As the year 2022 wraps up, we’re looking back at some of the best syndicated network TV programming and the streamable shows that entertained audiences and had some of us brimming with laughter and tears. A slew of newly-minted comedy gems crafted their own lanes and birthed strong fan bases this year while other family sitcoms and dramas returned for new seasons and reclaimed their high-ranking viewership with their special ensemble casts. We also said a tough, hard goodbye to a series that served as the springboard for the movie careers of another group of Black actors.
Overall, television prevailed with stories that enthralled households and delivered heartwarming scenes in bite-sized narratives. Networks and streaming platforms created precious moments that were felt between family and friends as well as those who love to digest sentimental stories by their lonesome. And, increasingly, Black talent made their voices heard, whether they were executive producing, sharing notes on final scripts, or performing in front of cameras.
Scroll below to see the seven TV shows we feel did it best this past year.
Quinta Brunson’s ABC network hit Abbott Elementary is where comedy meets the world of scholastics. Through awkward, spur of the moment camera pans, we get to see the inside scoop on how elementary teachers come together to cultivate the futures of young-minded students. In this case, Brunson created a show that puts a magnifying glass on community leaders who guide younger generations in their formative years. Sheryl Lee Ralph won an Emmy for her role as Barbara Howard and Brunson acts alongside her brewing romantic interest, Tyler James Williams (Gregory Eddie), who has become a fan favorite since his 2005 show, Everybody Hates Chris.
Donald Glover, LaKeith Stanfield, Brian Tyree Henry, and Zazie Beetz come full force in the final season of Atlanta. The FX network show released two seasons this year, with one taking place entirely in Amsterdam, London, and Paris. The other in the customary setting of the show’s title. The third season explores Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) European tour in anthology form, each episode feeling a bit disjointed and different from another. The fourth and final season, however, takes place in Georgia and many interconnected plot elements unravel such as Vanessa and Earn’s tumultuous love affair. Other episodes explore creative vehicles of Blackness and how history can foretell the state of Black culture today. With more provided context and unhinged comedy, Glover imagines a beautiful farewell to the series that ends in scenes of Black joy and togetherness.
Zendaya’s lead role as Rue in Sam Levinson’s Euphoria has ruled the Gen Z and millennial zeitgeist, applying cinematic pressure with record-breaking numbers. The teenage drama led Zendaya to achieve history with first EMMY win and she snagged another award this year. With serious themes of addiction and mental health being explored through her performances, Zendaya tackles heavy scenes with theatrical prowess. Many young people relate to the show and see themselves mirrored in the cast’s uniquely stylized characters.
Rap Sh!t is captured through the lens of social media and cell phones. With facetime backdrops, Instagram live updates, bold tweets, and misplaced filters, the new show utilizes the modern technology we are all familiar with in a relatable fashion. Issa Rae’s HBO Max series is executive produced by the City Girls and focuses on aspiring Miami rappers Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion) as they unite to take the music industry by storm. The college friends form a rap-duo and attempt to come out of the trenches by using their respective social media channels to share their talents. Conflict ensues as the two navigate D-list level fame with poor attempts at deflating each other’s egos in the process. The pillar of Black sisterhood is what brings the emerging artists back together after creating a divide in some episodes as they recruit a manager and close a record deal for their viral single “Seduce & Scheme.”
Amazon’s Harlem explores the romantic throes of a group of Black women who are in their 30s. Meagan Good, Grace Byers, and more star in this Sex and the City-like series. The New York-based show digs into the various struggles each girlfriend faces as they look to each other for trusted direction and protection. Good’s comeback in the renewed series provides a dose of nostalgia for those who grew up watching her in other household films. While the closing episode leaves us hanging off a cliff as we discover that Good chooses to make a life-altering decision, leading with her heart.
The cross-continental love story that is experienced in Netflix’s limited series From Scratch, featuring Zoe Saldaña, was a top-rated pick on the streaming giant. Appreciated for it’s up-and-down plot twists, the adapted teleplay from Tembi Locke became a social media topic of discussion. Tissues are mandatory for those who choose to indulge in the real love tale that takes place between the US and Sicily Italy. With a major focus on the intersection between food and tender devotion, the Eat, Pray, Love-esque narrative is an inspiring, positive account of humanity and perseverance.
All American Homecoming
The CW spinoff of All American was received with open arms as it established its setting on the campus of an HBCU. The sports drama includes the network’s first nonbinary actor, Rhoyle Ivy King, who pushed the series’s competitive plot forward. The promising future of a sports candidate is on the line while student’s clash at Bringston University. The HBCU’s celebrated homecoming atmosphere is a core memory for many real-life HBCU alumni and the series depicts pledging, boy crazy adolescence, and athletic recruiting in a tense, refreshing manner.