10 events that took place in 2020 (we think)
Remember, that week in January when everyone watched the Netflix doc Cheer and you thought you might take up cheerleading? How’s that going?
The Renegade challenge
Choreographer Jalaiah Harmon found TikTok fame early in 2020 with this dance craze. Don’t learn it: if you are over 14, you’re far too old.
Brad and Jen were a ‘thing’ again
Pitt and Aniston shared a hug at the Golden Globes, sparking a million stories. Sorry guys: you caused this by making a tiny bit of physical contact.
There was a Love Island!
In February, for some reason! And pretty much no one remembers a single thing about it! But Sean Paul did perform for the villa, at least.
Jennifer Lopez and Shakira played the Super Bowl show
At the time, JLo failing to bring out Ja Rule felt like the worst thing that would happen in 2020. If only we knew.
What won best picture? Come on: think. This was a question in your Zoom quiz, wasn’t it? It was Parasite. Which feels like 900 years ago now.
Cats: The Butthole Cut
Time is a flat circle and all that, but can you believe we obsessed over a version of Cats where you could see their backsides for a whole week in April?
Finding out what Watermelon Sugar was actually about
In retrospect, nobody should have been playing that song at their child’s socially distanced birthday party.
Selling Sunset’s sudden separation
After a full series of bragging about her perfect marriage, Chrishell found out – by text – she was getting divorced. We felt bad for her! For three seconds.
EastEnders’ dishwasher murder
Because the year wasn’t miserable enough, EastEnders served up a grim end for Chantelle: impaled on a knife after being pushed by husband Gray.
Two-pint plastic cups
The wrist strain of holding them up, the likelihood that you’ll need a wee two songs in, the hideous queues to secure them just for your mate to spill half of his down your coat … We’ll have it all back, please.
Too many support acts
What we wouldn’t give to be allowed out of the house long enough for a seven-act all-dayer at a venue with no wifi …
Grainy gig photos
Remember the thrill of trawling through a million shots on your phone in the quest for one good enough to post online? Sierra filter, we hardly knew thee.
Many a gig pal (or at least a moment of internal amusement) has been made from simply being squished up so close to someone that you can’t help but get involved in their conversation.
The encore v last train dilemma
Do you miss them nail that rarity or risk the inevitability of the rail replacement? The year has known its fair share of tension, but it hasn’t known THIS.
Unicorn Feng Shui
Lockdown has meant some fine additions to the “kids gatecrashing work calls” subgenre. Budding interior designer Scarlett interrupted her doctor mum’s BBC interview to discuss the best placement for her unicorn picture. After newsreader Christian Fraser offered his advice, Scarlett demanded to know his name then ignored his suggestion. Classic.
Cringe rating … 1/5. Quite cute, really
Spud U Like?
Newsflash: video meetings are boring. Unless, that is, your boss has accidentally transformed herself into a potato. In March, Washington resident Rachele Clegg’s photo of her, a human colleague and a buried spud with sad eyes went viral on Twitter. The latter was actually Lizet Ocampo, a political director turned haunted Mrs Potato Head, courtesy of a video filter.
Cringe rating … 2/5. Funny as opposed to properly embarrassing
In March, while self-isolating, Boris Johnson held a Very Important Meeting not on a closed network but on a £15.99-a-month Zoom account. A screenshot was then posted, revealing the meeting and user IDs, exposing it to Zoom bombers. Last month, an apparently flustered Johnson (it can be hard to tell) kept accidentally muting himself during a Commons speech.
Cringe rating … 3/5. Embarrassing for us as a nation
Woah, is that a penis?
Zoom’s easy, really: you unmute if you’re talking and pop your camera on only if you’re dressed. What you don’t do is carry your laptop to the loo, like #poorJennifer. Then there was student Brent, who wandered about “as nature intended” in front of a gallery of shocked faces at a uni lecture. The less said about (now ex-) New Yorker scribe Jeffrey Toobin’s Zoom mishap the better.
Cringe rating … 4/5. Quite hard to look people in the eye afterwards
May I suggest this clip – of Euphoria actor Lukas Gage attempting a housebound Zoom audition only to hear the very-much-not-muted voice of British director Tristram Shapeero feigning sympathy for all “these poor people” forced to slum it in “tiny apartments” – for next year’s best picture Oscar? It has everything: drama, twisted humour, sweaty bum embarrassment.
Cringe rating … 5/5. Open-letter-of-apology levels of embarrassment
UK’s First Ever Penguin Gender Reveal Party
The nearby penguins didn’t react – because they are penguins – but Holly Willoughby lost it at the guest of honour’s name: Squirt.
Alison Hammond Interviews a Tree
“How does it feel to be nominated for European Tree of the Year?” Hammond asked. “Very exciting,” replied the tree (according to a nearby tree whisperer).
Exclusive: Whitney Houston’s Hologram
The late R&B titan performed to Eamonn and Ruth, who did that annoying thing of recording it all on her phone, even as it was being broadcast on TV.
