If 2020 was a tragedy, then – as Karl Marx might have predicted, if they had had television in his day (what would he have done with The simpsons?) – 2020 TV was a joke. Sarah Palin in bear costume rapping on big asses! TV beheading of a baseball fan! And in perhaps the most iconic moment in television history, as the pandemic decimated new shows, Fox actually aired a show called Celebrity party they were nothing but the withered ghosts of the famous old man sitting on sofas, staring in amazement at the televisions. They found it, for the most part, to be no more understandable than the rest of us. Ozzy Osbourne, watching The masked singer, was speechless as the mask was removed from the face of 20-year-old pop star Jackie Evancho: this? “He wondered. Somehow, without a doubt, Evancho was returning the favor.
Television would undoubtedly have had a tumultuous 2020 even if no one in America had caught worse than a cold. This was expected to be the year of the streaming war, with two big guns – WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock – joining the fight for the first time, each with tens of thousands of movies and shows. ‘TV shows in their arsenals, as well as studios to produce more. (HBO Max’s rights to Friends, one of the most popular shows in television history, would have made it a formidable contender on its own.) And several others have also entered the fray, including Discovery +, Apple TV +, Disney +, and Quibi.
The new streaming services were set to shake up the use of television, but no one could know exactly how. Would they erase the broadcast television? Or cannibalize Netflix and other existing streamers? Or just cancel each other out? The industry nervously awaited a response.
Twelve months later, he’s still waiting. Television was certainly overthrown in 2020, but it’s hard to say exactly by what. In the first four months of the year, say the folks at Nielsen, broadcast and cable TV audiences jumped 25%. Show as Grey’s Anatomy who were burning new episodes completed before the COVID production lockdown began had their highest ratings in years.
But reruns of 30 years of Daddy’s Girls streaming on Hulu, where viewers watch 11 million hours of the show in April alone. Netflix added a record 28 million subscribers in the first nine months of the year, and the new Disney + channel, no doubt aided by desperate parents to appease hordes of deranged children kicked out of school by the virus, sold 86.8 million booming subscribers in its first year.
By the end of the year, it was clear that the gains from streaming were holding up, unlike those from broadcast and cable. The Big Five broadcast networks lost at least 10 percent of viewers, and one – the CW, which targets 18 to 34-year-olds – fell 25 percent. The cable didn’t do much better; Excluding news channels – we’ll get to that in a minute – the average prime-time cable audience has dropped 10%.
One of the factors in the broadcast decline was clearly the wrong timing of the pandemic, which triggered production lockdowns precisely as broadcast networks were prepping pilots for their new fall shows. The result was a fall program consisting largely of inexpensive reality shows, reruns from smaller and largely unseen cable networks, and lunkhead programming contested off the Canadian tundra.
So here’s one last chance to blame Donald Trump. Media coverage always siphons part of the broadcast audience towards cable news, and 2020 really was no exception. The most striking evidence was on election night, when cable news drew over 30 million viewers, eclipsing broadcast networks’ ratings. But the cable news raided viewers throughout the year. fox Tucker Carlson tonight averaging 5.4 million viewers per night in October, the highest average audience in cable news history. All these eyeballs had to come from somewhere.
So, the supposedly watershed year of the streaming wars really didn’t prove much, especially since we still don’t know exactly when the pandemic will be over and everyone will return to work or life. ‘school. When that happens, will Netflix and Disney + lose some of those subscribers? Or has the old one-episode-a-week television model been destroyed by the cable frenzy?
About the only thing we’ve learned for sure is that Generation Q isn’t as dumb as Hollywood thinks it is. Quibi, a demo streaming service from the early 1920s, delivered TV content in short bursts of 10 minutes to people watching on their cellphones. (The name was short for “Quick Bites”) It died in October, just six months after its launch, leaving thousands of self-proclaimed some of the best and brightest in Hollywood intelligentsia wandering the streets, without use. Who said there was no Santa Claus?
As crazy as 2020 may have been for television, it still had a lot of highlights. The best thing on your TV screen this year was Mr. Jones, an unrecognized Polish-Ukrainian-British film that could not be seen in the United States until Hulu released it this summer. A chilling account of how the Moscow foreign press, led by The New York Times, covered Joseph Stalin’s deliberate famine of millions of Ukrainians in 1932, Mr. Jones is an excellent cinema. Calling it a TV show, however, may be overkill. So I’m just going to say, watch it, you haven’t already, and then start tuning your VCR for the rest of the year.
10 (tie). I know it’s true (HBO). Mark Ruffalo was simply brilliant playing twins, a wildly unbalanced schizophrenic and literal brother’s keeper. A painfully difficult but extremely rewarding visual experience.
10 (tie). Big sky (ABC). A no-frills crime thriller that goes straight to the throat.
9. The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix). I would have loved to attend the pitch meeting for this show: “So, Max, this is a thriller about an emotionally fractured orphan in the face of the terrifying emotional stress of big failures.” But damn it if that doesn’t work. I watched seven episodes in two nights and wanted more.
8. the conners (ABC). To my astonishment, Roseanne sans Roseanne continues to be funny, poignant and the only true standard-bearer in television for the American working class.
7. Kill Eve (BBC America). It turns out that even the sociopathic assassins in the intelligence agencies have issues with their bosses. The ongoing murderous chess match between Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer makes for the best good / bad duel of this TV, but don’t ask me which of them is the right one.
6. Stateless (Netflix). A de-glamorized Yvonne Strahovski plays a young Australian who has strayed through the twisted maze of Australian immigration law in this depoliticized drama about the Kafkaesque world of political refugees. Its Down-Under framework is a reminder that immigration law is a torturous mess, whether Donald Trump is involved or not.
5. Chi (Show time). This slice of downtown life drama faced a tough task in 2020 when one of its most attractive characters – a food truck operator who has stood up to the temptations and pressure of life from the rue – abruptly disappeared after allegations of misconduct by the actor who played him, Jason Mitchell. Fortunately, series creator Lena Waithe and her writing team were more than up to the challenge.
4. You better call Saul (AMC). On the verge of entering its sixth season, this prequel to breaking Badsurvived the spectacle that spun him, and for good reason. contrary to breaking Bad, in which literally every character was a murderous sleazebag, You better call SaulThe protagonists of, Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, take on the roles of funny and mostly kind, if not always quite lawful lawyers.
3. Laurel canyon (Epix). A documentary about the explosively talented folk-rock scene that evolved in the hills just above Sunset Boulevard, Laurel canyonis a warm remembrance of things from the past for all who were a part of the 1960s, and an instructive text about why we loved it so much for all who weren’t.
2. Country (Show time). Country, the story of a paranoid CIA counter-intelligence officer, began in 2011 as executive producer Howard’s sort of mea culpa for the bellicose glorification of national security in his counterterrorism drama 24. Over the years, it has turned into a tirade against fascist betrayal. And by the time it wrapped up its eighth season last spring, the circle had come full circle again with CIA agent Carrie Mathison (played with exquisite imbalance by Claire Danes) working against her former enemies in Moscow. Through every twist and turn, you could never be sure if Carrie was a visionary or, literally, crazy. Television has never had a better spy drama.
1.The stewardess (HBO Max). Kaley Cuoco bursts out of the dippy-comedy chrysalis The Big Bang Theory in a multidimensional role in which she is not only funny, but scared, frantic and tireless as a drunk and promiscuous flight attendant who finds herself suspected of murder by cops and criminals. She may be guilty. You will like it anyway.