This fortnight, in my last newsletter of 2022, a look back at the best TV shows and films I saw in 2022 (not necessarily first shown in 2022, just the ones I watched in 2022!), focusing on the brilliant scripts and stories that were the basis of these shows.
A show that seems to have very much gone under the radar. It was recommended to me by writer Claire Rowlands, and I can see why she recommended it – it is tonally quite similar to Claire’s wonderful script, WAR PAINT (https://script-consultant.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/WAR-PAINT-by-Claire-Rowlands.pdf)
A beautifully observed portrait of a mid-West, working class family in a state of quiet crisis. The character observation, the joy, pain and humanity is brilliantly realised.
Not always the easiest watch but there were so many moments in Patrick Somerville’s adaptation of Emily St John Mandel’s brilliant book that were memorably emotive and cinematic. Strange but beautiful.
One of the best comedy series of the last few years, the show finally ended and the final season was superb. Another family comedy drama elevated by the idiosyncratic humanity of its characters and their difficult but ultimately loving relationships, the trials and travails of a single working mother, show-run by the brilliant Pamela Adlon. Consistently excellent in its own unique, low-key, richly warm way over 5 seasons.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT
A brilliantly political and powerfully dramatic series. Heartbreaking, infuriating and compelling. Written by Adam Kay.
One my favourite UK TV shows of 2022. I love the political aspect of James Graham’s writing and I thought this was a really effective blending of fascinating, deep-seated issues around the destruction of the mining industry, broader class politics, all set very specifically in the East Midlands – alongside a relatively conventional but nonetheless excellent crime drama, elevated by the depth of the characterisations, the unresolved tensions between past and present.
So this is one of the shows that is older but I first watched this very recently and still have the treat of S2 to come. This first series is a cracker. It’s a very simple, not entirely original idea – an unlikely, mismatched pair of characters who go on a road trip. So it absolutely fits into genre conventions – but within those conventions, its detail is so rich and enjoyable. The Upright of the title is the piano the Tim Minchin character is determined to transport across Australia. It’s billed as a comedy but this is 90% drama, 10% comedy IMO. It’s full of great moments – but there’s one scene in the final episode that absolutely floored me – just a lovely piece of writing – that encompasses the heartbreak at the centre of the story. As I watched this scene, I just knew it had to have been written by Tim Minchin (and it was) – it feels so deeply personal.
Can be compared to Upright in that it stands or falls on the dynamics of the unlikely relationship at its heart – and it’s principally about the road trip the two characters share. The thing that makes this show for me primarily is the Deborah Vance character – objectively supremely unlikeable but in reality wonderfully engaging and humane in her massive flaws. Brilliant writing and a wonderful central performance by Jean Smart (also excellent in last year’s MARE OF EASTTOWN).
The Disney+ 6 hour Beatles documentary, directed by Peter Jackson. Like nothing I had ever watched before. I was captivated by this – to see some of the greatest songs of the last century being created in front of our eyes felt magical.
THE WHITE LOTUS S2
I hesitated about including this. Overall, I don’t think it’s quite as strong as the first season. But stick with it – because the final ep 7 really delivers – just a wonderful piece of TV storytelling.
Winner of the 2022 Best Film Oscar, this is quite a small but affecting, sweet film about the hearing daughter in a deaf family. Directed and adapted by Sian Header from the 2014 French film La famille Bélier written by Victoria Bedos, I thought this was a lovely piece of storytelling that had real heart.
The one documentary in this (film) list, I saw this at the Aldeburgh documentary film festival. An examination of the life and horrific murder of young, Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee, the film is both harrowing and uplifting. Lyra comes across from the film as a wonderfully inspiring person; and the film examines not just her life but the issues she was investigating and the history from which such an awful murder could have arisen.
I CARE A LOT
Another film that in fact came out on Netflix in 2021 – but I only caught up with it this year. A dark, subversive but really excellent comedy thriller with a fantastic performance by Rosamund Pike in the lead role – an enjoyably loathsome but compelling creation. Written and directed by J Blakeson, a really under-appreciated British talent (his film THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is also outstanding). This is screen storytelling of real flair and fun.
Released in cinemas early in 2022, the most striking thing about this film is that it was shot in one take. But as well as being a phenomenal technical achievement, being one single 90 minute shot gives the already fraught, frenetic story an even greater edge of tension, pace and accelerating drama. I found the film gripping. Written and directed by Philip Barantini.
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
A Norwegian film, directed by Joachim Trier and written by Trier and Eskil Vogt, this is the story of the complicated, not always sympathetic but constantly fascinating female character of the title.
Strictly speaking, this was a one-person theatre show – but I saw it as a ‘National Theatre Live’ film in a cinema. The cinema at which I saw it was sold out and the response to the show was so intense, the audience so obviously gripped, that it almost felt like live theatre. It’s a great piece of writing by Suzie Miller that is really elevated by probably the best acting I saw all year by Jodie Comer.
Very much a genre procedural, the true story of the two female journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein exposé, it’s nonetheless an excellent film. Thoughtful, gripping, disturbing – ultimately a film that has so much to say and needed to be made.
RIP Victor Lewis-Smith
VLS used to be the TV reviewer in the London Evening Standard and was consistently entertaining and insightful. I have particular reason to be grateful to him for his review of the first show I produced, a series of 4 x 30’ dramatic monologues for the ITV London region. The one he reviewed was the first ever TV credit for Chris Chibnall and the review opened, ‘I never thought I’d use the words ‘Carlton’, ‘drama’ and ‘excellent’ in the same sentence…’ which was a delight for me to read – but made my boss, the Carlton head of drama, extremely grumpy!
This is my last fortnightly newsletter of 2022. After a Christmas break, the newsletter will go out again on Friday January 13th.
Thank you so much to all of you who have subscribed to and read the newsletter this year, particularly those who have fed back to me so generously about various of this year’s offerings. It’s your kind feedback that keeps me going – so thank you.
And I’d like to say a particular and huge thank you to the very many people who have so kindly contributed to the newsletter in 2022 – Emily White, Ann Hawker, Laurence Tratalos, Lily Shahmoon, James Capel, Nadia Attia, Matt Hirons, Becky Latham, Amy Arnold, Sylvie Markes, Tom Williams – THANK YOU!
FINALLY – if you’d like to respond with your own dramatic writing / screenwriting, TV and Film highlights of 2022, I would be delighted to hear from you and will include these responses in a future newsletter.
I hope you have a good Christmas break and a fulfilling and creative 2023,
Friday December 16th 2022