Your Official Guide to the 2022 Emmy-Nominated Series

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Photo Source: ABC/Scott Everett White

Television enthusiasts are counting down the days until the 74th Emmy Awards, which will return to a pre-pandemic style of ceremony. A handful of nominated series have made the list before—such as HBO’s “Succession,” which snagged a whopping 25 nominations this year. But there was still room for newcomers to make history, including Netflix’s South Korean phenomenon “Squid Game,” the first non–English language drama to be nominated for an Emmy. Here’s a rundown of all the dramas, comedies, and limited series that rose to the top of the ballot. 

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

“Abbott Elementary” (ABC)   

Set in a West Philadelphia public elementary school and rife with Philly references (we’re looking at you, Jim Gardner), “Abbott Elementary” established itself as a standout this year. On the series’ debut season, creator and star Quinta Brunson approaches timely topics—such as funding classrooms—with both humor and feel-good teacher appreciation. From Ava’s endless shenanigans to Melissa’s reference to “Panera’s box,” the mockumentary-style ABC sitcom is a refreshing new breakout hit.

“Barry” (HBO)

A bored hitman searching for the meaning of life through acting is a premise that sounds like it might work on paper—but add creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed hit. Over the show’s three seasons, Hader has been able to showcase not only his acting chops, but also his clever writing and sharp directing abilities. Supporting players Stephen Root, Anthony Carrigan, Sarah Goldberg, and Henry Winkler all bring their own distinct flavors to the series’ most hilarious and intense moments.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)   

Larry David’s acerbic series returned in 2020, reminding us how to laugh at both Hollywood celebrities and ourselves. But now that it’s back, audiences may be in danger of taking it for granted. The singular humor of this show both pokes fun at and comments on current issues in a way that can only be described as David-esque. It operates at the exact degree of remove from reality that we need in these chaotic times.

“Hacks” (HBO)   

This series has officially staked its claim as the rare comedy that manages to be heartfelt and hilarious in equal measure. Season 2 takes the show on the road, giving a new edge to the dynamics between Hannah Einbinder’s young comedy writer Ava and Smart’s established trailblazer Deborah Vance as they develop new material about Deborah’s life. Add in deepening plots for supporting players Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Kaitlin Olson, Meg Stalter, Mark Indelicato, and co-creator Paul W. Downs, and the series more than delivers on the promise of Season 1. 

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime Video)

Four seasons into this Emmy-winning show, we feel intimately connected to its cast of oddballs and the gorgeous, zany version of now-1960s New York that Amy Sherman-Palladino has created. There isn’t a moment of screen time when any of the actors—Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle, Luke Kirby, Jane Lynch, Michael Zegen, and LeRoy McClain—aren’t at their best.

“Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu)

The twists and turns alone on this show are worthy of the kind of true crime podcasts this winsome comedy is obsessed with. And that’s not to mention the offbeat trio at it center: the phenomenal Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. Amping up this whodunit is a pitch-perfect ensemble cast, featuring Amy Ryan, Jayne Houdyshell, Nathan Lane, Jackie Hoffman, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Aaron Dominguez. It’s one of the most delightful additions to this year’s list of bingeworthy projects. 

Only Murders in the BuildingCraig Blankenhorn/Hulu

“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+)

Jason Sudeikis puts his everyman aptitude and whip-fast comedy chops to glass-slipper—or perhaps leather-cleat—use on the Emmys-dominating comedy he co-created, playing an American college football coach hired to coach the other kind of football across the pond. Add in the rest of the “Lasso” team, including Brett Goldstein, co-creator Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Jeremy Swift, Juno Temple, and Hannah Waddingham, and this series will make you believe.

“What We Do in the Shadows” (FX)   

The absurd premise of this FX mockumentary about a group of centuries-old vampires sharing a house in 21st-century Staten Island is only enhanced by its delightfully unhinged sense of humor. With deadpan performances from Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, Mark Proksch, and Kristen Schaal, “What We Do in the Shadows” is proof that quality vampire comedy doesn’t suck.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)   

This “Breaking Bad” prequel, which is concluding its six-season run later this month, stepped out of its predecessor’s shadow almost immediately. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s drama is a phenomenon in its own right; it’s a triumph of writing, directing, and especially acting. In bringing Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman) to life, Bob Odenkirk coheres wonderfully with co-stars Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, and Giancarlo Esposito. Together, this ensemble creates a playground of moral ambiguity.

“Euphoria” (HBO)   

This series more than lives up to its title, thanks to an electrifying style that both mimics and captures the drug-addled experiences of its protagonists. The sprawling ensemble includes Sydney Sweeney, Hunter Schafer, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi, Maude Apatow, and Barbie Ferreira, all playing heightened teenage archetypes. But it’s Zendaya’s Emmy-winning portrayal of the troubled Rue that anchors Sam Levinson’s maximalist high school opus. 

“Ozark” (Netflix)   

On its explosive fourth and final season, “Ozark” creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams play out the consequences of shady political ambitions and dealings with the criminal underworld. They deserve even more credit for finding the darkness in producer-director-star Jason Bateman, who plays a family man caught up with a Mexican cartel. The series also showcases the sheer ruthlessness of Laura Linney as a steely matriarch and Julia Garner as a broken woman hellbent on revenge.

