The best television series of 2020
“Better Call Saul”
Difficult though it should be to do a prequel to “Breaking Bad”, one of television’s most celebrated series, there is no recent show that feels so effortlessly superb as “Better Call Saul”. This fifth season offered much of the franchise’s best acting, direction and writing, while also finding a way to deepen the stories told by its predecessor. With “Better Call Saul”, maestros Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have produced a series that can rival even the best schemes of the fabled Heisenberg and Slippin’ Jimmy.
The fourth season of Netflix’s lavish drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was the best yet. Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, had compelling material to work with: the premiership of Margaret Thatcher (and her clashes with the queen), the assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten by the IRA and, of course, the tumultuous marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Yet it was the performances of the newcomers—Gillian Anderson as Thatcher and Emma Corrin as the Princess of Wales—which made that material come to life. So convincing was “The Crown”, in fact, that fans of the late princess flooded social media with condemnation of Prince Charles; Oliver Dowden, Britain’s culture secretary, asked Netflix to make it clear that the events depicted were fictionalised.
Tony McNamara, the co-writer of “The Favourite”, created another witty, saucy period drama at a European court, this time in imperial Russia. “The Great” tells the story of Catherine II as she marries and then plots to kill the monstrous (but also very funny) Peter III. Elle Fanning is charming and convincing as an idealist who keeps being rudely awakened by reality while Nicholas Hoult has perfect comic timing in a deliciously outrageous role. A refreshingly diverse cast of sycophants and schemers fill out an entertaining court. The show looks beautiful, too, but its greatest strength is that the characters are living, breathing humans who joke around and have fun (as well as a lot of sex), rather than stuffy historical figures who speak in clipped sentences. Mr McNamara paid little heed to the facts—Hulu calls the show “anti-historical”—but viewers will be thankful for the inaccuracies. Huzzah!
When Misha Green pitched an adaptation of Matt Ruff’s novel to HBO she said that it “had the potential to be unlike anything on TV”. Atticus Freeman, a war veteran and lover of pulp fiction, goes in search of his missing father with the help of his uncle George and friend Letitia; as African-Americans travelling across America in the 1950s, their lives are threatened by small-town racists as well as supernatural forces. They soon uncover a wider conspiracy involving a white-supremacist society and an ancient spellbook. “Lovecraft Country” stood out for its reinvention of science-fiction, horror and fantasy tropes as well as its bold dramatisation of real historical events such as the Tulsa massacre of 1921 and the Korean war. Ms Green was right.
“I May Destroy You”
Michaela Coel wrote, co-directed and starred in this jolting series, which established her as one of television’s most original and provocative dramatists. She played Arabella, a writer who has recently shot to fame for her “Chronicles of a Fed-Up Millennial”, a Twitter-account-turned-book. While on deadline for her next project she takes a break to meet a friend; the next morning she realises she has been drugged and sexually assaulted. “I May Destroy You” explored the subject of consent through young lives in a big city; there are joyful depictions of friendship and parties alongside the darkness.
“The Last Dance”
As covid-19 brought professional sports to a standstill, ESPN quickly filled the airtime with “The Last Dance”, a ten-episode docuseries on the NBA’s most legendary hero (and occasional villain), Michael Jordan. As Mr Jordan talked about his final season with the Chicago Bulls—all the while sipping tequila and smoking a cigar—he reminded fans and cynics alike of his charm, domineering personality and unstoppable need to win. The NBA may have been on pause, but some 17 years after retirement Mr Jordan made it feel like he was a league of his own, and still at the top of his game.
The first season of this “Star Wars” television series didn’t make last year’s list, but it did receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Series. This was a signature achievement for Disney+, as well as for Bob Iger, Disney’s former CEO, who had spent two decades refocusing the company on blockbuster franchises. In 2018 “Black Panther” was the second-highest grossing film globally and became the first comic-book movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. “The Mandalorian” demonstrated that Disney’s commercial and critical dominance could translate to the small screen, too. In its second season, “The Mandalorian” has hit lightspeed hyperdrive. It regularly offers more fun than any other television programme, even as it attempts the impossible: restoring balance to the oft-troubled “Star Wars” franchise and fixing its most reviled plotlines.
In the 1970s feminists proposed an amendment to the United States constitution, which promised that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged…on account of sex”. It was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate but needed the ratification of 38 states to be enshrined in the constitution; to this day the amendment remains in legal limbo. “Mrs. America” skilfully dramatised the opposing sides, with Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm in favour and a coalition of housewives and evangelicals, led by Phyllis Schlafly, in opposition. Many of Schlafly’s political methods are still in use today.
Sally Rooney’s novel about an on-again-off-again romance is not easy to adapt for the screen. The settings are drab and much of the book focuses on Marianne’s and Connell’s private thoughts and feelings. Sex features heavily, which can be difficult to film well (the producers enlisted the help of an intimacy co-ordinator.) Yet the miniseries, which Ms Rooney helped write, was a moving portrayal of young love. Paul Mescal, as Connell, was outstanding.
“The Queen’s Gambit” (pictured)
In the month after the release of “The Queen’s Gambit”, global web searches for “chess” doubled, eBay queries for chess sets grew 250%, and daily signups to Chess.com exceeded 100,000 (an all-time record and five times the site’s average). A seven-hour period drama about a female chess prodigy may seem like an unlikely foundation for the game’s 21st-century revival, and yet the surge of interest has been likened to that which followed the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972. This reflects the skill of the writing, performance, set design, wardrobe, casting and editing in “The Queen’s Gambit”.
The sitcom was the biggest winner at this year’s Emmy awards, triumphing in all of the major comedy categories. It was a fitting honour for the final season. The Rose family began as intolerable snobs who, after being defrauded by a business partner, were forced to move to a down-at-heel town. They ended their six-season run as kinder, more considerate people—albeit ones who had retained a penchant for wigs, outlandish sweaters and name-dropping.
As an exploration of the tragedy and comedy of confinement, the British mockumentary sitcom perfectly suited the lockdown mood. Kerry and her cousin Kurtan (played by real-life siblings Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper, who also write the show) are youngsters with no money, no job prospects, no social lives and no romantic pursuits. Stuck in their rural village, they dedicate their time to spying on their neighbours and various piffling matters. In the final season, Kerry’s and Kurtan’s relationship with the kindly local vicar was particularly well drawn.
Led by a stunning performance from Andrea Riseborough, “ZeroZeroZero” found a way to enrich the well-trodden narco genre. Although the series touched on stories of multi-generational mafia clans, the funding of Middle East terrorism, the corruption of the American shipping industry and the ever-escalating violence of Mexican cartels, it remained rooted in personal turmoil, ambition and fear. No wonder: it is based on the works of Roberto Saviano, who has been under police protection for nearly 15 years and whose works on the Camorra crime syndicate inspired the hit series “Gomorrah”.
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/prospero/2020/12/15/the-best-television-series-of-2020
Selected by fonecable.com
- British Pound Outlook: GBP/USD, EUR/GBP, GBP/JPY Technical Forecast
- Gold Prices Eye Fed Chair Jerome Powell Testimony and Inflation Data
- Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) – Collapsing Into Multi-Month Support as Sellers Triumph
- FP Markets Webinar January 13: Forex Basics Part Two
- FP Markets Webinar January 20: Technical Analysis for Beginners