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The Best New Series Of 2022 - Looper Staff Picks

Television in 2022 was all about escapism; about stress relief; about finally relaxing on your couch and queuing up your poison of choice after a long day in this crazy, mixed-up world. So, with so many streamers and choices available, what do you want to pair with your finest sweatpants and cheap yet solid supermarket wine? Sure, you've got your fantasy epics, your brand new dramedies, your superhero stories, and so on and so forth, but when it comes to the best shows that premiered in 2022: most of them will stress you out.

Ever work in a restaurant? Wonder if you should build a future with a garden and kids and a nice little house? Do you get up every morning and head to your corporate job, where the best possible outcome of your day is a waffle party? Perfect! We have tons of great shows from this year that will definitely make you feel way more anxious (with, thankfully, a few exceptions that are just plain fun). Here's our staff picks for the best new shows from 2022.

Caitlin Albers - The Bear

"The Bear" is one of the tensest, most stressful, and anxiety-inducing shows ever created. Or, for anyone in the food service industry, the chance to relive an average Tuesday. I will say this show definitely hits differently for someone who has never worked in a kitchen versus a line cook at a packed Cheesecake Factory on a Friday night. This is a must-see for anyone in the service industry (especially a restaurant), because it captures the environment perfectly, and it'll have you going, "Wow, yup," every episode.

Even if you've never worked on a line or served a Karen who thought her side of ranch was the most important thing in the world, "The Bear" will immerse you completely in the restaurant business. You'll feel the stress; you'll smell the fryer bubbling; you'll want to punch people in the face. Jeremy Allen White absolutely destroys this show and deserves all the awards for his portrayal of grief-stricken Carmy. And therein lies "The Bear's" great strength, it expertly recreates the experience of processing immense grief over time.

I wouldn't say this show is the easiest watch; definitely not one I'd recommend binging, but it will pull you back because it's just so damn good. Marinate on it for a few weeks if you haven't, and I promise you won't regret it.

Nina Starner - Fleishman Is in Trouble

Literary adaptations are tricky, but getting the original author involved usually helps make that process go a lot smoother. (Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" adaptation is so close to being perfect; DM me to ask me why it's missing something.) I read "Fleishman is in Trouble," by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, when it came out in 2019, and really liked it — and as a result, I'm thrilled it became one of the best on-screen adaptations I've seen in a long time.

Anchored by a very specifically neurotic Jesse Eisenberg as Toby — the titular Fleishman, who is, in fact, in trouble — this show works as a fascinating hat trick, telling Toby's story through the lens of his friend Libby (an astounding Lizzy Caplan), who serves as the narrator as well as playing a vital character in her own right. Emmy winner Claire Danes plays a supporting role on the show, and Adam Brody, who maybe hates that he's best known for "The O.C.," plays a character who is, appropriately, named Seth, a grown-up version of Seth Cohen who becomes a layabout in Manhattan. The premise is pretty simple: Toby Fleishman, who's in the midst of a messy divorce from his wife Rachel (Danes), wakes up one day to realize his wife has vanished, leaving him with their two kids and no word on her whereabouts. This show isn't actually about Toby, though — it's really about Libby and her unfulfilled life, which ends up making you doubt whether or not Rachel is really as bad as she seems, considering that Libby resents Toby's wildly successful wife.

"Fleishman" is a funny, awkward, brutal take on what it means to age past your prime years, and Brodesser-Akner and her cast bring the novel to life on-screen in a phenomenal and deeply painful way. I really did want to pick "The Bear," but this show hit me a lot harder.

Kieran Fisher - The Old Man

Based on Thomas Perry's bestselling novel of the same name, "The Old Man" stars Jeff Bridges as Dan Chase, a dog-loving former CIA operative who lives off the grid because he's keeping secrets. Of course, it's only a matter of time until the past catches up with our wily old hero, forcing him to take on assassins and evade the authorities.

The premise of "The Old Man" suggests that it's a derivative action-thriller in the vein of "Taken" and the "Bourne" franchise. It isn't. While the FX series boasts its fair share of bloody fight scenes, car chases, and other traditional genre elements, there and plenty of twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes — a couple of which are genuinely shocking. That said, it's the quieter, more contemplative moments that make "The Old Man" stand out as one of 2022's finest shows, as the core themes tap into aging, loss, and reconciliation.

