What to say about television in 2020?
It’s hard to come up with much, largely because there really wasn’t a whole lot of television to watch. With the pandemic shutting down several productions and even knocking out stuff like the Olympics, network television was even more of a wasteland than usual. As far as the major networks were concerned, 2020 was a year of rerurns and overproduced celebrity-themed game shows.
I’m sure that some would say that the presidential election livened things up and I have to admit that I did enjoy snarking on Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and MJ Hegar, all three of whom seem to be competing to see whose campaigns could put out the most cringe-worthy commercials possible. But, with Trump on one side and Biden on the other, there was little about this election that was enjoyable to watch. Indeed, I’ve reached the point where just thinking about hearing someone say, “Fake news” or “Come on, man,” makes me want to throw something across the room.
Even my old reliables failed me this year. Survivor halted production. The Amazing Race and Big Brother both featured the least likable cast imaginable. It’s hard to get excited when bullies are winning your favorite shows.
As usual, the streaming services did a bit better than the networks but, in the end, it feels as if I spent most of 2020 watching the retro channels. Whenever the real world got too stressful, annoying, or stupid, I would go out to my private office and I’d watch a channel like MeTV, AntennaTV, ForwardTV*, or maybe even CoziTV. To be honest, it really didn’t matter what old shows they were showing. All that mattered was that watching those shows of the past provided an escape from all the bad stuff happening in the present. They provided non-threatening background noise and there’s something to be said for that. They’re televised time capsules, perfect for a history nerd like me.
(*To be honest, I’m not sure that there really is a network called ForwardTV. I do know that I frequently watch Ghost Whisperer on one of the retro channels and I’ve never actually caught the name of the channel. Maybe it’s ForwardTV. Who knows?)
So, this year, my list of good things that I saw on TV is going to be shorter than usual. Who knows? It could be for the best. I usually watch too much TV as it is.
- A Teacher
This miniseries, about a teacher who has an affair with a student and how it continues to determine the shape of their lives long after the affair ends, was an unusually intelligent and thought-provoking show. As the teacher and the student, Kate Mara and Nick Robinson both gave realistic and empathetic performances.
2. Bad Education
One of the best films of the year premiered on HBO. On the one hand, it’s sad to think that the film would have been eligible the Oscars if it had only been bought by Netflix. On the other hand, though, it’s totally possible that more people saw it on HBO than would have seen it otherwise. Hugh Jackman didn’t win an Emmy and he’s not going to get an Oscar but he still gave one of the best performances of 2020.
3. Michael Bloomberg blowing it during his first Democratic Debate
Considering how obnoxious and ever-present his commercials were (“Mike will get it done!”), there was something deeply satisfying about watching this smug technocrat totally blow it when he actually found himself on live TV and having to deal with actual human beings. There wasn’t much to enjoy as far as politics went in 2020 but seeing Bloomberg get booed after trying to explain away all of the HR complaints against him was a joy.
4. Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult
There were two high-profile NXIVM series last year. HBO had The Vow, which was a lengthy series that was produced by a bunch of former NXIVM members and which tried to make the director of What The Bleep Do We Know into some sort of hero. Seduced, meanwhile, was an honest look at life in the cult, one that pulled no punches and which made The Vow look worse and worse with each episode.
5. Saved By The Bell: The Reboot
The Saved By The Bell reboot turned out to be a 100 times better than it had any right to be.
6. 9-1-1: Lone Star
This show is a guilty pleasure for me, I’ll admit it. On the one hand, it does a fairly good job of capturing the feel and attitude of my homestate. On the other hand, I don’t know that there’s as many volcanoes in Texas as this show seems to think. No matter, though! It’s over-the-top and fun.
7. The Mandalorian
I’m not even into Star Wars and even I had to admit that The Mandalorian was pretty damn cool. I’m among the many people who started watching for Baby Yoda and who stuck around because the show itself turned out to be so unexpectedly entertaining.
8. Better Call Saul
Saul Goodman never lets us down.
9. The Queen
Neither does Queen Elizabeth.
10. Ghost Whisperer Reruns
And neither does Melinda! Eve when she’s appearing in reruns airing on Hulu and whatever ForwardTV actually is.
11. Coronation Sreet
They have a ton of episodes on Hulu! Considering that it often seemed as if I might never get to leave the country again, there was something nice about being able to go on Hulu and watch something as British as this show.
12. I learned to appreciate the Daytime Dramas
When you’re working from home in the middle of a pandemic, there’s something oddly comfortable about turning on the TV and seeing something like the Bold and the Beautiful or General Hospital. Those shows are always there, they’re always dealing with same stuff that it’s been dealing with for decades, and they are also the shows most likely to get interrupted by a breaking news alert. So, as long as I turn on the TV at 12:45 and I see The Bold and the Beautiful instead of Norah O’Donnell looking somber, I know that the day’s probably going to be crisis-free.
TSL Looks Back at 2020:
- Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Novels of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
- Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Non-Fiction Books of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
- Lisa Marie’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
- Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
- My Top 20 Albums of 2020 (Necromoonyeti)
- 25 Best, Worst, and Gems That I Saw In 2020 (Valerie Troutman)
- Top 10 Vintage Collections (Ryan C)
- Top 10 Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
- Top 10 Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C)
- Top 10 Ongoing Series (Ryan C.)
- Top 10 Special Mentions (Ryan C.)
- Top Ten Single Issues (Ryan C)