Photo Edit by Alek Sabin
After getting furloughed in March because of Covid-19, I’ve had a lot of time to watch TV this year. Here are some of my favorites that stood out.
I wasn’t originally interested in watching this show, but enough people whose opinions I trust kept telling me to, and boy am I glad I took their advice. This is one of the most aggressively wholesome things I’ve ever seen, it’s essentially Paddington for adults. I’m a pessimistic bastard, and held out against its constant kindness but couldn’t even make it 15 minutes into the first episode before I was completely won over. It’s impossible to not love this show, it kills you with kindness and sucks you in just like Lasso does to those around him because it’s kindness is so damn sincere. I need 5 more seasons immediately or my mental health will plummet.
How To With John Wilson
It’s fitting that Nathan Fielder produced this, as How To operates under the same mechanisms that Nathan for You did – an impossibly awkward central character, and the core truth that people will tell you the weirdest shit you’ve ever heard if you’re filming them. John Wilson takes simple questions and concepts to their extreme, and in the process crafts something that is simultaneously hilarious, introspective and heartwarming.
The Eric Andre Show – Season 5
The only show to make me laugh so hard I sweat returned to do just that. While the lack of Hannibal Buress (he quits the show in episode 2) was certainly felt, they somehow turn that into a deepening of the lore of the show. The sketch where an eagle kidnaps his baby was probably the hardest I laughed this year. I’m so pissed I never thought of “Seal Team 69” first, it’s application against a good sport in guest Blake Griffin is hysterical.
Desus & Mero
In a year that saw all late-night shows transition to remote filming over zoom, Desus & Mero is the only show that actually arguably got better with the pivot. Not an ounce of their chemistry was lost over zoom, they didn’t miss a beat in their ability to play off each other. Their profile of guests rose, scoring interviews with Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Barack Obama. 2020 showed that these two aren’t the up-and-comers any more, they’re the standard other shows have to try to match now.
The Good Lord Bird
Thirty seconds into this show I was in love with it. What catches you off guard about this series following John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry is just how fucking funny it is. Some of the hardest times I laughed this year came from this show. It’s a remarkable work of tone and timing with some of the sharpest dialogue put on screen this year. Ethan Hawke is perhaps the only person who could play John Brown, and every second he’s on screen is magnificent. There are queer readings of this show and the character of Onion that I would love to read by people much smarter and better at writing than myself.
The Queen’s Gambit
I could watch Anya Taylor-Joy in anything, and her performance as Beth Harmon is a new career high. She dominates every single scene like Beth does in her chess matches. Scott Frank is one of the most undervalued storytellers out there, and with Queen’s Gambit crafts what successfully equates to a 7 hour movie that’s worth every single moment. What’s great is you don’t have to understand the intricacies of chess to get sucked into this because the character work is so strong. People have jokingly said it’s the best sports movie of the year but they’re not wrong. Frank films these chess matches like it’s a boxing movie, going hit for hit and keeping the look and pace of these multiple sequences fresh and non repetitive. It’s truly a thrill of a work. Scott Frank forever.
The Boys – Season 2
I was a big fan of season one of this show. It was a violently hilarious meta-take on superheroes, and succeeded in a balance where if you’re sick of superheroes you’ll love it but if all you care about is superheroes you’ll love it too. But even as a fan, I was not prepared for how excellent this season would be. This show went from good to great. I was constantly stunned each week at how much this show had a preternatural finger on the pulse of our society in ways I hope I don’t have to explain to you too much. Stormfront made for an especially timely villain with an excellent performance from Aya Cash. Antony Starr remains elite at playing a sociopath. The show remained viciously critical of superhero culture and retained it’s dark humor and excessive violence. This season contained immensely biting commentary about our world, corporations and institutions of power and using entertainment to promote propaganda. For a show that had an episode where a dude gets killed by a ten foot long penis, it was one of the most thrilling, thought-provoking things I watched this year. I am immensely excited to see where they take it next season.