Chase is a fascinating protagonist; at first, it's hard to tell if he's paranoid or genuinely hunted. He lives in a permanent state of mourning and his health is clearly worsening. He's lost a few steps since his operative days and struggles to get dressed in the morning, making him an underdog against the younger professionals who want to dust him. As such, the fight scenes tend to be more dread-inducing than exhilarating, and I mean that as a compliment. Bridges is phenomenal and brings a sense of weariness, wisdom, and quiet menace to the role. His character is more captivating than your average action hero as he's burdened by his regrets, heartache, and physical limitations. Then again, it's a bit of a stretch to call Chase a hero by the time Season 1 is all over.

Pauli Poisuo - 1899

Look, I'm a sucker for a spooky ship show, all right? Give me the rusty husk of a long-abandoned vessel, stick something creepy in the cargo hold, and watch me lose a day of my life as I watch whatever unfolds twice and then spend the rest of the night online reading about maritime disappearances and ghost stories.

I slipped into Netflix's "1899" after finally wrapping up AMC's excellent "The Terror," so my expectations were probably higher than usual. Fortunately, the show comes from the makers of German confusion-fu masterpiece "Dark," so said expectations were answered from the very beginning. "1899" is basically a naval, streamlined-ish version of "Dark," with a vastly improved cast of interesting characters, and a central mystery that hopefully won't take quite as many color-coded spreadsheets to keep up with. It's also very, very good.

Sadly, a show like "1899" will never be a long-running smash hit in the colossally unfair world we live in. It's a little bit too weird, the dialogue switches between like 86 languages, and it lives on a platform that seems to cancel shows if their creators eat the wrong brand of bacon in the morning. All of this may make new viewers wary of picking up the show, and at least some of the existing "Dark" fans are probably still too busy trying to rejigger their cortex to tackle another Baran bo Odar-Jantse Friese mystery.

Still, the sheer quality of "1899" makes it worthy of a "Dark"-style cult hit status, at the very least. Go watch it. It gets weird. It has the coolest actor from "Dark" in a different, but maybe even cooler role. Oh, and it has ships. Did I mention I like ships?

Aahil Dayani - The Rehearsal

When it comes to the best new show of 2022, is there a more obvious choice than Nathan Fielder's subversive docu-series "The Rehearsal" when it comes to the best new show of 2022? A followup to "Nathan For You," which saw him help struggling businesses reel in customers with gimmicks, his latest focuses on the power of human connection and the stories we tell ourselves.

Fielder's latest has him helping individuals "rehearse" difficult conversations that typically brew anxiety — but it isn't as simple as just practicing a daunting chat. Using HBO's blank cheque, Fielder goes to great lengths to make the rehearsal as realistic as possible, constructing impeccably accurate sets to create an aura of authenticity. To make the experience as cathartic as possible, Fielder concocts multiple scenarios and situations to help push individual to succeed in their difficult chat. The end results vary, but it makes for fascinating, surreal television that blends the brutality of reality and the comfort that comes from practicing.

As the show unravels itself, it becomes clear that the guise of helping others is merely a vehicle for Fielder to help himself, altruism be damned. The series doesn't shy away from asking its audience and if Fielder's methods are exploitative and cruel. The creator goes even further, immersing himself into one of the show's most pivotal rehearsals, which becomes an opportunity for Fielder to express (and later confront) his insecurities and anxieties, all the while providing some of the funniest moments of the year.

By the end, Fielder gives his viewers a deep and intimate dive into his psyche, the power of conversation, and asks us to confront our anxieties when it comes to loneliness, religion, and the nature of reality. It's simply the most daring show on television and I can't wait to see what Season 2 brings.

Kim Bell - The Witcher: Blood Origin

I did not want this spin-off. It's not that I care (at all) about canon, but in my experience, spin-offs often signal the slow demise of beloved adaptations and stories. Unfortunately (for me and my ego, that is) "The Witcher: Blood Origin" turns out to be an almost unfairly clever and relevant addition to The Continent's complex history.

There's no such thing as a "fresh take" on The Hero's Journey, and in the thousands of years since a variety of cultures introduced it, its mechanics have, more or less, yet to be improved upon. "Blood Origin" not only knows and accepts this, it celebrates and relies on it. And its refreshingly earnest, dare we say inspiring concern for the value and necessity of the genre is what drives it.

The series posits its own narrative as the origin of all hero stories, and its repeated nods to everything from Greek history to the "Terminator" franchise serve to reiterate its belief in the power of storytelling. Minnie Driver's Seanchai shares her story with Joey Batey's Jaskier because she believes the world can't survive driven solely by pain and anger, and the stories of the people (as in, the common folk's lore, aka folklore and legend) exist to provide the thing we do need: hope.

