Very Special Episodes
The last newsletter of 2022 looks at some of the year's best TV episodes, and pays homage to the reliable Canadian comedy 'Letterkenny'
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I say “to be fair…”
I feel an episode coming on
We’re nearing the end of the year. Between the business slowing down and various holiday things, there’s only one Rolling Stone story from me this week (and only one next week, most likely): my list of the 25 best TV episodes of 2022.
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You will notice that it’s a mix of episodes from shows that appeared on my Top 20 Shows of 2022 list, and ones from shows that didn’t make the cut. Some were narrow misses, like Fleishman Is In Trouble, whose representative episode dropped the day after the list was published, but featured such a god-tier performance by Claire Danes that I had to include it. Some were from seasons I liked a lot but didn’t flat-out love, like The Afterparty or my once-adored For All Mankind, which needs to ditch Tracy and Gordo’s garbage sons ASAP. And then there are ones from shows with incredible highs and baffling lows, like Euphoria, which from week to week — sometimes scene to scene — can feel like the greatest show I’ve ever seen, or the worst.
I also tried to include a mix of format-breaking episodes and ones that were just excellent examples of what a given show does every week. But I inevitably have a weakness for the former when I make these kinds of lists. If you’ve been following me for more than five minutes, you know how sacred I hold the idea of the individual episode, and how much I grind my teeth whenever some screenwriter-turned-showrunner declares that they’re making “a 10-hour movie.” And episodes that can most clearly stand out as requiring the Friends rubric of “The One Where” tend to stick in my brain at the end of the year. But I also, for instance, chose the vampire nightclub grand opening episode of What We Do in the Shadows over the home renovation one. Both are fantastic, but the former shows how great Shadows is when it’s just doing its thing, and I wanted to celebrate that.
Fire away with some of your own favorite episode choices in the comments.
Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er
Letterkenny — a Canadian comedy set in a rural Ontario town — is one of my favorite sitcoms of the past few years. Despite premiering in 2016, we are already up to the 11th season, which I guess is a thing that can happen when your seasons are short and they premiere more than once a year. (The show tends to alternate between seasons set in summer and in winter; the one dropping on Christmas Day on Hulu is a summer one.) Every time a new season is about to debut, I think about writing something, and then realize that the pleasures of Letterkenny are so reliable and constant that I have almost nothing new to say beyond what I wrote about it very early in my tenure at Rolling Stone. I’ve only had time to watch two episodes of the new season, but it remains as delightfully low-fi as ever: plots include the town gathering to debate the best potato chip flavor, and Wayne and Squirrelly Dan spending an afternoon heckling a pair of deliverymen from an Ikea-style furniture chain. It never fails to make me happy, and the show has done an impressive job of expanding its ensemble over the years without losing what worked when it was largely focusing on a half-dozen or so characters. Always glad to have it on my TV.
See ya in the next year, Jack!
I’m taking next week off, though I’ll have one review publishing on Wednesday, for a show I’m embargoed from discussing now but can perhaps revisit here in a couple of weeks. But this will be the last newsletter of 2022. I started this thing in something of a panic over the possibility of Twitter — and the many Twitter followers I have who could potentially read my reviews, listen to my podcasts, buy my books, etc. — vanishing overnight in the early days of You Know Who’s ownership. It seems to have survived for the moment, but I’m really glad I did this, anyway. It gives me a chance to write the kind of quick-hit thoughts that don’t really fit at my job, and to occasionally talk about things I would never feel comfortable officially reviewing, like if I’ve only seen a couple of episodes rather than all the ones provided to critics.
As I write this, the subscriber count is inching ever-so-closely to 10,000 of you. I am incredibly grateful that you’ve continued to read me in so many places and formats over the years. This has been a very difficult year for me personally, for reasons I don’t need to get into. But writing about my favorite things, and interacting with all of you, has been a very welcome respite from the avalanche that’s been falling on me for pretty much all of 2022. I thank you for that, and I look forward to a better 2023, which should include a big announcement in another month or two.