The 10 Funniest TV Shows of 2022
Dozens of networks and streaming platforms threw hundreds of shows at us this year, but which ones distinguished themselves as the funniest of them all? Here’s our list of the 10-plus shows that are most worth your time.
Note: The third and final season of Close Enough missed the list because it was among the titles suddenly yanked off HBO Max earlier this year and thus is no longer accessible on a subscription streaming service, but the adult animated family comedy, from Regular Show creator J.G. Quintel, can be purchased digitally. Spend a few bucks and thank me later.
Abbott Elementary (ABC / Hulu)
BuzzFeed and A Black Lady Sketch Show alumna Quinta Brunson created this mockumentary and stars in it as Janine Teagues, an almost-brand-new second-grade teacher at the titular Philadelphia school. The show is a stinging indictment of America’s scandalously underfunded public schools, particularly those in majority Black neighborhoods — a whole episode in the first season, “Wishlist,” revolves around the necessity that teachers not only post online shopping wish lists for basic classroom supplies but also somehow make them viral social media hits to make sure they get everything they need.
It’s also very funny in its portrayal of the clashes that arise, primarily between its proudly incompetent principal Ava (Janelle James) and her exhausted staff; between tirelessly cheerful Janine and her variously motivated colleagues; and between the millennial teachers and the faculty veterans: Gen-X Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) and Boomer Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph). This fall, Ralph was awarded the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for her performance and that was before voters saw the cold open in which Barbara confuses half a dozen white celebrities for Black ones with similar names.
Abbott Elementary has been one of the biggest ratings hits for any network sitcom this year, and with good reason: If you’ve been looking to fill the Parks and Recreation-shaped hole in your life, this is it.
Atlanta (FX Hulu); Reservation Dogs (Hulu); and Somebody Somewhere (HBO / HBO Max)
I’m already cheating by grouping these three shows together, but here’s why: Individually, none of them is a nonstop roller coaster of hilarity. They are, in fact, dramedies that might make you cry as much as they make you laugh, but when the jokes hit, they hit hard.
Atlanta followed a multi-year hiatus by releasing two seasons in 2022. Season Three received mixed reviews for significantly changing its format — more than half the episodes take place in Europe, and the rest don’t feature any series cast members at all. But Season Four returned to Georgia, and to the tone fans were more used to: the reveal of “The Homeliest Little Horse” made me scream with laughter; “The Goof Who Sat By The Door” should be taught in schools; and we got series-best pacing in “Andrew Wyeth. Alfred’s World.”
Reservation Dogs returned for its second season this summer. While it continued its delicate exploration of grief in the survivors of a teen who died by suicide before the events of the series, we also got to follow the Rez Aunties as they try to party at a work conference. This episode was followed by “Decolonativization,” in which the teen characters are forced to attend a youth summit conducted by a couple of self-described influencers peddling vague notions of “decolonization” through extreme cringe.
Somebody Somewhere also revolves around a protagonist experiencing depression following a loved one’s death. But as Sam (Bridget Everett) allows herself to relieve her pain through friendship with former high school classmate Joel (Jeff Hiller), her world opens up, and with it the show’s capacity to depict joy. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen all 6-foot-5 inches of Jeff Hiller dressed for Joel’s Zumba class; and the crisis between Sam’s sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) and her best friend and Tender Moments gift shop business partner Charity (Heidi Johanningmeier) sets a new standard for female fights on-screen.
Anyone who saw the tremendous level of verisimilitude Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda brought to their Netflix mockumentary American Vandal might still be impressed by their latest sitcom, which takes viewers inside the world of esports. Obliviously egotistical Creamcheese (Misha Brooks) has been the mainstay of Fugitive Gaming for years, but his entire conception of himself is rocked when the team’s new owner recruits 17-year-old Organizm (Da’Jour Jones), a single-minded prodigy. As the season goes on, the timeline jumps around to show us where other players who’ve passed through the team have ended up, how Creamcheese fell out with his own family and what everyone has sacrificed to make the team a success.
The highest praise I can offer for this show is that someone who wasn’t even sure during the series premiere that League of Legends was a real game (hellooooooo) ended up completely rapt by the closing credits.
This Fool (Hulu)
Angeleno Julio (Chris Estrada, also a co-creator) mostly lives on autopilot — trying to get along with his roommates, who happen to be his mother and grandmother; working as a social worker at Hugs Not Thugs, which aims to rehabilitate former gang members; half-heartedly trying to disentangle himself from his ex, Maggie (Michelle Ortiz). Then his cousin Luis (Frankie Quiñones) gets out of prison and inserts himself into Julio’s life on every level.
Michael Imperioli has been rightly praised for his role on the second season of The White Lotus, but real ones know the actual best work he’s brought audiences in 2022 is as Minister Payne, director of Hugs Not Thugs. In “F*ck The Rich,” the season’s penultimate episode, Payne has the chance to secure the center’s future by directly pitching billionaire Richard Rowell (Fred Armisen, also an EP) and his wife Rhonda (Eliza Coupe); both the Rowells’ offer and Payne’s response are as funny as they are legitimately shocking, and will stay with you for days after you watch.
Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
While it’s fair to say that DC Comics screen adaptations of the past 10 years or so have been a mixed bag (actually, that might be past “fair” and into “generous”), there have been some critical hits, particularly on TV.* Reasonable people can disagree about this, but as bonkers as Peacemaker’s first season was, Harley Quinn edges it out for me. This wildly violent adult animated series stars Kaley Cuoco as the voice of Harley Quinn, trying to determine her place as a Gotham City supervillain now that she’s cut ties with the Joker (Alan Tudyk).
