Top TV Shows of 2020

24 Dec

I wish I could say I spent the hours indoors these last few months training for the Iron Man triathlon, but I actually spent time in front of a TV screen when I wasn’t in front of my work screen. But when there was this much good TV, and so much ugliness going on in the world outside, television was even more of a refuge than usual. The shows below brought some

The Crown: I’ve enjoyed every season of The Crown, and even muddled through when some early episodes were slow-paced and seemed to offer little narrative reward, due to the stellar acting, writing and visuals (this is still Buckingham Palace, after all). But Season 4 had no dull moments, most likely because of the introduction of two new characters- Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana. Season 4 had a voyeuristic quality, seeing the sad origins of the Prince Charles and Princess Diana story we all knew would end in tragedy, and seeing characters we knew were rotten, notably Camilla. One of the family members this season notes that new members of the family either bend or break. I thought about that as it relates to Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. One bent, and one nearly broke.

Fauda: It came out years ago, but I discovered this Israeli series this spring, and quickly binged all two seasons. It was an action-packed take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and though believability was stretched in some places- I wondered how the main Israeli agent could speak such good Arabic as he went undercover in the West Bank- I thought the pacing was so well-done, first in the West Bank in season one and then in the Gaza Strip in season two. I enjoyed hearing some Arabic here and there (habibi tells me that romance is being discussed). I’m eagerly awaiting season three on Netflix.

Ted Lasso: So well-written and so winningly lead by Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso is the optimistic show we all need. How do you explain a Division II football coach being asked to coach an English Premier League soccer team? As the show explains it, he was hired by the team’s new owner, who hired him to sabotage the team, which she got from her boorish ex-husband in a divorce, and which she hopes to drive into the ground. So how does Ted Lasso earn the respect of the team and its English fans? With his winning attitude and endless supply of folksy expressions, of course (his tangent on the fabulousness of Alfonso Ribeiro is a highlight). I just may rewatch it. It’s that delightful.

The Last Dance: Another relic of the springtime quarantine, The Last Dance was something to look forward to for four weeks in a row. Did it take 20 years to put this documentary together? Who knows, but it was just what we needed at the time. The show that launched a thousand Jordan memes, this look at stardom and solitude in the person of one Michael Jordan was revealing about the man, but also the times, when If you had visions of basketball stardom in the 90’s, you had to step aside, because it was Jordan’s show, for better or for worse. The structure of the documentary was compelling, interspersing footage from Jordan’s final season with his early years in North Carolina. All in all, it was so entertaining and meticulously done.

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