As we hit the halfway mark of 2022, it’s time to take a look at the TV series that got us through these last few crazy months. We know you love Severance, Hacks, This is Us and Stranger Things. They’re all great shows. But this list is for Black series and characters that found something special this year. Now that we’re in the dog days of summer and you’re stuck at home because gas is $6 a gallon, use this as your guide to check out what you’ve missed. This is the best Black TV of 2022,,,so far.
No list of exceptional television is complete without Abbott Elementary. This breakout comedy following a group of weary teachers and school administrators doing everything they can to make it through the day is pure perfection. It brilliantly moves between traditional sitcom, absurd ridiculousness and complex emotional character development. Even at its most over-the-top craziest, creator/writer/star Quinta Brunson’s dialogue always feels authentic. In the midst of a streaming takeover, Abbott Elementary is an old school TV comedy with a fresh, new style.
A Black Lady Sketch Show
Just when we thought A Black Lady Sketch Show couldn’t get any wilder, Season 3 opened with the hilariously realistic “Product Purge,” where Black women finally got to return unsuccessful hair products. That’s the secret sauce of the comedy series. Every sketch starts from a place of truth, then grows into the nonsensical shenanigans we all love. That kernel of truth allows the audience to completely buy into every ridiculous moment. Even something like “What Up I’m Three” works. We don’t know where A Black Lady Sketch Show Season 4 is going, but I will follow it anywhere.
Here’s the thing: whether you loved or hated Atlanta’s somewhat controversial Season 3, it was wildly creative and we have to acknowledge that. Not many shows have the courage to veer so far away from what won it awards and made it a cultural phenomenon. The episodes may not have been what fans wanted, but as viewers we have to let shows be different. If Atlanta feeds us the same thing every week, we might as well watch something formulaic like Young Sheldon.
Look, when we heard “dramatic reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” we’ll admit we were skeptical. However, Bel-Air surpassed any and all preconceived notions we had about what to expect. The first season took the colorful ‘90s sitcom and turned it on its head. Carlton was dealing with mental health and addiction issues, Will had PTSD from a violent arrest, Hillary struggled to find her voice as a Black content creator and Ashley explored her sexual identity. In the midst of all these serious stories, we also got a fun, unapologetic celebration of Black excellence. Despite sharing a premise and characters, the two series couldn’t be more different, which is great, because we get two classic interpretations of the Banks family.
Look, Euphoria is not for everyone. Every single episode is tough to get through. However, if you can hold your emotions together long enough, you are rewarded with a breathtakingly great performance from Zendaya. In Season 2, the Emmy-winner took Rue’s addiction issues to a violent, self-hating level that felt too personal and was intensely uncomfortable to watch. As much as the audience wanted to look away, Zendaya commanded their attention, making her, and Rue, impossible to ignore.
There was a lot to love for Star Wars fans in Obi-Wan Kenobi, but the real highlight of the drama was the introduction of Moses Ingram’s Reva/Third Sister. Every moment we spent with her, we wanted to know more. We won’t spoil her origin, but it’s heartbreaking. Ingram delivered the reveal with a crushing despair we felt through the screen. The actress’ vulnerability was always lurking just beneath the surface, allowing viewers to see her as more than just an angry servant of the Empire. The series ends just as Reva’s path to redemption is beginning, so we desperately need to keep following her. Disney is incredibly secretive, so we don’t know if we’ll see her again, but Reva and Ingram are way too good for a one off.
TV is full of drug kingpin shows. Sometimes they ride motorcycles, sometimes they make jokes and sometimes they’re in outer space. The difference between Snowfall and those series is Damson Idris. As Franklin, he delivers such a fascinating portrayal of a man simultaneously sure of himself and insecure about the world around him. With members of his family striking out on their own, Idris kept Franklin balanced on an emotional tightrope of family loyalty and uncontrolled rage. In the end, the rage took over, setting up a bloody yet captivating season finale.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
At this point in the Star Trek universe, fans are wondering if there are new stories left to tell about the Enterprise. Turns out there are. Strange New Worlds follows the famous starship in the years before Kirk became captain, when Pike is still in command. While Celia Rose Gooding’s portrayal of a young Cadet Uhura is a true highlight of the show, the entire cast makes this a supremely fun watch. Like all the other series in the franchise, Strange New Worlds delivers gut wrenching emotion, chilling battles, social commentary and comedy. Frankly, it’s the best of the new Paramount+ Star Trek series.
Women of the Movement
Historical dramas are a delicate balance. Writers and directors have to weigh the obvious need to be factually correct against the demand for a compelling story. In the case of Women of the Movement, there’s an added element of highlighting how unjust history was to Mamie Till-Mobley and her son Emmett. Adrienne Warren’s unflinching, powerful performance as Mamie is a spectacular tribute to a woman who shouldered more than any parent should ever have to. The entire cast, even those playing Emmett’s murderers, took great care to make sure the Till family’s tragedy was treated with the utmost respect and dignity. As difficult as the miniseries is to watch, it’s beautifully well made, and should be required viewing for those who want to erase Black history.
The Wonder Years
Remaking one of the most beloved shows in the history of television was a risky move for ABC. Putting a Black family at the center of the story caused the expected racist uproar. Turns out, no one had anything to worry about, as The Wonder Years is a beautifully crafted family–oriented series and a perfect companion to the 1988 original. It’s still a coming-of-age story set in the ‘60s, though now with a Black family as the focus, it feels a little more authentic and less like a classic rock nostalgia tour. Yes, it’s set during an impossibly difficult time, but The Williams family fills the screen with so much joy, you can’t help wanting to spend time with them.