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The Things We (Actually) Loved to Watch in 2022

Just because something doesn’t fall neatly on a list of best movies or TV shows doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter

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There were a lot of great TV shows and movies in 2022—that’s why we made these lists. But the world is full of content that stretches so far beyond those traditional forms. You have TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and so much more; you have old shows and movies that feel new because you discovered them one day while sifting through the depths of HBO Max. None of these things could technically qualify as the “best” of 2022, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. And so, before the year is out, we wanted to give people the opportunity to praise the things that they truly loved but that might not fit on a traditional year-end list. Apologies if this gets weird, but … that’s kind of the point.

Jeremy Strong on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (Extended Cut)

The easy way to begin this blurb, and the way I would typically do it, would be to quote the most obvious, widely shared exchange from Jeremy Strong’s appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in October. It was the part where Colbert asked the star of Succession and Armageddon Time, who was making his first in-person late-night TV appearance, what kind of person or thing he’d want to be reincarnated as. Strong responded, with true passion, that he’d already thought about this. It was, he said, a tie; he couldn’t choose between [redacted] or [redacted].

But to share that right up front would rob you of the whole point of this interview. It would remove the joy of discovery, the beauty of conversation, the sound of silence, the look on Strong’s face when he got a question he knew the answer to, and the inspiring grace of Stephen Colbert. (Honestly, this will sound weird, but I don’t care: The combination of industrious confidence and professional tenderness with which Colbert handled Strong was on the same level as a labor and delivery nurse swaddling a newborn.)

What kicked off as a nervous hands-in-pockets interview with a shifty guy in an autumnal sweater turned into a theater workshop I felt honored to audit. It involved Steppenwolf, Emily Dickinson, and even Laurence Olivier. It had [redacted] and [redacted]—what a line! It is an artifact suitable both for Jeremy Strong completists and for everyone else. [Claps back at the audience, lightly bowing.] I’d say more, but I just know that the work will speak for itself. —Katie Baker

Michael Sheen’s Pump-Up Speech for Wales Football

As a child, I had many dreams. I wanted to go to the moon. I wanted to be Deion Sanders. I wanted to teach linguistics at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. “Be Welsh” was nowhere on that list. In fairness to myself, I was quite sheltered and stupid, and if you had told me you were from Wales, I’d have been like, “That’s nuts. You look like a person to me, but I love you no matter what.” Never did I expect to have a deep longing for the Land of Song. But then, on September 8, 2022, Michael Sheen opened his mouth and sprayed fire everywhere.

By the end of Sheen’s raging, I was standing on my couch singing “Yma o Hyd” at the top of my lungs. I will never say “neighbor” the same way again. This is the sports pregame speech version of Black Thought’s legendary 10-minute freestyle. The red dragon will lead the way, and Mike Sheen’s riding it. The speech was so good I looked into Welsh citizenship, so good the Welsh football team invited Sheen to do it in person. Someone needs to cast him as a coach by the end of this sentence. —Tyler Parker

Pluto (and the Wonder of Free Streaming Services)

I come to you today to argue against choice. I am officially an old—my date of birth came in the 1980s, which means I should be getting my AARP card anytime now. But I’m still young enough to have my faculties, and I distinctly remember a time when I could walk into my home, turn on the TV, and let whatever was on basic cable wash over me. Simpsons reruns, TRL, Cast Away on TNT—these were cornerstones of the golden age of the couch potato, but so were lots of awful movies and series. There was no “prestige TV”—it was mostly garbage, and that was the point. You hit power on the remote and ate whatever slop they fed you in between commercial breaks. It was awful; it was glorious. Most importantly, it was low effort. And at a time when we have to sift through the 800,000-plus TV options that streaming affords us, it’s a time that this writer desperately wants to return to.

My dearly beloved cord-cutters, if you feel the same way, allow me to introduce you to Pluto, a free, ad-supported streaming service that recreates the best and worst of basic cable. Hundreds of channels await you, all laid out in a familiar TV guide–like format. It’s a place where Forensic Files is always playing and you can catch Forrest Gump three times a day (with ad breaks, of course). Since discovering the wonder of it earlier this year, I’ve seen the first 20 minutes of Belly a dozen times and the last 20 of Juice even more. I’ve picked up Breaking Bad midway through Season 3—when the show actually gets good, don’t let them fool you—and dropped it after Gus dies. (We didn’t care about spoilers in the basic-cable era.) I’ve watched films I’d previously only heard about, dropped in for five minutes of Rob Zombie shit shows, and tried out the Vevo-supported music video channels. (Good Charlotte plays a lot.) Most of all, I didn’t care. There was no recap pod to check out, no discourse to be had in group chats. Knowing the details didn’t matter, I could work with it on in the background. I could tune in and be apathetic—something I’m deeply passionate about. I could feel like I wasn’t a prisoner of choice. I had no control, and I felt completely free. —Justin Sayles

“Natty or Not” on YouTube

Capped delts,” I observe sagely as I scrutinize some posing, flexing stranger’s boulder shoulders. The rubes might be fooled by 3D Death Star deltoids, but I spot suspicious signs of enhancement. No, I’m not a professional lifter or PED expert. But I have spent some time on “natty or not” YouTube.

