The Best Television of 2020: Binge-Watching Our Way Through Quarantine

The Best Television of 2020: Binge-Watching Our Way Through Quarantine
The Best Television of 2020: Binge-Watching Our Way Through Quarantine

The first show I saw in 2020 was Dracula’s Netflix mini-series, which is now itself a 19th century ceramic pot. century seems too obvious to me. As in any adaptation of 1897.

Bram Stoker

The Romans, vampirism was a kind of plague; intimacy can kill; evil can go viral; death is in the DNA of history. It is probably lucky for the series and the critics that Dracula preceded the explosions of the pandemic, because Covid-19 would be considered a refuge on every street corner in Transylvania.

Almost everything on the small screen this year happened long before the disease was known and enraged, and yet the coronavirus still regained consciousness. How can that not be the case? One of the best series of the year, an epic eight-part documentary by Lenox Hill, showed a medical whirlwind in a New York hospital called before the virus got into trouble. That’s all we could think about: What is it now? (The ninth episode, entitled Pandemic, was added a little later by Netflix, which is reasonable) Transplantation, an ABC series imported from Canada, was also a problem in the hospital and unintentionally raised all sorts of questions in the viewer’s mind – among other things: Where’s your mask? But even during a light comedy, never happened, I thought… Oh yeah, remember when teenagers populated the school halls and worried about bruises, first kisses, what they were wearing and who was cool? And by the way, when did they really go to school?

It was impossible to say goodbye to current events. It’s just that there seemed to be more going on this year. And no more television. A lot more. Even with an auxiliary lock, it was not possible to see everything or even anticipate what was happening here and there, between different platforms and services, from video on demand to the oo-oh-oh-oh world of network television. Or with an installation like Netflix, which delivers half a dozen new shipments a week.

Probably, and it seems that people are safer if they watch more television: Self-preservation of the house took more time, and there was often a lack of entertainment because museums, concert halls, cinemas and clubs were closed. The curatorial responsibility of the critic, in turn, seems to increase and become a little confused: If the readers saw more, what else did they see? And why is that? Was it just to escape? Did they make up for the missed show? Were they just happy that they were through the crisis tunnel without visible light?

In the limited number of social situations that I have experienced this year, the conversation has always been drawn to television, and not just because I have monopolized the conversation. People were enthusiastic about the things they had discovered or rediscovered during their stay at home. Knowing this, my critical calculation was to try to lead readers to the show they would later blame themselves for missing the first time. Series like Gambit Queen, my favourite drama of the year, or other leading fiction series that started in 2020 – I Can Destroy You, Great, I know it’s true, ordinary people and the exciting Baghdad Central. One of the advantages of our time is that most things are accessible in a quiet way and through many suppliers.

Mikaela Cole plays in I Can Destroy You



The disadvantages are the few platforms that cost a few dollars. How many television services can a viewer afford? This year, CBS All Access, NBC’s Peacock, HBO Max, AMC+ and Disney+ have been accelerated or re-launched to present an excellent television event in Hamilton. (The fact that the short Quibi platform never entered my critical consciousness may help explain why it took off after six months). More than one reader wondered whether the cable bill really should reflect the cost of food and shelter. That’s a legitimate complaint I was trying to make on a merry-go-round: When I had to choose between two shows, I was attracted to PBS because more people have access to PBS. (This year public television has good crime series, nature shows like The Age of Nature and a classical music series called Now Hear It is a gift). I’ve also tried to show some love for the programs of other networks, but it’s more difficult because you often can’t say much about them. If the content is consciously formulated, criticism seems to be a waste of time.

What strikes me is that some of the networking programs I’ve seen this year have apparently been planned out of necessity. For example, the transplant already mentioned. Or Notre Dame: Our Lady of Paris, a French documentary about the catastrophic fire in the cathedral in 2019, a programme duplicated in English and broadcast in prime time on ABC. I don’t want to stop you from doing this kind of programming, but the motivation seems to be less enlightenment than despair. And with the reduction in television production on Kovid-19 and probably other restrictions this winter, the impact on television content just begins. This year the backlog of programmes was sufficient to maintain a steady flow of new programmes and a captive audience that could be exploited. Which means a long winter break means somebody’s gonna guess. The index is how much content is imported into Netflix, which offered the relative richness of Bollywood and German programs (because they have a large share of the Indian and German market), but this year also offered African and Asian series, some of which were new, including Blood and Water and Queen Sono.

Attempts to use the pandemic or deal with it directly were ambiguous. I really enjoyed it.

Jamie Oliver

The show Keep Cooking and Carry On, inspired by Covid-19, taught people at home to do more with less (especially useful if certain ingredients are missing in the shops). Elsewhere, programs have tried to use blockages as vanity – the coastal elites, as a series of sketches of characters delivered directly to the camera, and communication … that talked about friends who remained friends thanks to a computer – created mixed emotions: Did I want to see a show that reminds me of my daily life? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Like everyone else, I wanted more than a waiter’s holiday when I turned on the TV.

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