the story into exciting new directions with a new and dangerous villain, the past and future are colliding, testing what we know about each character and moving everyone forward on the board. And let’s not forget the addition of a few new friends that have already carved out their place within the zeitgeist.
#6 - Welcome to Wrexham
You don’t have to be a fan of soccer (sorry, football) to get into this dramatic documentary series following Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney as they struggle to lift a Welsh team out of the lower-league depths and back to prominence. But as we’re constantly reminded, it’s not really about how the team performs as much as how a small Welsh town is reinvigorated spiritually and economically by the attempt. Well, that and the budding bromance between Ryan and Rob—every show needs a love story, after all.
#7 - The Boys
As long as this show continues to tackle issues from misogyny to the dangers of right-wing propaganda to the seductive abuse of power in clever and honest ways, it can get away with all the octopus-loving, blood-spattering, coke-snorting debauchery it likes.
#8 - What We Do in the Shadows
A show that seems as immortally fresh as its vampiric characters, this season continues to evolve our ragtag crew in small but important ways. Silly and charming, it never disappoints to find the humanity amongst this motley collection of misfits.
#9 - Obi-Wan Kenobi
We’d waited 20 years to see it, and it did not disappoint. In only six episodes the series manages to invigorate life into the old sorcerer and chart the course to where we know he and others must ultimately arrive. We got to fall in love with Princess Leia all over again thanks to a star-making turn by young Vivien Lyra Blair, and while both his voice and face were mostly hidden, it was nice to see Hayden Christensen get some redemption for his earlier turn as Vader. The racist backlash against Moses Ingram likely skewed perception of the series, but the reality is she embodied a complicated and engaging character, especially among the other lackluster Inquisitors.
#10 - Jack Ryan
This cerebral onion has enough layers it might be easy to get lost, but the creators provide just enough handholding to guide us through. I’m sure there were some tense production meetings after Putin began his war on Ukraine, but the season sticks to its premise, unafraid of the modern parallels being drawn. While the political thrills and heart-pounding action lock you in, the greatest feat is the relief of seeing what happens when the human beings at the center of life and death manage to make the moral decision. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what will ultimately either save us or damn us all.
• Abbot Elementary
• Little Demon
• Quantum Leap
Worst Television Series
#1 - Willow
I’m not sure what this is supposed to be, but one thing is clear: it’s not Willow. Comparisons to a bad CW show are apt, and there are the usual mouth-breathing cries about “wokeness,” but neither of those is the real issue. The fundamental error here is about world-building. Love it or hate it, the original Willow did what fantasy is supposed to do: establish its own world, complete with unique people, creatures, rules, etc. This show chops that all up to shoehorn in whatever nonsense it chooses offhand. The anachronisms aren’t just outside time but outside the entire freakin’ world! Mix that up with annoying characters, cringeworthy dialogue, and make-up-as-you-go story points, and you have a show disjointed at best in its own right while lacking every bit of magic the original possessed as it also manages to undo every element it established (Willow himself is all but useless, trolls now not only talk but come from the Valley, Alora Dannon is a lovesick liability). Now that’s a helluva trick.
#2 - She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
There’s a lot of online discussion about this show’s good and bad points, and like Willow, a lot of the conclusions are misplaced. There’s actually a lot of fun to be had with some of the fourth-wall breaking, misogynistic undercutting, and skewering of certain superhero tropes. BUT . . . where the show fails is in its meandering storylines, incoherent logic, blatant disregard for reality, and lack of emotional or narrative payoff. I mean, she’s supposed to be a lawyer (a good one) but can’t seem to handle the most basic elements of the job. The episodes feel like vignettes that an intern struggled to pull together at the end. And speaking of, that finale is a perfect encapsulation in that there are some excellent observations and moments, but most of it makes no sense and ends up cheating itself of the very resolution it was attempting. I can only hope that Marvel figures out how to put the charm and talent of Tatiana Maslany to better use.
#3 - The Pentaverate
Mike Myers’s return to his comedic roots unfortunately ends up less Austin Powers and more Love Guru. The satirical skewers of things Myers disdains about the modern world is often more miss than hit, as is the conceit of a global cabal of “nice” overlords. Despite Myers’s impressive turn as a number of distinct characters, everyone is just sort of there, without anyone really standing out for the audience to care for. Now and again the humor lands, but overall there’s really just not enough going on to hold it all together.
#4 - Westworld
Looks like this past season was the final bullet to the show’s head, and unlike a synthetic host, it won’t be getting up again. And that’s a relief. The show has been rocketing downhill since it left the park, its clever mysteries replaced by ever-convoluted intertwinings and pseudo-intellectual explorations of “humanity.” But in the real world, these things just served to obfuscate and annoy. The creators were so interested in finding ever-more ways to bend time and reality that they left themselves with a confusing mess that audiences simply got tired of unravelling.
#5 - Blockbuster
It really pains me to put this on the list, as I’m a huge fan of Randall Park, Melissa Fumero, and Brooklyn 99. And really, a workplace comedy in the world’s last Blockbuster is a fun and clever setting ripe with possibility. But unfortunately, the show never took full advantage of its opportunity, settling instead to simply cut and paste a wornout 80/90s sitcom style instead of making a commentary on our nostalgia of that era and the struggle of the past against the future. The actors are all endearing, but the characters rarely rise out of functional placeholders. Had it been given a chance to retool in a second season it might have found its true voice, but alas we’ll never know.
Derek May, of San Antonio, TX, is Editor-in-Chief and occasional writer for Flapper Press. He has written nearly 50 movie reviews for movieweb.com and completed 13 original feature film and television screenplays, many of which have been winners or finalists in such prestigious competitions as the Walt Disney and Nicholl Fellowships, the Austin Film Festival, and the Creative World Awards. He served as a judge for 10 years for the Austin Film Festival and Texas Film Institute screenplay competitions. His latest project has been the highly acclaimed stop-motion animation fan series Highlander: Veritas, which released its second season in July 2022.