Like everything else, TV took a hit in this year of the pandemic, but networks felt the impact more so than streaming and premium. The latter categories put out several good short-form series or seasons, accelerating what had been a gradual shift to that format and making a tough year bearable. These were my 10 favorite TV series of 2020:
With “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) – his spiritual (pun intended) sequel to 2018’s “The Haunting of Hill House” — Mike Flanagan continues to solidify his status as a horror auteur tapped into the tragic beauty afforded by the genre. A damp, dark-haired, white-dressed, hidden-faced woman in a Flanagan work is more than a scary ghost: She symbolizes the bittersweet tragedy of a forgotten past. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with fall TV scheduling (it’s hard to tell one socially distanced, masked story, let alone fill a slate with them), and also revealed that (no surprise) cable and streaming were better prepared with content in their pipelines than the networks. But while 2020 serves up the thinnest lineup in modern TV history, it’s not a total wash. Here are my thoughts on 13 notable fall premieres, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
Here are 10 movies and 10 TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.
Some people won’t watch horror movies or TV series because they don’t want to be scared. As I was drying my eyes after watching the beautiful ending of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” I thought “Those people are missing out.” The horror genre has always been a way to work through real-life fears in the safety of a fictional journey, but showrunner Mike Flanagan’s 10-episode series does it better than almost anything before it.
There are more good shows on TV than ever, but the traditional fall season has become the dumping ground for the least exciting new series – perhaps because they need the extra buzz of Fall TV Previews more than something with the cachet of an “Atlanta” or a “Fargo.” Still, some quality series rise to the surface: Recent years have given us “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “This Is Us,” along with glitzy franchise entries like “The Gifted” and assorted MCU efforts (“Iron Fist” and “Daredevil” boast new seasons this fall).
“The Haunting” – The second adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” has Liam Neeson conducting an experiment on the nature of fear under the guise of an insomnia study. The twist is that Hill House might actually be haunted. The lavish sets and creepy sound effects carry the film for a while, but it eventually becomes a study in boredom, not fear — director Jean De Bont gets in one legitimate scare the whole movie. Neeson’s and Lili Taylor’s characters are developed some, while Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson are just along for the ride. C+
– John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, September 1999