In just four episodes, "Blood Origin" explores the power and importance of voice — sometimes literally, as in the story of The Lark's (Sophia Brown) rebellion song — the corrosive nature of political ambition, and the vast and dangerous gap between the victors' "History" and the truth of The Past. It speaks, on a number of levels, to a nation built on dangerous political mythologies, a time wherein truth is ironically difficult to come by given our increased access to it, and an era that seems to have forgotten some of the past's most difficult and horrific lessons. It may be a compact little mini-series filled with elves, dwarves, and magic, but it says more about the world we live in — and are heading for — than any number of its lengthier contemporaries.

So, yeah. I'm pretty mad about it.

Tom Meisfjord - Peacemaker

Gosh oh gee was I ready to not care about "Peacemaker." Why? Because I'm an idiot, that's why. I was ready to not care about "Guardians of the Galaxy," too. For some reason, I keep forgetting that James Gunn knows how to t-bone my emotions with a Mack truck made out of characters that seem like narrative white noise at first blush.

Eight episodes worth of absolute bops and not a single "skip intro" button click later, "Peacemaker" had me fully invested in its eponymous spree shooter's wellbeing in ways that I wasn't prepared for. It feels like Gunn, who wrote the entire series, used the objective unlikeability of the character as a storytelling duck blind – you assume that you know everything that you need to know about the guy after "The Suicide Squad," and then whoops, no, it turns out that you have nothing but sympathy for him, and also his buddy who shows up to help out when he needs help assassinating children. I'm not selling this as well as I thought I would.

"Peacemaker" humanizes one of the most hateable characters in the DCEU, makes you root for the background characters that you didn't realize had names, and gives you Robert Patrick's most dream-haunting performance since he fell in a vat of molten steel while fighting Austrian robots. Look, just... If you haven't watched the opening credits yet, look them up and then get back to me when you realize that you just got charmed into watching seven hours of mayhem.

Russell Murray - Severance

Depending on your level of cynicism, the fact that "Severance" failed to break through competitors during its freshman awards season is either a reflection of how strong this year's television slate was or of how deeply awards voters misunderstood this modern masterpiece.

There is not a damn thing out of place in "Severance." The carefully crafted workplace thriller is unassuming at first, though perhaps its best consumed that way – for those wanting the full experience, I strongly suggest you stop reading now and instead enjoy the show without preconceptions. For those who have already experienced it, you know what I mean: the curiously exhausting and distressingly liminal set-design; the grim lighting; the ominous and range-y score; the brutally dwarfing cinematography; the dialogue that oscillates intentionally between the revealing off-beat patter of Tom Stoppard and the mirthless, pensive snark of Vince Gilligan. And, my god, if any show deserves an Emmy Award for its title sequence alone, it's "Severance."

In a sea of smart, topical, and funny television projects, "Severance" stands out by forging an identity so unique, it bears the urgency of a prestige drama, but with the timeless execution of a modern classic. Yes, its a little bit depressing, and yes, it will make you rethink your career and what you want from your life. But damn, it's been a long time since something as simultaneously challenging and accessible as "Severance" came along. (Runners up: "The Bear," "Tales of the Jedi," "Peacemaker.")

Nick Staniforth - Bad Sisters

Apple TV+ released another gem that was as funny as it was fatal. "Bad Sisters" is a remake of the Norwegian series "Clan," about a band of sisters plot to kill their abusive brother-in-law and put an end to one of their own's domestic nightmare. Somehow, they succeed with Claes Bang's John-Paul, the toxic, manipulative husband to Grace Garvey (Anne-Marie Duff), who bites the dust and leaves the world a better place... that is, until two insurance agents question his demise, sending the Garveys into a panic as they try to cover up their deed.

With Sharon Horgan co-writing, producing, and starring as the eldest Garvey sister, Eva, "Bad Sisters" is a deliciously dark-humored series with an incredible cast that felt like a real family forced into a corner. These sisters are aundeniably a good close bunch, making their gradual fracture by one man all the more compelling. However, a villain needs to be as good as the group of heroes facing off against him, and in the case of Bang's JP, he's an absolute monster. Every episode plays like an endurance test to see how long before this evil and unhinged character would act out and have you yelling at the TV, building up his demise until it becomes soothing reward. Does that show concerning signs about me? Dunno. But sit down and enjoy one of the surprise hits of the year that tops "House of the Dragon" for compelling family rifts and tell me I'm wrong. You can't. "Bad Sisters" is just that good.