The working year for 2020 is almost over. We’re about to kick back to mainline Christmas ham and Coronas until the new year. It’s really the perfect time to catch up on all the TV shows you didn’t watch over the year, patting your new potbelly and sighing with bliss like Santa getting a gobby.
We’re trying not to judge you for needing to watch all this TV now, as though we weren’t all plunged into a sudden lockdown with nothing but a flickering box to keep us company.
Nah, I can’t help myself – if you didn’t watch all of these TV shows, but you had the time to master a sourdough starter, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Here’s PEDESTRIAN.TV’s favourite TV shows of 2020:
At Home Alone Together
ABC’s At Home Alone Together was the chaotic COVID show we never knew we needed. While the whole country was in lockdown earlier this year, respected journalist Ray Martin returned to our screens to guide us through the pandemic poke fun at himself and our collective situation in a comedy-lifestyle show, with help from the likes of Becky Lucas, Cameron James and Christiaan Van Vuuren.
Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
Our very own Aunty Donna boys teamed up with The Office‘s Ed Helms to make chaotic sketch show Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun on Netflix. If you’re a fan of their absurd YouTube videos or wild live shows, it’s a joy to see them reach a whole new audience without compromising on their brand of subversive and ridiculous humour. And we frothed all the Aussie references…
The second half of the final season of BoJack Horseman, the sad horse TV show, dropped way back in January. Somehow the existential animated comedy, starring Will Arnett, managed to tie up the story in a way that felt true to the characters without relying on easy moments of fan service or copping out (like if BoJack had actually died). Instead, BoJack is finally held accountable for his actions and starts again to work through his feelings of helplessness and shame, as his friends build their lives without him.
It’s true that The Crown is fiction, but it’s deliciously salacious fiction, isn’t it? Season four introduced Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and her fraught relationship with Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), as well as Gillian Anderson‘s spot-on impression of the austere British PM Margaret Thatcher. Season four had an entire episode set in Australia, which took some wild liberties with the aesthetics and geography of 1980s Brisbane and Canberra. Throughout, the Royals each struggle with the requisite sense of “duty” and their slow march into irrelevance. Too brutal a summation? We stand by it.
David Tennant‘s turn as British serial killer Dennis Nilsen is genuinely chilling. Nilsen is believed to have killed 12 to 15 people in London between 1978 and 1983, and was caught when a plumber found human remains Nilsen had tried to flush down the toilet. Des is the compelling true crime drama of 2020, distinct because it doesn’t gratuitously depict the murders themselves, but centres on Nilsen’s relationship with his biographer, Brian Masters, and the efforts of police to get justice for his victims and their families.
Emily In Paris
Netflix’s Emily In Paris is pure trash TV. People took issue with everything from Emily (Lily Collins)’s age to her ineptitude as an apparent social media professional to the broader depiction of the French, but we lapped it up anyway. The worst moments on the show came with its attempts at light feminist discourse, while the best featured her hot new neighbour, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo). We’re only human.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay
Josh Thomas returns with his second TV show, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, after the success of the very moving and carefully crafted Please Like Me. Thomas stars as Nicholas, who, after his father’s death, becomes the legal guardian of his teenage half-sisters, Matilda (Kayla Cromer), who is autistic, and Genevieve (Maeve Press). While the show’s humour does feel tempered by its US network and assumed audience, it still boasts plenty of heartwarming and devastatingly funny moments.
Elle Fanning stars as the young Catherine the Great in cheeky historical(-ish) comedy The Great, opposite Nicholas Hoult as her horny, uncaring and basically useless husband, Peter III. As she learns how to inhabit the Russian court, Catherine plots to kill her husband so she can take over as the ruler of Russia and introduce her subjects to the scientific method and the wonders of art and literature.
I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel‘s wrenching but often slyly hilarious comedy-drama series I May Destroy You stars Coel herself as Arabella, a young London writer with a blooming public profile, who is the victim of a date-rape in episode one. Arabella and her friends are forced to reevaluate their sexual experiences past and present in light of their new understanding of consent and sexual assault as Arabella attempts to navigate the justice system.
