Black Joy

The 10 Best TV shows that brought us Joy

This year television was at its peak, offering a variety of Black shows that brought us to tears, provided laughs, and ultimately joy. From Abbott Elementary to Riches, streamers to network television, there was no shortage of comedy or drama on our screens.

Here are the top 10 TV shows that brought us joy in 2022.

10. Riches (Prime Video)

There are quite a few offerings on Prime Video but the family melodrama, Riches, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Stephen Richards (Hugh Quarshie) has built the premier Black cosmetics empire in the U.K. But when he suffers a stroke, family secrets and lies surface, risking the future of his multi-million-pound company. Sarah Niles stands out as Claudia, an aggrieved widow and spiteful — yet fabulous— stepmother on a mission to maintain the lifestyle she’s grown accustomed to. As siblings combat to run the company and keep family secrets under wraps, it’s impossible not to look away from this ensemble cast.

9. The Kings of Napa (OWN)

Family soaps and melodramas ruled the screen this year and the OWN original, The Kings of Napa, brought all the scandal. The wine business has brought the King family success and acclaim. Following the patriarch’s sudden exit from the company, his three children, August King (Ebonée Noel), Dana (Rance Nix), and Christian (Ashlee Brian), spar for the reins to the kingdom, to their own power, wealth and legacy. The primetime soap awakens what makes TV great — outrageous storylines and characters you love to hate.

8. Loot (Apple TV+)

The Apple TV+ original, Loot, is full of laughs you can take straight to the bank. After divorcing her husband of 20 years, Molly Novak (Maya Rudolph) must figure out what to do with her $87 billion settlement. She decides to reconnect with her charitable foundation and the real world while finding herself along the way. On a mission to become a billionaire turned humanitarian, Molly works with her foundation’s no-nonsense director, Sofia (Michaela Jáe Rodriguez), to help communities with innovative, tangible solutions. The two often trade off witty banter as they choose whats best for the foundation, between wrangling in their quirky staff members for team meetings and major projects. Returning to her roots and humanitarian causes and connecting with people outside the 1% creates a path of redemption for Molly.

7. All American: Homecoming (The CW)

The CW’s smash hit All American led to this spin-off, All American: Homecoming. The series follows Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya), a young tennis hopeful with dreams of going pro, from Beverly Hills starting her freshman year at Bringston, a historically Black university in Atlanta. With support from her journalism-professor aunt, Amara Patterson (Kelly Jenrette) and against the wishes of her Ivy League-obsessed parents, Simone navigates her new reality thousands of miles away from home. It’s a perfectly balanced portrayal of young adult issues against the complex backdrop of the HBCU experience, tackling standard collegiate matters like deciding on a major and dealing with financial aid. But more specific topics mirror the reality of HBCUs, from recent bomb threats to inadequate funding. There’s even queer representation within the core cast through Simone’s friends Keisha McCalla (Netta Walker), who is bisexual, and Nathaniel Hardin (Rhoyle Ivy King), who is nonbinary. King made history in this role as The CW network’s first Black nonbinary character. The cast chemistry is magical, showing how HBCUs become a home away from home for many students and provide the basis for the layered experience of attending such historic institutions.

6. All American (The CW)

The CW original All American is loosely based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger. The series follows the life of Spencer James, a rising Crenshaw District, South L.A. native and high school football star who is offered the opportunity to play football for a prestigious high school in Beverly Hills and coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs). Spencer struggles to adjust to Beverly but eventually finds his footing despite being pulled by two worlds. Now in its fifth season, All American has shown that sports dramas paired with nuanced community stories still draw an audience and build its own world with a spin-off.

5. The Wonder Years (ABC)

It’s rare for reboots to succeed on their own merits. But The Wonder Years, however, takes a unique approach by turning the lens and focusing on a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama. Told as a coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Dean Williams (Elisha “EJ” Williams), narrated by an adult Dean (Don Cheadle), it is set in the same universe as the ‘80s original allowing it to appease fans and build its own legacy. The series tackles various issues, from the Civil Rights Movement to parenting your parents as they get older. While lighter topics, like first kisses and getting the first chair in the school band, balance the show’s tone.

4. Bel-Air (Peacock)

The thought of turning a beloved sitcom like, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, into a one-hour drama may seem like fan service nostalgia, but it turned out to be one of the best shows of 2022. The Peacock original is a dramatic take on Will’s (Jabari Banks) complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated community of Bel-Air in Los Angeles. The young basketball star reckons with family secrets and his future as these two worlds collide. The fresh new take introduces viewers to a modern Banks family to fall in love with all over again.

3. Grand Crew (NBC)

Grand Crew is this year’s hidden gem of sitcom television. Creator Phil Augusta Jackson brings together a comical ensemble cast while tackling themes that Black men face in America. Whether going to therapy or relationships, the series uses humor to tackle the anxiety and struggle to be vulnerable about these pressures. The series follows a group of friends: hopeless romantic Noah (Echo Kellum), his spirited sister Nicky (Nicole Byer), vegan accountant Anthony (Aaron Jennings), happily married Wyatt (Justin Cunningham), loose cannon Sherm (Carl Tart), and Fay (Grasie Mercedes), divorced and new to the group. The close-knit crew unpacks the ups and downs of life and love at a local wine bar, Cru, in Los Angeles.

2. P-Valley (STARZ)

The STARZ original, P-Valley, returned with an enticing second season this year. The series, created by Katori Hall, follows the intersecting lives of employees at The Pynk, an infamous strip club in the Mississippi Delta. This past season gave a glimpse into living through the pandemic for Black southerners as they tried to keep their source of income flowing and deal with grief, loss, and new realities. The second season was a success amongst viewers and critics, leading to a season three renewal.

1. Abbott Elementary (ABC)

The Emmy-winning Abbott Elementary came out swinging with its network debut on ABC. A group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly out-of-depth principal — find themselves thrown together in an underfunded Philadelphia public school. Created by and starring Quinta Brunson, a comedic talent, built her career by going from social media to Buzzfeed to your living room TV. Despite the odds, the school’s staff are determined to help their students succeed. The mockumentary-style comedy offers multigenerational laughs and a nuanced, heartfelt look into marginalized communities with underfunded education systems.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.