The very best crime TV shows of 2022
Not so long ago, compiling a list of the best crime TV shows of the year would have been a fairly easy task. There was really only terrestrial telly and the odd Sky channel to watch. Picking a top ten may have even been a little tricky.
Now, of course, all that has changed. The five ‘standard’ channels are still producing quality programming, as is Sky. They’re also showing plenty of imported content. Then we have the streaming giants that hide within our smart TVs, computers and devices.
Add the likes of Apple+, Disney+, Hulu and HBO into the mix and we’re a very lucky modern audience indeed.
So, while it wasn’t easy, we’ve managed it. Here’s our pick of the very best crime TV shows of 2022.
The best crime TV shows of 2022:
Many Jack Reacher fans grumbled at the casting of Tom Cruise as the hulking Jack Reacher in the movie adaptations of Lee Child’s action thrillers – but not so when news hit that the giant Alan Ritchson was announced to play the man in Amazon Prime’s eight-parter Reacher.
There’s barely a moment’s peace in this rip-roaring series based on Killing Floor, Child’s 1997 first Reacher book. Ritchson nails the lead in what is a whole heap of punchy fun.
This Hulu series stars Steve Carell as Dr Alan Strauss, a psychiatrist with a rather unusual patient – serial killer Sam Fortner, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Fortner kidnaps his shrink and tasks him with unravelling his evil mind and putting a stop to his murderous urges.
It’s an interesting concept that’s made all the more watchable by its original approach to tone, pacing and format. Most episodes clock in at around the half hour mark, which is unusual. But it works.
Dramas based on real-life crimes have to watch how they approach their subject matter. While audiences are fascinated by true crime and real horror, it’s vital producers don’t create schlocky dramas that aggrandise criminals. The BBC pitched this three-parter, which aired in January, just right.
Stephen Merchant gives a chillingly vacant performance as the callous ‘Grindr Killer’ Stephen Port in a show that not only celebrates Port’s victims’ lives, but bravely shines a spotlight on how police incompetence allowed him to go uncaught for as long as he did.
The Ipcress File
Spy dramas are, quite often, rather dry affairs. Not so here. Joe Cole is surprisingly excellent as Len Deighton’s everyman hero Harry Palmer, a role made famous by Michael Caine almost six decades ago.
ITV’s 60s-set Cold War drama zips along at a pace, with great performances and a seriously classy – often extremely funny – script. And, above all else, it looks wonderful. Locations, set designs, costumes, everything. A serious contender for best TV production of the year.
Ozark series 4
Money laundering, Mexican drug cartels, floating casinos, Jason Bateman showing he can actually act, heavy blue filters on the cameras and Julia Garner stealing every scene she’s in like a particularly dedicated kleptomaniac. We know what to expect from Ozark. It’s all here in this polished and perfectly-paced final season.
Channel 5 aren’t renowned for their dramas, but a real push recently has seen them come up with mixed results. Easily the best of their attempts at crime drama so far has been The Teacher.
Sheridan Smith – who’s always great in these kinds of things – stars as Jenna, a high school teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student. Ian Puleston-Davies, one of the best British TV character actors of the past decade, provides the final episode with genuine thrills.
This story of a real-life Texas axe murder stars two actresses at the very top of their game. Melanie Lynskey is excellent as the whiny, manipulative but ultimately very innocent murder victim Betty Gore, while Jessica Biel is awards-standard good as Candy Montgomery, Betty’s neighbour who may or may not have dulled an axe on Betty’s skull.
The good performances don’t end there, though. Biel’s real-life husband Justin Timberlake pops up as the slightly slow investigating deputy. While the dashing figure of Pablo Schrieber glams down to play the third point in the Betty/Candy love triangle, Allan Gore.
Martin Freeman impresses enormously here as a Liverpudlian frontline copper who gets caught up in some dodgy dealing and finds his mind – and life – unravelling as burnout sets in.
Written by a former police officer, everything in The Responder feels stingingly real. It’s quite possibly the best drama produced by the BBC in the last four or five years.
Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s iconic documentary series about the trial of Michael Peterson – a man convicted of murdering his wife – is a true crime must-see. This dramatic retelling of the story is almost as unmissable.
It tells the same story, but with a few flourishes and liberties, something which angered de Lestrade no end, apparently. Still, it’s gripping stuff and well worth eight hours of your time. Why wouldn’t it be? With a cast featuring the likes of Colin Firth, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Dane DeHaan, Sophie Turner and Juliette Binoche, it was always going to be a prestige item.
Killing Eve series 4
It’s been a case of ever-so-slightly diminishing returns for Killing Eve since its groundbreakingly original first run back in 2018.
This, its fourth and final series, mostly spluttered towards a fairly uninspired conclusion, but did so with its trademark wit and vigour. Not a classic, but it’s a show that came out of the blocks so strongly, it deserves its audience’s loyalty.
The Old Man
The elderly chap of the title here is expertly played by Jeff Bridges. He stars as Chase, an ex-CIA-type in hiding with almost as many state secrets up his sleeve as inventive ways to kill people.
On his tail is a FBI head honcho played by John Lithgow, another fairly old man. Both are excellent in what’s part espionage tale, part no-holds action thriller with some high-end family drama sprinkled throughout. This is seriously top drawer TV drama.
This neon-tinged series based on the 2009 book of the same name by Jake Adelstein sees Ansel Elgort play Adelstein, a reporter investigating the Yakuza in a classy affair that tells a fascinating – and largely true – story of the murky world of the Japanese criminal underworld.
The Girl From Plainville
This true story of Michelle Carter’s texting-suicide case from Hulu stars Elle Fanning and manages to humanise and ground a story that very easily could have been sensationalised.
Fanning shines, while indie actress Chloë Sevigny also impresses in what is one of the classiest TV crime dramas for some time.
We end with our top recommendation, our pick of the year. If – for some strange reason – you’re only able to catch one crime series from this year… make it Black Bird.
Taron Egerton is on career-best form as Jimmy Keene, a charismatic young criminal in jail made a tantalising offer: elicit a confession out of a serial killer and see his prison time quashed. Paul Walter Hauser and Ray Liotta expertly co-star in a six-parter from Apple+ that is – quite incredibly – based on a true story.
There you have it – the best crime TV shows of 2022! What would make your list? Let us know in the comments below…