80-Year-Old: My Passionate First Night With Toyboy
“We used a whole tube of KY Jelly,” revealed Iris. “I felt as if I’d been riding a horse.” They are now happily married.
The First Ever Christmas Song Written for Dogs
The team played it live to a room full of disinterested hounds in Essex. “There was a bit of confusion going on there,” commented Phil.
Crabby, out of shape, mooching around in a dressing gown … Tony Soprano is a big 2020 mood. Those who dived back into HBO’s mob opera via Now TV got to luxuriate in the richest of screen storytelling and may even have revised their take on the ambiguous ending.
Total sledge: is Orson Welles’s career cornerstone really all that? Months ahead of David Fincher’s torrid behind-the-scenes drama Mank, iPlayer presented Citizen Kane free in the dark days of May, part of an extremely welcome care package of vintage RKO classics.
Netflix securing the rights to this poppy 90s sitcom – starring the R&B star Brandy as a teen navigating LA high-school life – offered comfort to newbies and closure to UK fans, since Channel 4 never got round to screening all of its six seasons.
The West Wing
Imagine a world run by smart people who genuinely want to do the right thing: that was Aaron Sorkin’s fast-talking presidential power fantasy. But did it warp our political expectations? All 4 dropped the whole thing in the heated run-up to the US election so we could debate.
The Karate Kid
If you burned through this year’s TV hit Cobra Kai, the daft but heartfelt sequel to The Karate Kid, the obvious next move was to revisit the 1984 original (also on Netflix), even just to see how the stars had aged. Turns out it really stands up (on one leg, ready to kick you in the face).
A whiteboard where the total number of surviving humans is calculated and routinely revised downward might not seem to offer much escapism from 2020’s horrors. But viewers pounced on the iPlayer’s savvy box-setting of this mid-2000s sci-fi outlier.
Many of us checked back in with this 2011 pandemic-response thriller, either as a morbid goof or to see just how close Steven Soderbergh’s deeply researched movie got to replicating the real thing. With all our newfound expertise, the answer would seem to be: scarily so …
Chains: Normal People
He was a boy, she was a girl: could the BBC have made it any more obvious? What we didn’t predict, however, was the nation’s sudden love of Argos silver chains.
Chess: The Queen’s Gambit
Who would have thought that Netflix (founded in 1997) would single-handedly give a sexy PR boost to chess (created in the sixth century AD)?
Stanley Tucci making a Negroni
A double shot of gin. A shot of sweet vermouth. A single shot of Campari. Many lingering shots of Stanley Tucci shaking his cocktail. A safe, yet smouldering power.
CNN touchscreen guy John King
The indefatigable CNN anchor and chief national correspondent was the most captivating part of the US election coverage – or was that just our collective sleep deprivation talking?
Margaret Thatcher: The Crown
On the one hand, it’s Gillian Anderson. On the other hand: how was this allowed to happen?!
‘You know what spreads faster than any virus … fear’
Pitbull: I Believe That We Will Win (World Anthem)
‘Kinda hope we’re here for ever, There’s nobody on these streets / If you told me that the world’s endin’, Ain’t no other way that I can spend it’
Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber: Stuck With U
‘Is this a sovereign nation Or just a fascist state? / You better look out people, ’fore it gets too late’
Eric Clapton and Van Morrison: Stand and Deliver
‘I can’t reach but I can ring / You can’t touch but you can, you can … sing!’
Bono: Let Your Love Be Known
‘Are we all just pretending / That the world isn’t ending?’
Sinéad Harnett: Quarantine Queen
Toast à la Nigella, double buttered and garnished with flakes of sea salt.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s macaroni (in a pot).
The Florence Pugh Instagram Special: chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, tuna and … hot sauce?
Ram-don: packet noodles with sirloin steak served hurriedly by the family from Parasite while they try to cover up the mother of all frauds.
Tacos to the chateau, please (served every 15 minutes by Snoop Dogg until you can’t think of anything else).
The Freddie Mercury Bake Off showstopper cake … or was it René from ’Allo ’Allo?
A nice glass of Count Dracula’s Transylvanian claret.
The Cameos that could be yours for a small – or not-so-small – fee
Barry from EastEnders: £30
Post-Extras, are his £30 shoutouts simply life imitating art? We don’t even know any more.
Value: Seems about right
Big Keith: £41.50
Want to ask The Office’s Big Keith if he’s ever experienced paranormal activity? Of course you do. And it’s free! (for questions, £41.50 for videos).
Value: Always read the small print
Katie Hopkins: £41.50
Twitter might have permanently banned her hateful speech, but hey: why not fund her awful existence via video messaging?
Value: Free would be too expensive
Tuna Melts My Heart: £41.50
If you’ve ever wanted a video message from (the owner of) a weird chihuahua that became Insta-famous in 2013 for roughly a fortnight.
Value: Not good. The dog doesn’t even bother saying hi
Anthony Scaramucci: £45.65
Remember him? Loudmouthed Trump aide for all of 11 days before getting sacked?