Increasingly, it seems, everyone who has some incentive to be on steroids is on steroids—professional bodybuilders, obviously, but also many notably buff actors and influencers, who needn’t endure even the charade of an easily deceived drug test. Some YouTubers, TikTokers, and Instagram stars admit to taking “gear” and detail their stacks and cycles. Others, who have personas, workout routines, or movie tickets to sell, maintain that they’re all natural, even though they’re so juicy, they’ve grown as big as a house and a half—and despite staying peeled, diced, and dry enough to look like a paper cut could kill them. In this era of widespread freaky physiques—belonging both to mass monsters and to those who prioritize “aesthetics” over size—I, like millions of others, have turned to Redditors and video documentarians to weigh in on what we’re all wondering: Natty or not?

I don’t have to find out who’s natty or not. Who am I, muscle Santa Claus? But the algorithms are on to me: They’ve learned that I’ll click on this content to learn who’s merely benefiting from newbie gains and who’s taken chemical shortcuts. Which physical standouts who “claim natty”—even “lifetime natty,” meaning that they’ve never so much as touched TRT—are secretly (and dangerously) “sauced to the gills”? Which fitness celebrities genuinely stick to the trinity of “chicken, broccoli, and rice,” and which ones subsist on a steady diet of trenbologna sandwiches, abiding by the motto “Eat clen, tren hard, anavar give up”?

The most popular purveyors of natty or not exposés (including the laid-back, catchphrase-spouting Derek from More Plates More Dates and his hyper, high-talking bodybuilder counterpart Greg Doucette, a.k.a. “Coach Greg”) go beyond bro science and speak from informed experience. Each has amassed more than a million and a half subscribers on YouTube by giving their verdicts on dubious “natural transformations,” critiquing far-fetched claims and comments, and responding to each other (and to sniping from prominent fitness figures) in an incestuous, um, cycle of steroid discourse. Part of the appeal of this thriving cottage industry stems from its specialized lingo. Part is the pure gossip of it, coupled with the self-satisfaction of being in the know about the rare kind of conspiracy that actually exists. But this mini-community is also a source of self-esteem boosts, corrections of unrealistic, dysmorphia-inducing body standards, and reminders of what’s actually attainable within “natty limits.”

Recently, this subculture burst out of its bubble—not to be confused with the dreaded “bubble gut”—when the self-styled “Liver King” was exposed as a “sauce fiend” and copped to the steroid use that helped make him a viral sensation, supplement maven, and profile subject. His apology made mainstream headlines, but it wasn’t news to natty-or-not-ers. They’d long since moved on to questioning whether the famous “fake natty” has had ab implants, too. Ben Lindbergh

Can It Kirkland? TikTok

Spiced rum, Irish cream liqueur, prosecco: It can Kirkland. Irish whiskey, scotch whisky, black cherry hard seltzer: It cannot Kirkland.

Can it Kirkland is a simple process with an unbeatable structure: Five bros on TikTok attempt to differentiate between name-brand alcohol and its Costco-brand equivalent in a blind taste test. If the majority of the contestants identify which drink is Kirkland, then it cannot Kirkland. If the tastes are indistinguishable, then, oh yeah—that shit can Kirkland. Can It Kirkland? kicked off in June of this year with—what else?—tequila. And while it’s still impossible, 25 videos later, for me to predict which spirits will ultimately be able to Kirkland, I always know what to expect out of the taste test itself:

@neverendingfall

Can it Kirkland? Gin shots are tough. This was the hardest episode yet. What should we do next? #costco #fyp #kirkland #xyzbca #gin

♬ original sound - TheNeverEndingFall

First, there’s the host and frequent tiebreaker, Johnny, welcoming us back to our favorite 60-second game show in his signature floral apron and red Bella Hadid sunglasses. There’s a bottle of Kirkland and a bottle of something name brand dramatically slamming down onto a wooden cutting board. There’s contestant no. 3 almost always guessing his Kirkland right, and there’s contestant no. 4 looking like he’s never taken a shot in his whole life every single time he takes a shot (I love him). And then, of course: There’s the earworm jingle, “Can it Kirklaaaaand?” Because the members of this stylish crew aren’t just vigilante taste testers, they’re a band: the Never Ending Fall, on tour now.

I fear for the boys as they move further into mixed drinks and find themselves chugging two full gin and tonics in the name of science. But I also can’t imagine getting through this year without Can It Kirkland? These TikToks are entertaining and hilarious, yes, but there is an educational value here that cannot be underestimated. Do you need to make mimosas for 20 this weekend, and are you wondering whether you can sub in Costco-brand prosecco without sacrificing the integrity of your brunch? There’s a TikTok for that—and it can Kirkland. —Jodi Walker

The Deep Water Teaser

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas dated throughout the pandemic. Did you not know this? They did daily walks so that the paparazzi could take photos of them. They also made a movie together, which led to the relationship; the movie was billed as an erotic thriller and made by Adrian Lyne, the king of erotic thrillers. Hype was high for Deep Water, especially as the pandemic and the shaky merger between 20th Century Studios and Disney led to multiple delayed releases before it was finally shuttled off to a streaming-only debut on Hulu on March 18, 2022. By then, Affleck and de Armas had split up, and Affleck had reunited with Jennifer Lopez, which only raised the specter of Deep Water—who doesn’t want to see a celebrity relationship, particularly one as public as Affleck and de Armas’s was, play out in an erotic thriller on the big screen? The people needed it. The people were thirsting for it. And on Valentine’s Day 2022, the people got a taste:

To be clear, what you’re seeing there is an ex-boyfriend jacking off his ex-girlfriend while both of them say, “There’s something wrong with me” and ominous music plays. This one-minute-and-18-second-long clip was everything we could’ve dreamed of—completely bizarre and hilariously uncomfortable and altogether way too personal. AND IT WAS RELEASED ON VALENTINE’S DAY. I watched it about a bajillion times with a smile the size of Affleck’s back tattoo.

Deep Water ended up being pretty terrible. Not really worth your time. But this teaser? This teaser is still magical, and I still derive a silly amount of joy from thinking about J.Lo getting mad at Ben Affleck on Valentine’s Day because 20th Century published a clip of him and his ex doing hand stuff. —Andrew Gruttadaro

The Queen’s Funeral

Let me clarify that I’m not someone who would celebrate a person’s death in any way, shape, or form. With that being said, I had a great time watching all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Of course I expected Britain’s longest-reigning monarch to be honored in the grandest of ways, but I didn’t anticipate how moved I would be by the whole spectacle. And it was quite a show indeed! For four days, London’s hottest club was the queen’s queue, where people lined up for more than 24 hours to pay their respects to Her Majesty’s coffin. Not only did 250,000 people participate in the queue, but the 10-mile line also received its own Wikipedia page and hashtag on TikTok. Following her first funeral at Westminster Abbey, where a spider went viral for climbing on her casket flowers, she received an emotional procession to her final resting place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. London street spectators and viewers at home were treated to a magnificent display of Big Ben’s signature chimes and feuding royal family members marching alongside one another. The only thing missing was the 4-year-old prince of memes himself, Prince Louis, flipping people off. And even though this felt like the 876th historical event I’ve witnessed in my short time on this planet, I wept the minute the queen’s pony Emma and her two corgis, Muick and Sandy, met her processional to say their goodbyes. Here’s hoping that these animals get a Netflix documentary next. —Bridget Geerlings

Not Just Bikes on YouTube

If you want to get transit pilled, this is the place to start. Jason Slaughter is a YouTuber who moved his family out of suburbia and to Amsterdam to escape the unwalkable, desolate environments that define so many North American cities. Since 2019, he’s chronicled what makes pedestrian-friendly cities like those found in the Netherlands so satisfying to live in. You can start with a tour of a neat bike-parking garage and work your way up to detailed explainers on why car-centric urban planning renders suburban areas financially insolvent. You can learn what a stroad is and why something as simple as crossing the street can suck so much. Shoot, American cities can’t even get grocery stores or garbage pickup right. Slaughter has amassed more than 860,000 subscribers and millions of views from people who want to build their living environments around people, not cars. Just trust me when I say that these videos are much more entertaining than they sound. —Riley McAtee

Antonio Inoki and Masa Saito’s Ganryujima Island Death Match, October 4, 1987

I discovered the best thing I’ve watched in 2022 this past October: the late Antonio Inoki’s Ganryujima Island Death Match against Masa Saito, which doubled as the final chapter of their 1987 feud. (And yes, they chose Ganryujima for a reason.)

Shot by TV Asahi, the footage (which you can watch for free via New Japan) features the constant whirring of a helicopter, which makes sense considering the stunning aerial shots they were able to catch, but this also means things are shot in a way that makes it hard to tell what the hell is going on. Also, this isn’t the WWE big match style you’re used to; Inoki and Saito are two foes trying to rip out each other’s limbs. And yet, everything that may seem wrong about this 1987 spectacle highlights everything right about pro wrestling in 2022. “I look at the moves as vehicles to trigger emotion,” Roman Reigns told The Ringer back in November. “Moves, especially the cool ones, they’re little micro-moments in their own right.” Every suplex, every twisting (rest) hold, every bloody moment meant something here, especially because Inoki and Saito were attempting to create an epic pro wrestling spectacle, not some forgettable 20-minute TV banger. I’m also a big proponent of Bryan Danielson’s pro wrestling vision, which feels like it was forged in the blood, sweat, and tears that Inoki and Saito shed on the island of Ganryujima, somehow representing both sides of the 2022 pro wrestling sphere.

Hell, the Ganryujima Island Death Match is pro wrestling, warts and all. —Khal

Twenty Five Twenty One

I got into K-dramas during the first year of the pandemic, because there was no better time to dive into overly long, overly dramatic series that often spent upward of 10 or more feature-length episodes building up to a first kiss. They were the perfect distraction from work, the news, or any kind of content that I felt obligated to consume. I could just put on Goblin or Crash Landing on You and forget about everything happening outside my door.

That’s why, when I started Twenty Five Twenty One this year, I was a little put off by the fact that we’re introduced to the characters in modern-day, COVID-era Korea. Luckily, after setting the scene in 2022, when former professional fencer Na Hee-do clashes with her teenage daughter over quitting ballet, the show skips back to the ’90s and spends most of its time there. We watch young Hee-do (a magnetic Kim Tae-ri) work her way up to the top of the fencing world, clash with (and ultimately befriend) rival Ko Yu-rim (multitalented K-pop idol Bona), and experience young love with older boy-next-door Baek Yi-jin (distressingly charming Nam Joo-hyuk).

I came for the romance, but I stayed for the fencing—Kim as Hee-do erupts into a primal, joyous scream every time she wins a match, and by the end, I was screaming right along with her. —Kate Halliwell

The Official Trailer for M3GAN

There are really only two types of movies that I can’t handle: horror flicks and horror flicks with creepy killer dolls. But the trailer for M3GAN, the upcoming horror film, changed everything for me. For the uninitiated, M3gan is a robot doll programmed by cutting-edge artificial intelligence that is designed to befriend children and do anything to keep them from being lonely or sad. (What could possibly go wrong?) At the start of the trailer it seems like M3GAN is just another run-of-the-mill Chucky clone, but around the halfway point, the animatronic doll, who sort of resembles a young girl, levels up. She goes from friendly companion to murderous psychopath within seconds, a shift so jarring that it’s impossible not to laugh. The best part? Her killing spree is interrupted by several moments of completely unexplained and absolutely hilarious TikTok-esque dance moves. And through it all her blank, soulless expression never wavers, which just makes it that much funnier. It’s a two-and-a-half minute masterwork that is equal parts creepy, hilarious, and just absurd.

Within minutes the trailer racked up millions of views, spawned loads of memes, and even inspired whatever this is. And I can truly understand why. James Cameron better enjoy the limelight while he still can—the M3GAN takeover is coming. —Kai Grady

The Little Birds That Come to Eat at My Suction-Cup Window Feeder

This is, I guess, a confession: Thanks to a cheap plastic bird feeder stuck onto the exterior of my kitchen window, I have become a birder. I am now a person who talks about birds, and thinks about birds, and just generally loves birds and their weird little lives. It is bucolic and uncool and no other viewing spectacle this year has brought me anywhere near as much joy.

In exchange for bird seed, an occasional washdown, and the final dying light of my youth, I am treated to an all-day avian spectacle as an assortment of house sparrows, finches, cardinals, starlings, and a solitary Carolina wren (a perfect, nervous, pirouetting angel for whom I would lay down my life) gather to feast and scream at one another; nearby there are robins and catbirds and grackles and blue jays and—very occasionally—a red-tailed hawk, which its feathered compatriots do not like at all. My indoor cat, whose lifetime kill count can be counted only in Temptations, spends her days futilely hurling her body at morbidly obese mourning doves, who increasingly respond not with the weep-weep-weep of frantic flight but by looking the cat straight in the eye until she sidles away humiliated. In the spring, the starlings brought by their hideous baby, who had somehow mastered the art of flight but not how to pick up food, and so stood on top of the feeder squealing with its mouth open as its parents stuffed seeds one by one down its dreadful, fantastic maw. Recently, so many tiny, fluttering sparrows descended at once that the video I sent my brother—I record birds, I write about birds, I dream of birds—provoked a comparison to a plague. They have not yet braided my hair or plucked out the eyes of my enemies or brought clues to a mystery and/or riches, but I am confident that will come. They are my greatest screen by far. —Claire McNear

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