Popular Now

10 wonderful things from 2022

I’ve been making annual lists of 50 Wonderful Pop Culture Things since 2010. They include big and small things, inspirational and silly things, things that were very popular and things that it seemed like nobody cared about except me. Sometimes, a theme emerges, and this year — particularly when it comes to TV and film — it’s that a lot of what I loved came as part of projects I was, on the whole, ambivalent about. Elements sometimes work inside larger projects that only partly work, and that’s part of the lovely thing about art.

The usual caveats apply: These are not objectively the best things; they are just wonderful things. There were far more than 50 wonderful things to admire this year, and there is far (far) more that I never saw or read or heard at all. But it never hurts to look back on the year and realize that in fact, delight was upon you over and over.

1. Apple’s series The Afterparty, a murder mystery that presented each character’s version of the evening as a separate episode made in a different style, had a big and stellar cast including Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz. But the musical episode told from the POV of Ben Schwartz’s Yasper was both a believable spin on that guy’s view of the world and a terrific one-off extravaganza of song and dance.

2. John Darnielle’s novel Devil House was one of the most fascinating books I read this year, in part because Darnielle — an expansive and creative thinker — shifts its format and its tone as he unspools the story of the aftermath of a brutal crime. In fact, you can find similarities between Devil House and The Afterparty, if you look for them, in that part of the charm and challenge comes from existing in multiple genres at the same time.

3. How to be PerfectMike Schur’s book about ethics that grew out of his work as the creator of The Good Place, is informative and funny, but also an example of pop culture’s capacity to be a gateway to things beyond itself.

4. The Gilded Age on HBO certainly didn’t have the impact that Julian Fellowes’ other series Downton Abbey did, but it was buoyed by the stellar performance of Carrie Coon as a new-money wife whose social and personal brutality is matched only by her inescapable desire to be accepted and liked.

5. I take nothing away from Amanda Seyfried’s exceptional performance in The Dropoutwhere she played Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes with great skill and restraint. But what has stuck with me most — what seemed most unlikely — is the section of dark comedy in the middle that includes Rich Sommer and Alan Ruck as part of the Walgreens contingent that visited the company before making a deal with Holmes and could have, but didn’t, figure out that they were being had.

6. This one is for the home team: PCHH contributor Ronald Young, Jr. showed up on the third episode of Peacock’s True Story With Ed & Randall, telling the tale of his prom to hosts Ed Helms and Randall Park. We already knew what a charmer he was, but the story is fabulous and surprising to the end.

7. I loved reading Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth, a novel in which you learn the story of a man, and of another man, and of a time they spend together in an airport lounge while one tells the other his story. It’s a delicious read down to the last sentence, which potentially turns the whole thing on its head — or at least tilts it on an angle.

8. Stephanie Foo’s memoir What My Bones Know is about her experience with complex PTSD, but one of my very favorite elements is its surprisingly funny (at times) description of what it feels like to find the right therapist. (Disclosure: Stephanie and I share an editor at Ballantine Books.)

9. The absolutely unpretentious foolishness of Netflix’s Is It Cake? — a show that is exactly what it claims to be, no more, no less — is the kind of thing I do not always want, but I certainly sometimes want.

10. There is so much about the unsettling, emotional Apple series Severance to admire, but the production design by Jeremy Hindle deserves special mention for how it captured a corporate environment that is clean, sterile, and devoid of all hope.