The Best Diversions from the Worst Year
The year 2020 will be iconic for many reasons – the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown of the world being the main one. Beyond that, one could argue that, in spite of (or because of) the coronavirus, 2020 was one of the greatest and most unifying years of television that we've had in recent memory. A truly iconic year of TV. Popular culture and media consumption over the past 20 years has become more and more fractured as people are now able to stream whatever they want to watch on their own terms and the societal bonds forged by appointment television are now relegated to sports. Streaming services have contributed greatly to this fracturing as they wage bidding wars for I.P. and sitcom reruns, resulting in the average viewer feeling lost and disillusioned as to why The Office is no longer on Netflix (I refuse to use Peacock...but that's another story). Most water-cooler conversations (via Zoom) are now are people pleading with their co-workers to not spoil the latest show, because they (a) didn't have time to binge it in one weekend or (b) are still trying to get a password for HBO Max from their father-in-law.
Despite all this something interesting happened as stay-at-home orders spread through the country (and more passwords were shared). More and more people were watching their televisions, and they were watching it communally with friends and family as a way to connect through social distancing. By way of consequence Netflix and ESPN both capitalized on this and released two of the most unifying and polarizing documentaries – Tiger King and The Last Dance – and these both became cultural landmarks and meme-fodder for this new world of social distancing we were all grappling with. At their core, what was so special about these shows is that they captured American society on a large scale over a decent amount of time that helped the world feel a little bit smaller and more under control. The shows provided ways for us the cut the tensions amongst our friends and families as we argued about who to vote for, whether of not wear masks, and if we should cancel Christmas. Joe Exotic and Michael Jordan gave us a reprieve from the devastation surrounding us outside and provided more trivial things for families to argue about. Did Carole Baskins kill her husband? Will Michael Jordan take it personally? How will Joe Exotic dye his hair in prison? Did Scottie Pippen have a good summer?
As we gain more distance from the onset of the pandemic, I think Tiger King and The Last Dance will become historical media markers and provide for us and remind us of the little bit of light and reprieve TV was able to offer us during one of the most tragic years in generations.
As for movies, things are a little more confusing. Movie theaters were forced to shut-down and every major media company was forced to pivot and start experimenting with in-home releases. So, while movies were being watched, they were no longer being watched in theaters, and rather major Hollywood tentpoles were being imbibed on television screens, tablets, and phone screens all from the comfort of home. If COVID-19 showed us anything it's that seeing movies in the theater isn't as important for your average consumer and annually (as ticket prices continue to increase) it'll become harder and harder for the average family to justify a $75 trip to the theaters.
That being said, I don't think the Hollywood studios will completely divest from the theater chains, and the cineplex will survive, but I wouldn't be surprised if it became less of a cultural gathering place that it has been up until now. We've all tasted the convenience of in-home premier access, and I can testify myself, that after having returned to a theater to see a movie, I did not miss it and at times felt very uncomfortable and regretful of leaving the house. The coming year is going to be a pivotal year for movies that prioritize a theatrical release and while I'm not fully doom and gloom I'm not feeling super optimistic about the fate of the cineplex. Maybe said another way, I'm buying stock in GameStop, not AMC.
The Carole Baskins Honorary Top Ten TV Shows of 2020
- The Queen’s Gambit (S1)
- Ted Lasso (S1)
- Better Call Saul (S5)
- Mandalorian (S2)
- Rick & Morty (S4)
- Ozark (S3)
- Tiger King
- The Last Dance
- The Flight Attendant (S1)
- The Boys (S2)
Top Ten Movies of 2020 in Honor of Chadwick Boseman
- i'm thinking of ending things
- An American Pickle
- Da 5 Bloods
- The Invisible Man
- Palm Springs
On to Music...
This was a weird year for music for me. COVID-19 was very challenging as we all adjusted to new rhythms and learning all the technical wonders of Zoom. So there were many moments after a long day of sitting in front of a screen where I just wanted to listen to the nü metal and alternative bands of my youth. So I spent a lot of time listening to System of a Down, TOOL, and blink-182. I didn't have the energy to seek out new music like I usually do, and I just wanted the comfort of Tom DeLonge and Serj Tankian. So I listened to a lot of music from my high school days and it was glorious. In honor of this I'm adding a "most listened to" list, because much of the music I listened to wasn't from this year (let alone this decade). I hope you'll check them out. I'm also including my normal Top Ten songs from the year, so please enjoy that as well.
The Billy Corgan Honorary Top Ten Songs of 2020
- Break My Heart by Dua Lipa
- Cool Again by Kane Brown
- Nah Nah Nah by Kanye West
- Never Really Over by Katy Perry
- Goodbye to All That by Sufjan Stevens
- Alone by Zzo
- All the Wine by Bartees Strange
- More Than My Hometown by Morgan Wallen
- He Will Hold Me Fast by The Ritual Kids
- Beautiful Boy - Ultimate Mix by John Lennon
The Maynard James Keenan Honorary Most Listened To Albums of 2020
- Songs for the Church (2020) by The Ritual Kids
- Until the End of the World (1991) by Various Artists
- Lateralus (2001) by Tool
- Temporary Bliss EP (2020) by Zzo
- The Ascension (2020) by Sufjan Stevens
- Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy EP (2020) by Bartees Strange
- Toxicity (2001) by System of a Down
- ...And Justice For All (1988) by Metallica
- Enema of the State (1999) by blink-182
- Siamese Dream (1993) by The Smashing Pumpkins