Value: Compared to what he would’ve been paid by the Donald: great. Compared to what you might want to pay: not so much
John Cleese: £273
Want a nice video message? Wrong guy: Cleese charges extra for not being rude. “I could say your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” he kindly offers on his profile page.
Value: Pricey, but that’s one high-calibre insult
Carole Baskin: £248
£248 for a shoutout from a Tiger King star? Weird, but not as weird as the message someone duped her into filming: a dedication to Rolf Harris, the wording of which is too off-colour to repeat here.
Value: If you can prank her, cheap at twice the price
Rhys James: £830
The standup comedian’s £830 price tag makes him the most expensive British comic on video-messaging site Cameo by a cool £500. AKA 28 Omid Djalilis.
Value: Do you even need to ask?
Four times we lived vicariously through our televisions
Partying in Ibiza: White Lines
It will be some time before we’re allowed to rub sweaty, sunburnt shoulders with strangers on a dancefloor. But squint and you can just about imagine yourself in that euphoric crowd, instead of slumped on your sofa, telling yourself that dipping oatcakes into supermarket hummus counts as “tapas”.
After-work drinks: Industry
They’re the kind of drinks that end up with a meal at Nobu followed by a Tuesday all-nighter partying with drag queens, but the most enviable part was watching a group of colleagues decompress in the pub, spilling tequila shots on the way back to a crammed table.
Hugging relatives: Schitt’s Creek
We might not want to live in a motel room with no lock next to our parents, but there was something bittersweet about seeing the Rose family spend quality time together in such close proximity. By its final season, relations thawed to the point where Moira and Alexis could hug without wincing.
Beach holiday and gossip: My Brilliant Friend
Ah, the unrequited crushes of adolescence, captured in all their agonising glory. This sumptuous Elena Ferrante adaptation provided us with no end of beautiful scenery in Ischia, with swimming, sunbathing and reading on the beach. But it also gave us far more precious gifts: gossip, and drama with a capital D.
(The much-hyped Netflix rival that lasted six months)
Reese Witherspoon narrates BBC footage of big cats with a feminist slant. “Getting that belief in yourself, that’s what growing up is all about,” she opines as two female cheetahs slaughter an impala.
Thanks a Million
Celebrities surprise proles they happen to know by giving them a million dollars. Oh wait, it’s $100,000 (of Quibi’s money), and they have to give half of it to someone else. Should have been called “generous tip”.
Murder House Flip
Basically, it’s Homes Under the Hammer, if it only featured properties where someone had met their grisly demise.
Fight Like a Girl
Female wrestling stars help young women struggling with a personal issue. In one episode, the Bella Twins try to cheer up a woman after the death of her mother.
A revolutionary idea: “weather news stories, as well as a national forecast”. Reminds me of an old show I used to watch, I think it was called “the weather”.
1 Sarah Silverman Comes out best, purely for attempting a sheen of self-awareness that none of the other performers could hit with a truncheon.
2 Maya Rudolph Competent, but not particularly enthusiastic. Honestly the best that anyone could hope for in this situation.
3 Jimmy Fallon Barely in it, hides behind his sunglasses. Seems to hate the whole thing, and that is to his credit.
4 Amy Adams Actually, genuinely quite good?
5 Leslie Odom Jr Also pretty good, actually.
6 Norah Jones Good, and smart enough to utilise a dog for distraction.
7 James Marsden Working his inherent forgettability hard here. Clever boy.
8 Annie Mumolo Admit it, you watched this 30 times and didn’t realise she was in it.
9 Labrinth Empty child seat behind him. Even his kids knew this was a bad idea.
10 Will Ferrell The biggest disappointment of the whole song. You’re better than this, Will.
11 Lynda Carter Performed in the style of a call centre worker angry about being interrupted during her lunch break.
12 Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson & Kaia Gerber Like a wartime close-harmony group, from a war you retrospectively wish we’d lost.
13 Zoë Kravitz Whispers her line like the creepy kid from every horror movie.
14 Mark Ruffalo Less a song contribution and more a semi-welcome 3am “U up?” FaceTime message.
15 Kristen Wiig Most of the names involved apparently participated because Wiig asked them to. Very poor. For shame.
16 Chris O’Dowd and Dawn O’Porter The twins from The Shining gone terrifyingly Christian folk.
17 Natalie Portman Won’t stop admiring herself in her camera.
18 Pedro Pascal Weird flex to do his line in the style of Liam Neeson’s Taken speech, but OK.
19 Jamie Dornan Truly creepy. Like watching a sociopath try to practice empathy in a mirror.
20 Eddie Benjamin The sound of someone being dragged through puberty all at once.
21 Sia Christ, Sia, we get it. You can sing. Now, please, never sing again.
22 Gal Gadot This was all your idea, Gal Gadot. And you sang two different lines. And John Lennon’s ghost hates you. You created the single worst thing about 2020, and we had an actual pandemic this year.