Assembling her own crew has led to big changes in her personal life, particularly regarding her friendship with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). This season, Joker pursues the Gotham mayoralty against an increasingly beleaguered Commissioner Gordon (Christopher Meloni); King Shark (Ron Funches) reckons with his identity as marine royalty; and Batman (Diedrich Bader) is forced to deal with his own unresolved issues when they start spilling out all over the city.
* While we’re here: Pennyworth slaps too.
Los Espookys (HBO / HBO Max)
Some people seeking help for their most complicated problems will hire a private investigator or a therapist. Others go straight to Los Espookys, a “horror group” operating in an unspecified Latin American country. For example: A scientist who feels oppressed by her husband decides against talking to him, with or without a mediator, and instead hires Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), Andrés (Julio Torres, also a series co-creator) and Tati (Ana Fabrega, ditto) to plunge said husband into an immersive illusion where every person wears a mask of his face.
The first season, way back in 2019, suggested that seeming simpleton Tati might actually exist outside of time; the second implied that a clue to her existence lay in the baguette purses she jealously guards from her friends’ prying eyes. Sadly, the show’s cancellation means we will never find out what Tati’s whole deal is, but then again, it’s just as possible that this series could have gone on for 10 more seasons and never enlightened us. Watch these 12 precious episodes on HBO Max while you still can!
Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC / Peacock)
These days, there aren’t nearly as many comedic news explainers hosted by Daily Show alumni — sorry Samantha Bee, Jordan Klepper and Hasan Minhaj (and… sorry Jon Stewart, but no one talks or even knows about the one you currently have on AppleTV+) — and that may be because the very best one is hosted by someone who never worked at The Daily Show at all: Seth Meyers.
The Late Night segment “A Closer Look,” which appears in nearly all of the show’s four episodes each week, dissects the day’s headlines with both damningly illustrative clips and segment-specific runners and callbacks. (Longtime viewers will fondly recall the Sea Captain from the period in 2020 when Meyers self-taped the show from home and incorporated art and tchotchkes that got to the space before he did.) Amid and around celebrity interviews, there are also recurring desk pieces like “Ya Burnt” (rapid-fire roasts), “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” (Meyers reads the setups of potentially inflammatory jokes, and writers Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin read the punchlines), “The Kind of Story We Need Right Now” (self-explanatory) and the Emmy-nominated web series “Corrections.” Meanwhile, I continue to light a candle in my window each night and pray for the return of “Popsicle Shtick.”
Lots of late-night talk/variety shows compete for your attention; only this one is truly essential.
South Side (HBO Max)
Though South Side’s first season aired on Comedy Central, that network canceled it after its first season, which is when HBO Max swooped in to make more. (See also: The Other Two.) While no HBO/HBO Max show can be considered secure in this era, as this list has already noted more than once, we can still be grateful this is among those titles still producing new episodes… for now.
Co-created by former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writers Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin — both of whom also star — the show takes place in the titular Chicago neighborhood, where a rent-to-own shop called Rent Town is the flashpoint for chaos of various kinds. As of this writing, only the first two episodes of the third season have dropped, but they are already funnier than most TV I watched this year. The first opens with Salahuddin’s beat cop Sandy Goodnight trying to argue an eighth-grade girl out of stealing his police cruiser; the second finds Goodnight’s wife Kitty (Rashawn Nadine Scott) getting sucked into a snack-frosting company that is almost certainly a pyramid scheme but may also be a literal cult. All the while, a subplot in which Rent Town manager Q (Quincy Young) must hide an Army deserter from MPs by faking a bedbug infestation hilariously captures the terror of those who have actually lived through one.
What We Do in the Shadows (FX / Hulu)
A series sequel to the 2014 feature film mockumentary of the same title, this vampire “family” sitcom has been a critical hit for FX since its 2019 premiere, racking up dozens of Emmy nominations (and a very deserved win for its costuming this year). I wasn’t as hot on the third season as I was on the first two — an effort to transform it into a workplace comedy by having Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) take over the office of their local Vampiric Council kept the characters siloed too much for my taste. But the fourth season is a return to form, as everyone must respond to the addition of a child to the household.
This being a supernatural sitcom, he’s not a standard child: He’s the reborn incarnation of energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Though he is speeding toward adulthood at an accelerated pace, we do still get “Private School,” in which Colin’s housemates must pose as a normal family for the sake of his education. This season also brings us “Go Flip Yourself,” a series-best episode about which the less you know going in, the better.
If you skipped the Atlanta/Reservation Dogs/Somebody Somewhere blurb once you arrived at “none of these shows is a nonstop roller coaster of hilarity,” good news! This one is. Creator Meredith Scardino’s first sitcom writing job was on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and she re-teamed with executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock for this sitcom about the titular early aughts girl group attempting a middle-aged comeback.
For this year’s second season, the girls are challenged to make their album with a brand-new label owned by the Property Brothers while also dealing with relationship crises, continuing intrusions from their former manager/Svengali Larry (Jonathan Hadary) and lingering questions about what really happened to their officially dead fifth member Ashley (Ashley Park).
If you missed this one because, like most Americans, you don’t have Peacock, here’s more good news: The show’s first two seasons AND a third are coming to Netflix soon.