Here we go again: Award shows are being postponed, film festivals are canceling in-person events, and movie studios are reconsidering their release plans—at least for any films without web-slinging superheroes involved. But even as the coronavirus continues to threaten the entertainment industry, television is thriving.
Many of the projects delayed by the pandemic have wrapped and are finally launching. Spin-offs are expanding familiar universes, and new streaming platforms are producing their own shows. Sorting through these listings can feel like navigating rough waters. To help you chart your course through 2022’s onslaught of titles, I’ve put together a handy guide, based on hours spent poring over log lines, trailers, and screeners. My main question is: How much are you looking to mix up your TV routine?
I don’t have time to start a new show …
… and want to pick up where I left off
Killing Eve (AMC+, February 20; BBC America and AMC the following week)
For three seasons, this spy series has traced how the intelligence officer Eve (played by Sandra Oh) and her assassin target Villanelle (Jodie Comer) became obsessed with each other. In this final outing, their dangerous, sometimes even lustful cat-and-mouse chase will have to end. (Right?)
Law & Order (NBC, February 24)
The flagship title behind the ubiquitous franchise hasn’t aired for more than a decade, but if the megaproducer Dick Wolf has his way, you’ll feel like no time has passed. In bringing back District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson), Wolf is aiming for the new season to be “a continuation” of the original procedural.
Outlander (Starz, March 6)
The time-traveling romance saga returns after a longer-than-usual “Droughtlander”—that is, hiatus between seasons—with the American Revolution threatening the life that the two lovers Claire (Caitríona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) have built together.
Atlanta (FX, March 24)
After four years off the air, Donald Glover’s acclaimed comedy heads overseas: Earn (Glover) and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) accompany Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) on his first international tour as his rap stardom rises. Expect stops in London, Amsterdam, and Paris—as well as some surreal detours.
The Boys (Amazon, June 3)
This comic-book adaptation is a sharp critique of our obsession with the famous, the pervasiveness of corporate corruption, and—ironically—the oversaturation of the superhero genre. After a second-season Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, the third season will explore the origins of caped stardom, with Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles joining the cast as Soldier Boy, the first “super celebrity.”
Also this year: Bridgerton (Netflix, March 25) features a new central couple; The Crown (Netflix) returns with a new cast, including Imelda Staunton as Elizabeth and Elizabeth Debicki as Diana; Barry (HBO) will resolve its killer cliff-hanger; Russian Doll (Netflix) will be back with a “very different” vibe, according to one of its leads; Good Omens (Amazon), the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel, goes off-book for its new season; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon, February 18) greets the 1960s; and the upcoming seasons of Better Things (FX, February 28) and Better Call Saul (AMC) will be the last of their series’.
… but am curious about the biggest spin-offs
Peacemaker (HBO Max, January 13)
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad may not have found much of an audience in the pandemic, but the film featured a bombastic turn from John Cena as the self-righteous Peacemaker. Here, Cena gets his own spin-off, which might be even bloodier (and dirtier) than the movie.
How I Met Your Father (Hulu, January 18)
Hilary Duff stars in this sweetly silly update to the legen—wait for it—dary sitcom about a group of friends navigating love in New York City. Kim Cattrall plays the older version of Duff’s character, in case you’ve been wondering where Samantha really went after Sex and the City.
Bel-Air (Peacock, February 13)
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a gritty drama” may sound like a throwaway pitch for a Saturday Night Live sketch, but the concept caught Will Smith’s eye. He’s executive producing this reimagining of the beloved sitcom that helped make him a star.
Vikings: Valhalla (Netflix, February 25)
History Channel scored an unexpected cult hit with the epic Vikings, which traced the conquests of a legendary Norse hero and his sons. Netflix’s spin-off ups the ante by following multiple famous Vikings fighting for dominance 100 years after the events of the original show.
Untitled Lord of the Rings series (Amazon, September 2)
Amazon has poured a record-breaking $465 million into making the first season of this show, a dramatization of the history of Middle-earth long before the events of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels. Clearly, the streaming company hopes this is the one franchise to rule them all.
Also this year: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor (both on Disney+), prequels set in the Star Wars universe; Halo (Paramount+), based on the video-game franchise; Ms. Marvel (Disney+), which introduces the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Muslim superhero; and House of the Dragon (HBO), a prequel to Game of Thrones that may finally get the bad taste left by the original’s finale out of all of our mouths.
