2020 was the year when everyone was kind of forced to become TV literate.
For me, every year is a big TV year. I love TV. I have always loved it and the more money is invested into these enormous studios and the more sprawling, cinematic, multi-plotted shows come out, the more I love it. The issue with this is that I am a huge TV snob.
I don’t watch any soaps (anymore) and I don’t watch reality TV either. I think because I found it so repulsively compelling as a teenager, I kind of overdosed on it and now I’m on the wagon. And I don’t aimlessly flick through channels, watching re-runs of mock the week or those renovation shows. What I do watch though are 1) period dramas, 2) filmic, cleverly planned and executed series and seasons of big-budget, big name (often American) programmes and 3) pop-culture moments. So, with my horribly narrow minded and snobbish sensibilities exposed and communicated, here are my big TV moments from 2020.
Tiger King: “All you cool cats and kittens”
This show wasn’t as good as we all thought it would be, right? I mean, the serendipitous combination of it coming out on Netflix around the same time the whole world went into an initial lockdown meant that it was watched by pretty much everyone with a screen, but I really thought it was going to blow my mind having seen endless memes and think pieces online before I actually watched it… I mean, looking back and writing this now I am remembering how crazy aspects of the show seemed (murder! Bigamy! Political ambition!) But at the time it really seemed kinda low key.
Anyway, it’s on this list because that phrase “Hey all you cool cats and kittens” has been lodged in my brain since I heard Carole Baskin say it. It is on a loop. I start emails with it. It has infiltrated my life and so, it was clearly a big TV moment.
Greys Anatomy: Alex leaving Jo for Izzie
I am a person who, until 2020, would have defended Greys Anatomy with my dying breath. Yes, we’re on series 100 basically now, yes, the relationship web is tangled and confusing… but the soundtrack is brilliant, the writing is brilliant, the show is brilliant. Okay? Until Alex left Jo for Izzie. I was absolutely furious and I genuinely shouted NO WAY at my TV. This is a big TV moment because it is SO ANNOYING. And because it’s the first time I’ve had a bad word to say about this otherwise perfect programme.
I May Destroy You: Arabella dedicates her book to Terry
I could write a thesis paper on Michaela Coel’s amazing series. The flawless writing, the remarkable acting, the up-to-the-minute contemporary references and utilisation of technology as integral parts of the plot… but the absolute best bit of it is Arabella and Terry’s friendship. It is at once glossy and big and overblown at the same time as being completely relatable, realistic, and believable. So, after hours of watching their friendship ebb and flow, rise and fall, the moment that Arabella dedicates her hard-won book to her best friend is a gorgeous moment of accomplished television writing.
Sex Education: the girls getting on the bus together
Speaking of female friendships, this scene, which actually isn’t about friendship, spawned a million think pieces and for very good reason. Rather than friendship, this scene demonstrates solidarity and it reminds us that you don’t have to be friends with someone to offer support. Seeing a group of totally different girls, linked by one tragic commonality, band together to bolster one person in need was really special and important. It was shown to us in the series in a perfectly careful and gentle way and performed beautifully by the actors in the scene. A real moment of triumph from a series that can do no wrong.
The Haunting of Bly Manor: all of it
After watching this I went back and watched Hill House again because I was reminded of how amazing the horror series’ creators are. Bly Manor had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through and I was absolutely hooked and invested in every single character. Each episode was brilliant in terms of being a standalone work and as a puzzle piece to the entire story and the flawless incorporation of literary references, plot points and details from Henry James’ original writing was so satisfying (for a ghost story aficionado like moi).
Normal People: Connell’s chain
This was another social media storm. In fact, it inspired its own Instagram account. But Connell’s chain is absolutely a big TV moment from 2020. Everyone was looking forward to Normal People, the adaptation from the best-selling Sally Roony novel, and it did not disappoint. In fact, the series is so brilliant that it exists independently of the book, really, thanks to amazing acting of emotionally charged scenes full of tension of all kinds, and, Connell’s Chain.
The Queens Gambit: Beth beats Borgov
What a wonderful show this was. A perfect example of my ideal: short enough to watch in a day, long enough to cover lots of plotted ground, moody, exciting, beautiful leading lady. This show was gorgeous and although there was information about Heath Ledger trying to make it before his death, which I know would have been brilliant in its own right, actually, I think The Queen’s Gambit came out at the perfect time because it was able to be ade so beautifully. Anyway, the moment where Beth beats Borgov, leading chess campion, in the competition was perfect television: tense, memorable mise en scene, a perfect storm of highly-strung emotion and gorgeous cinematography.
The Crown: everything with Charles and Diana
Perfect casting. Heartbreaking British standoffishness. Terrifying malice. There was nowhere near enough of this in the most recent Netflix series, where Emma Corrin took centre stage as Diana Spencer. I was desperate for more.