Our last and maybe most definitive list
It’s been a year of scares, beginning with the invasion of Ukraine and ending with 200 million Americans huddled under blankets. The reality shows of 2022 were pretty lousy–the Nasdaq show is probably the worst of the bunch, the black comedy of the Dow wasn’t much better, but I admit a giggle at the ungendered nuclear drama Samsonite is my Kryptonite.
In no special order, here are my Must-Sees of 2022. Not all of them are television since I am now taking every opportunity to unmask myself out of the house.
Help! I Wrecked My House on HGTV. People who are decidedly inexpert decide to rip out electrical boxes, redo plumbing, and make holes in walls–could there BE a better metaphor for 2022? Anyhoo, I delight in watching Jasmine Roth (aka Shailene Woodley’s DIY doppelganger) fix these ridiculous messes. It’s a very calming show, although it didn’t stop me from ripping up a bathroom floor with a circular saw.
Leopoldstadt at the Longacre Theatre: This runs through July 2023. You have plenty of time to see one of the greatest plays by one of the greatest playwrights of all time. Read my scintillating review here.
How about a trip to see Kimberly Akimbo? In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People, about his son’s diagnosis of progeria. The book is a serious book of theology, trying to answer such questions as What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful and not just pointless empty suffering? As it turns out, progeria could also be the basis for an absolutely charming musical set in Bergen County, NJ. The play is at the Booth Theatre, right near the Longacre. This gem is hilarious and full of charm, and made the jump from off-Broadway to the Broadway with genuine class. Don’t you dare miss Bonnie Milligan as Aunt Debra.
See Ohio State Murders, a brilliant play by an overlooked playwright (Adrienne Kennedy) featuring a gorgeous set by Beowulf Boritt, and a spectacular performance by the incomparable Audra McDonald. Kennedy wrote Ohio State Murders in 1990, and 32 years later, the play is on Broadway. I saw this in November and I can’t stop thinking about Suzanne, the lead character in the play, the racial divide at Ohio State in 1949, and the ravine on the campus.
Watch anything with Matt Smith. This year, it was House of the Dragon, featuring a cruel and alluring Smith as Daemon. I wasn’t sure how much I liked the show until episode 3, “Second of His Name,” and then I fell in love with it. Daemon’s battle on the Crabfeeder’s island was the best TV of 2022. You can also watch Smith in the first season of The Crown, but he has less hair. Just as delightfully nasty though.
The Community on Spelling Bee. I’ve been obsessed with the Spelling Bee for many years, and when the Times added hints, I haughtily chose to ignore the help. That resolution crumbled as soon as I struggled to make it to Genius. Then I found the Community and its heroes, Kline from Chicago and Steve G from Sound Beach, NY. It’s pure joy to get a boost for the Bee when I need it—I would not have guessed that “heinie” would be acceptable but “hoyden” is not – and I’ll take whatever help I can get to get the Queen Bee before the new puzzle is posted at 3:30 AM.
The movie Dual, shot in Finland during quarantine, is as remote and strange a movie as I’ve ever seen. Written and directed by Riley Stearns and starring Karen Gillan, Dual (a play on duel) takes place in the near future. People with terminal illnesses can clone themselves in order to spare their families hurt and heartbreak. Sarah discovers she is dying and has a clone made to replace her. The state only allows one version of a person to live, however, and when Sarah recovers, her clone chooses to continue living. The dual women must fight a duel to the death. Everyone speaks in a monotone and no one seems to smile. Once I accepted Dual’s world, I loved it.
This year I did a deep dive into the work of Walter Tevis. You probably watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix during quarantine and marveled at the story of Beth Harmon, the unlikeliest chess grandmaster. The novel is just one of several masterpieces by Walter Tevis. Nearly everything he wrote has made it to the screen, such as The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Queen’s Gambit, and an adaptation of Mockingbird is on the way. Tevis was a genius–here’s one of his last interviews–don’t let him be forgotten.
I liked the audiobook of Mockingbird so much (voiced by the wonderful Robert Fass) that I looked for other books by the same narrator. I stumbled on a bizarre masterpiece by Russell H. Greenan called It Happened in Boston? An unnamed artist describes his work, his masterpiece, his life in Boston, and his growing obsession with sugar bowls. This stunning novel, published in 1968, is a startling treasure and has confused and terrified me all year.
Mudlark’d, a marvelous book by historian Malcolm Russell. Russell’s Instagram feed is a glorious look at what he finds in the foreshore of the Thames every week. A few months ago, he found a glass lemonade bottle from 1910 that had turned a brilliant blue from the alkali Thames mud. There was also a tile from a medieval castle, sherds aplenty, shoe buckles from the 1800s, and a remarkably crude fragment from a Roman samian.