I’m ready to start a new show …
… and want something totally original
Archive 81 (Netflix, January 14)
This supernatural series follows an archivist working to restore old tapes recorded by a documentary filmmaker who had been investigating the existence of a demonic cult. The mystery unspools in two timelines.
As We See It (Amazon, January 21)
Created by the Friday Night Lights and Parenthood showrunner Jason Katims, this coming-of-age dramedy follows three 20-something roommates who are on the autism spectrum (and who are played by actors who are on the spectrum). As with Katims’s other projects, be prepared for waterworks.
Promised Land (ABC, January 24)
Two wealthy Latino families fight to maintain control over the Sonoma Valley wine industry in this drama led by John Ortiz and Cecilia Suárez. The show looks supremely over-the-top, but network TV could use a little spectacle.
Severance (Apple TV+, February 18)
Ben Stiller’s latest foray as a producer and director is to helm this sci-fi-tinged thriller about office workers who erase their memories of home while at work, and vice versa. (I don’t think this is what work-life balance means …)
Shining Vale (Starz, March 6)
Courteney Cox and Greg Kinnear star as a couple attempting to save their marriage by moving to a (possibly haunted) house in the suburbs. Mira Sorvino plays a demon—or maybe just Cox’s character’s alter ego.
Also this year: The Sandman (Netflix), an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s work; Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix), a horror anthology series; and The Idol (HBO), a meta-sounding tale about a singer and a self-help expert that’s co-written by, co-produced by, and starring The Weeknd.
… with a story ripped from the headlines
Pam & Tommy (Hulu, February 2)
Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya), this limited series tells the real-life story of how the sex tape recorded by Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) transformed celebrity culture long before Deuxmoi ever existed.
Inventing Anna (Netflix, February 11)
In 2018, a New York magazine piece about Anna Delvey, a grifter who posed as a European heiress and conned the city’s socialites into funding her jet-setting lifestyle, piqued the uber-producer Shonda Rhimes’s interest. In her first effort for Netflix as a creator, Rhimes will translate Delvey’s stranger-than-fiction story to television.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber (Showtime, February 27)
The co-creators of Billions are behind this new anthology series examining modern business culture. The first season traces the rise and fall of Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the former CEO of the ride-sharing app Uber.
The Dropout (Hulu, March 3)
Based on a podcast about Elizabeth Holmes, the ex-CEO of the fraudulent blood-testing company Theranos, this miniseries features Amanda Seyfried as the notorious, low-voiced entrepreneur you may have dressed up as for Halloween. (Or maybe that was just me.)
Also this year: WeCrashed (AppleTV+), which features Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as the husband-and-wife duo behind WeWork; Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (HBO), a series produced by the writer-director Adam McKay about the titular NBA team; We Own This City (HBO), a crime show from The Wire creator David Simon about the Baltimore Police Department; and The White House Plumbers (HBO) and Gaslit (Starz), two prestige political dramas about Watergate.
… and I need to know the performances will be good
The Gilded Age (HBO, January 24)
Created by the Downton Abbey showrunner Julian Fellowes, this period piece about old-money families clashing with the newly rich in New York society features a cast filled with some of today’s most versatile actors, including Christine Baranski, Carrie Coon, and Cynthia Nixon.
The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window (Netflix, January 28)
In this satire of female-led thrillers such as The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train, Kristen Bell plays a woman who thinks she witnessed a murder—but she’s doubted because she’s a walking collection of the genre’s tropes.
Monarch (Fox, January 30)
Susan Sarandon is the matriarch of a country-music dynasty in this soap that seems to be Nashville, Empire, and, well, Dynasty all rolled into one.
Suspicion (Apple TV+, February 4)
Uma Thurman leads the ensemble cast of this thriller, in which a high-powered businesswoman’s son is kidnapped, and four guests at the hotel where he was taken become the lead suspects.
The Thing About Pam (NBC, March 8)
Renée Zellweger takes her first stab at headlining broadcast TV in this Dateline-inspired tale about a seemingly straightforward crime. She plays the titular Pam, a woman involved in a scheme related to the murder of a cancer patient.
Also this year: Love and Death (HBO Max), a true-crime show starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons; The Old Man (FX on Hulu), an adaptation of the Thomas Perry novel led by Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow; Irma Vep (HBO), an Olivier Assayas–directed, limited-series take on his 1996 film, starring Alicia Vikander; and The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+), an adaptation of the British best seller, featuring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston.