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Season 2 of HBO's "The White Lotus" features a new ensemble cast in a new setting, Sicily, though the top-of-the-line satire and intense drama the show's known for remains the same.

As the new year begins, The Breeze’s culture editors Michael Russo and Avery Goodstine are joined by Breeze TV senior anchor Maggie Rickerby and Jack Calabrese, a culture staff writer, to reflect on the iconic highlights of 2022’s pop culture. From sci-fi hits like “Stranger Things” and “Wednesday” to reality shows like “The Circle,” there was no shortage of variety for fans. 

Without further ado, here are The Breeze’s Pop Culture Picks for the best TV shows of 2022.

Michael Russo, Culture Editor 

Favorite: “Stranger Things”

“Stranger Things” season 4 had so much hype leading up to its premiere, and the show delivered. With a sprawling cast and many plotlines, I wasn’t sure how the show would be able to juggle it all, but incredible writing and directing produced emotional performances, high stakes and a stunning cliffhanger.

The episode “Dear Billy” is a clear highlight of the season — it showcased Sadie Sink’s incredible talent portraying grief, guilt, depression and courage as her character Max. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how fans also heard Max’s favorite song Kate Bush's “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” in the episode. The song and variations of it were consistently used throughout the rest of the season and quickly became a cultural anthem after blowing up on social media.

Honorable Mention: “The White Lotus”

I had never heard of “The White Lotus” until it won the most awards at this fall’s Emmy Awards, but I figured it must be pretty good to earn such high recognition. A few days later, I binged the first season within a day, then made it my routine to tune into the second season’s new episodes every Sunday with my roommate. It’s so bizarre — and uncomfortable to watch — at times, but the clever satire and symbolism are off the charts, making the show incredibly entertaining.

Avery Goodstine, Culture Editor

Favorite: “Wednesday”

I was a little slow to get on “Wednesday,” to be quite honest. I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews, so I decided to see for myself and binged the whole thing after finals week. I’m so happy I did because I was thoroughly entertained. I’m usually pretty good at picking up plot twists, and this one had a few I didn’t expect. I’m also someone who usually needs another form of stimulation while watching TV, but this show had me glued to the screen.

Honorable Mention: “The White Lotus”

Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard much about this show before a friend started telling me about it. His synopsis of the show seemed so different from anything else I’d previously watched, so I knew I had to see what it was all about, and I’m so glad I did. This show is chaotic — in the best way possible. There’s so much going on, but it doesn’t feel too overwhelming to watch, and the satirical plot lines are jaw-dropping.

Maggie Rickerby, Breeze TV Senior Anchor

Favorite: “Dubai Bling”

As a lover of reality TV, “Dubai Bling” was the perfect show to keep me on the edge of my seat. It’s a show full of drama, twists and turns about millionaires in Dubai living a lavish lifestyle, and each episode had me wanting to watch the next. It was really cool to see how the rich spend their lives and money. One of my favorite people on the show is Lojain Omran, a TV presenter, who hosted several events including a charity event supporting the education of young girls. I loved every minute of this show and I can’t wait for season 2.

Honorable Mention: “The Circle”

“The Circle” debuted its fifth season at the end of 2022, though it’s had me hooked since the show first premiered in 2020. The game show puts contestants in secluded rooms where they can only message each other through a TV texting app. While some contestants are themselves, others catfish the rest through a fake profile. This season, two of the Spice Girls joined “The Circle” under the radar.

This show is another chair gripper, leaving each episode on a cliffhanger. There’s drama, alliances and enemies, but only one contestant is determined the winner of the final cash prize. It’s quite an authentic show because the participants are secluded and only talk to the TV or themselves, helping viewers get to know each contestant and their stories. The show also touches on themes of how easy (or hard) it is to pretend to be someone else on the internet.

Jack Calabrese, Culture Staff Writer

Favorite: “The Boys”

“The Boys” is the satire we all needed after over a decade of superhero movies dominating entertainment. It has a lot to say about not only Hollywood, but the state of the world — all in a manner that’s hilarious and brutally violent while also finding a way to be insightful. Every episode is action-packed from start to finish, and there are many storylines and plots weaved together so there’s no downtime. It’s by far the most entertaining thing I binged last year.

Honorable Mention: “Peacemaker”

“Peacemaker” is another fun take on the superhero genre. John Cena’s surprising as the titular character. He’s got a lot more layers as an actor than I previously thought, including great comedic timing and self-awareness — unlike his character. Like “The Boys,” it’s another violent and funny series that has some ideas about society, especially conservatives in America. 

2022 proved movies and television aren’t dead yet, and the music industry continues to deliver strong work across the board. Another year brings plenty more exciting offerings for pop culture consumers to enjoy, so stay tuned for more reviews from The Breeze as 2023 rolls on.

Contact Michael Russo and Avery Goodstine at thebreezeculture@gmail.com, Maggie Rickerby at jmubreezetv@gmail.com and Jack Calabrese at calabrjl@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.

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