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The 7 Best Hidden TV Gems of 2022

Peacock and Starz had great shows, too

liam-mathews
Liam Mathews

Editors' Picks: TV Guide already ranked the Best Shows of 2022, but as the year comes to a close, individual editors share their personal favorites for your enjoyment — and to argue about over the internet. Happy New Year, and happy watching!

2022 was the peak of Peak TV. There were hundreds of scripted TV shows, and hundreds of those were good. There were so many worthwhile shows that it was impossible for even a very engaged TV watcher to watch all the big new shows, let alone the small ones. There were so many that some of them slipped through the cracks because they were on smaller streaming services and/or weren't promoted and/or didn't catch on through word of mouth. But even though they weren't hits, they were really good. Some genuine hidden gems came out in 2022. 

I define a hidden gem as a show that received very little media coverage and no award attention. You probably didn't see anyone post about them online, let alone talk about them IRL. But if you watch them, you can tell your friends about them and earn yourself a reputation as the person who knows about shows that no one has ever heard of that are actually awesome. 

Here are my seven favorite hidden gem TV shows of 2022. 

Bust Down 

Chris Redd, Jak Knight, Langston Kerman, and Sam Jay, Bust Down

Chris Redd, Jak Knight, Langston Kerman, and Sam Jay, Bust Down

Peacock

This idiosyncratic Peacock comedy was created by and stars Sam Jay, Langston Kerman, Jak Knight, and Chris Redd, who play low-level employees at a casino in Gary, Indiana that dream of better lives but can't get out of their own way. It combines the unpredictable absurdity of Atlanta with the politically incorrect darkness of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia into something all its own. Its six episodes made me laugh more consistently than anything else I watched this year. Watching Bust Down now isn't without sadness; co-creator Jak Knight died by suicide in July. Bust Down was a showcase for his comedic talent and off-kilter charisma. 

Leopard Skin 

Ana De La Reguera, Carla Gugino, and Gaite Jansen, Leopard Skin

Ana De La Reguera, Carla Gugino, and Gaite Jansen, Leopard Skin

Sebastian Gutierrez/Skinny Leopard

This Peacock crime thriller from creator Sebastian Gutierrez and star Carla Gugino is the epitome of sexy and stylish. It's about a band of thieves holing up at a Mexican villa after a heist goes wrong, and the hookups, revelations, betrayals, and intrigue that happen there. But it's really about the vibe, which is sensual and artsy and tropical, like Elmore Leonard by way of Nicolas Winding Refn. And with only eight half-hour episodes, it goes by quick and leaves you wanting more.   

Gaslit 

Sean Penn and Julia Roberts, Gaslit

Sean Penn and Julia Roberts, Gaslit

Starz

You would think that a limited series starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn (the latter in heavy prosthetic makeup) would have gotten some attention, but Gaslit came and went in spring 2022 without much fanfare. Perhaps if it hadn't come out in April amidst a glut of awards-bait TV, or if it were on HBO or Hulu instead of Starz, it would have caught on. But maybe not, because it's a tonally weird, dark comedy about a semi-forgotten chapter of the Watergate break-in story. But if you like Coen Brothers-influenced stuff, Shea Whigham's deeply deranged rendering of G. Gordon Liddy is the most underrated performance of the year.

The Serpent Queen 

Samantha Morton, The Serpent Queen

Samantha Morton, The Serpent Queen

Starz

Samantha Morton is always excellent, and she gets to sink her fangs into the anti-heroine role of Catherine de Medici, the 16th-century Queen of France who did whatever it took to gain and hold onto power. Creator Justin Haythe's period drama has beautiful cinematography, distinctive production design, and a wicked sense of humor. If it were on HBO, it would be a hit, and Morton would be in Emmys conversation. It's been renewed for Season 2, but the way things are going at Starz right now, I wouldn't be shocked if it gets un-renewed. Watch it so it doesn't! 

Irma Vep 

Alicia Vikander, Irma Vep

Alicia Vikander, Irma Vep

Carole Bethuel/HBO

HBO's most underrated show of 2022. This French-made, primarily English-language limited series hails from acclaimed writer-director Olivier Assayas. It's about the making of a French limited series, which places it in the oversaturated genre of semi-autobiographical writer-director movies, but Assayas does it differently than most, not the least because it's a TV show, not a movie. Irma Vep is sophisticated and sexy, full of smart observations about the state of cinema in 2022. Alicia Vikander, not Wednesday Addams, has TV's best dance scene of 2022. 

Swimming with Sharks 

Kiernan Shipka, Swimming with Sharks

Kiernan Shipka, Swimming with Sharks

The Roku Channel

Don't say nothing good ever came out of Quibi. This sexy Hollywood psychological thriller was created for the failed streaming service, which went out of business before Swimming with Sharks was released, then recut as a half-hour drama after the Roku Channel bought Quibi's library. Kiernan Shipka stars as an ambitious young assistant to a powerful, cruel studio executive (Diane Kruger) who methodically eliminates everyone and everything that stands in the way of her ascent up the Hollywood ladder. It's a remake of a 1994 film that's been updated for the Me Too era. 

Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone

Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone

Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone

BBC

British documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis combed through untold hours of never-before-seen BBC archival footage to make this seven-part docuseries about Russia before, during, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nobody makes documentaries like Curtis, who edits disparate footage into dazzling, mind-expanding narratives, and not even Curtis has made one like TraumaZone, which eschews his typical voiceover in favor of letting the fascinating footage speak for itself. You'll come away understanding Russia on a deeper level. TraumaZone is so under-the-radar that it's not even officially available in the United States; it streamed on the BBC's iPlayer, and can be found on YouTube.