The Last Dance
ESPN and Netflix’s Emmy-winning 10-part Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance was a slam dunk for basketball fans and less sporty types alike. With a strong focus on his last season with the Chicago Bulls, the miniseries encapsulates on Jordan’s career, using never-before-aired footage and interviews with everyone from the man himself to fellow NBA legends Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
Little Fires Everywhere
For fans of Big Little Lies and The Undoing, Little Fires Everywhere is a classic TV-drama-for-mums, starring Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and Joshua Jackson. The show draws upon the tried and true formula of two women from different social stratum whose lives collide and become intertwined and overly complicated, grappling with ideas around motherhood, family secrets, the value of art, and identity.
The Mandalorian returned to Disney+ for season two in 2020, giving Star Wars fans another dose of the troublingly adorable Baby Yoda. This season, we even found out Baby Yoda’s backstory, including his real name. The series’ weekly instalments have added immeasurably to the ever-expanding universe’s lore, as the title character (Pedro Pascal) attempts to return Baby Yoda/The Child to the Jedi.
Based on the 2018 cult novel by Sally Rooney, Normal People gave us two gifts – Irish actor Paul Mescal and his character Connell’s hot chain necklace. It’s the story of the complicated yet intoxicating relationship between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell, who covertly hook up as teens despite Marianne being the ‘weird girl’ at school. At university, Marianne has all the social cache, and the couple struggle to get together and not hurt one another.
The first part of the second season of Pen15, a comedy starring adults Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as 13-year-old versions of themselves, acting opposite real teenagers, landed this year. The sometimes delightfully cringe-worthy (it’s the horror of recognition) TV show perfectly captures the deep awkwardness and confusion of early puberty, but also the comfort and validation of true friendship.
The Queen’s Gambit
Inspiring a legion of people to take up chess again, or even for the first time, The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned chess prodigy rising through the competitive ranks while battling a pretty serious drug and alcohol addiction. It was officially Netflix’s most popular TV show in Australia for 2020, so if you haven’t watched it yet – what are you doing?
Season two of comedian Ramy Youssef‘s cutting and clever comedy series Ramy follows Youssef as Ramy, a millennial Egyptian-American. He grapples with being a 20-something in precarious modern America (see: being addicted to sugar and pornography in the midst of a quarter-life crisis) and the traditional structures of his Muslim cultural background.
The plight of the Rose family – cast out of high society and into the motel business in bumfuck nowhere – finished after six seasons this year, taking home a well-deserved clean sweep at the Emmys. To think that this is the last we’ll get to see of this warm hug of a sitcom, featuring Catherine O’Hara as the iconic, extremely fashionable former soap star Moira Rose makes me want to throw myself into the river (just a little bit of melodrama in her honour).
ABC’s Stateless took out all the major TV drama categories at this year’s AACTA Awards – and for good reason. Featuring standout performances from Cate Blanchett, Fayssal Bazzi, Asher Keddie and Yvonne Strahovski, the drama is inspired by the true story of Cornelia Rau, a German-born Australian who was trapped in an on-shore detention centre for 10 months in 2004-5, and thereby illuminates issues with our punitive mandatory detention regime.
There is no end of year list for 2020 without Tiger King. Widespread lockdowns meant basically everyone watched the documentary about the eccentric Joe Exotic and his private zoo. And while it first seemed like a straightforward story of animal cruelty, Tiger King grew increasingly confronting, examining the tragic death of Exotic’s partner, Travis Maldonado, the mysterious disappearance of conservationist Carole Baskin‘s husband Don Lewis, and the crime that would undo Exotic – hiring someone to murder her.
HBO’s The Vow focused on the disturbing NXIVM self-development cult, which, in reality, saw women branded and sex-trafficked for the pleasure of their leader Keith Raniere. Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison in October. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage from within NXIVM, The Vow tracks the efforts of former members of the cult to expose Raniere and his accomplices, like Smallville‘s Allison Mack.