“Severance” (Apple TV+)   

Dan Erickson and Ben Stiller’s dystopian thriller was the surprise hit of early 2022, with a wry, bleak take on the corporate grind. Set in a near future where office workers can “sever” their 9-to-5 selves from their out-of-office selves, the series follows Mark Scout (Adam Scott), a depressed guy whose “innie” begins to realize that his halogen-lit world is far more wicked than it seems. The ridiculously talented ensemble cast—including Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Britt Lower, Zach Cherry, and a host of promising newcomers—speaks for itself. 

“Squid Game” (Netflix)   

This South Korean thriller, which follows a group of financially desperate players competing in deadly children’s games, has already received much praise for its rich thematic premise and exhilarating action scenes—not to mention stellar performances from Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, Park Hae-soo, Anupam Tripathi, and Oh Yeong-su. Its meditations on class, human kindness, and the dangers of individualism still feels unparalleled on TV. All eyes are on what creator Hwang Dong-hyuk will dream up for Season 2. 

Squid GameNoh Juan/Netflix

“Stranger Things” (Netflix)

The Duffer brothers’ bingeworthy ’80s adventure is the blockbuster gift that keeps on giving. Led by a heart-on-his-sleeve Finn Wolfhard, the younger generation of actors in the “Stranger Things” cast is the series’ soul. Noah Schnapp and Millie Bobby Brown are particular standouts, as their characters grapple with the supernatural in emotionally trying ways. Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink play off each other with ease, as do Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery, providing comic relief alongside Maya Hawke. On the adult side, David Harbour and Winona Ryder remain as magnetic as ever.

“Succession” (HBO)   

A modern-day “King Lear” with a dark sense of humor, Jesse Armstrong’s satire about a family running a global media empire has succeeded “Game of Thrones” as HBO’s buzziest drama about power and greed. Brian Cox’s aging patriarch Logan Roy coaxes the best and worst from his scheming colleagues and family, brought to life by Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, J. Smith-Cameron, and Alan Ruck.

“Yellowjackets” (Showtime)  

Networks have long been attempting to create the next great water cooler series, and Showtime finally cracked the formula. A potent blend of survival tale, teen drama, body horror, and suburban comedy, “Yellowjackets” is a novel take on the genre “Lost” first popularized: a twisty puzzle-box thriller that inspires feverish fan theories with each new episode drop. Even more fun are the bevy of ’90s faves playing our grown-up protagonists, including Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis, as well as Tawny Cypress. 

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

“Dopesick” (Hulu) 

Danny Strong’s Peabody Award–winning adaptation of Beth Macy’s bestselling book traces the origins of America’s opioid epidemic back to the boardroom. Executive producer Michael Keaton heads the impressive ensemble as everyman Dr. Samuel Finnix, who struggles with his role in the crisis and its impact on patients he has known since birth. The series also features star turns from Peter Sarsgaard, Kaitlyn Dever, Mare Winningham, and Rosario Dawson, all caught in the web of Purdue Pharma’s corporate greed.

“The Dropout” (Hulu)   

Adapted by Elizabeth Meriwether from the ABC News podcast of the same name, “The Dropout” details former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ path from scrappy startup founder to disgraced tech titan. Amanda Seyfried nails Holmes’ signature baritone and intense glare as her ambition leads her down a trail of deceit. The star-studded cast also includes Naveen Andrews as Holmes’ boyfriend and right-hand man Sunny Balwani, plus William H. Macy, Elizabeth Marvel, Michel Gill, Sam Waterston, and Laurie Metcalf.

“Inventing Anna” (Netflix)   

It’s no wonder mega-producer Shonda Rhimes chose the story of Anna Delvey—the fake German heiress who conned New York’s elite out of millions—as the subject of her first Netflix venture. In the series based on a 2018 New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler (who serves as a producer), Rhimes is able to dial up an overindulgent aesthetic to sell the outlandish actions of the “summer of scam” poster girl. Julia Garner stars as the unreliable Anna opposite Anna Chlumsky’s down-to-earth reporter Vivian Kent. Both performances evoke an enticing examination of fantasy versus reality.

Inventing AnnaNicole Rivelli/Netflix

“Pam & Tommy” (Hulu)   

The recent craze for recontextualizing landmark 1990s cultural events continues with Robert Siegel’s look at the blurred lines between crime, capitalism, and celebrity in this show based on the true story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Lily James and Sebastian Stan, physically transformed to look like the famous couple, dig deep into the aftermath of having their most private moments viewed by the world. Seth Rogen’s turn as the disgruntled contractor who made their sex tape public is a cautionary tale for the ages. 

“The White Lotus” (HBO)   

In Mike White’s satire of social hierarchies, the intricacies of class differences are equal parts biting, excruciating, and darkly comedic. The careless behavior of affluent guests at the White Lotus hotel has dire consequences on the resort staff, including arrests, betrayal, and a violent death. The excellent ensemble includes Sydney Sweeney as the terrifyingly acerbic Olivia and Jennifer Coolidge as the desperate, delusional Tanya. Natasha Rothwell and Murray Bartlett are pitch-perfect as fraying hotel employees. 

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 11 issue of Backstage Magazine.