Cobra Kai,” which recently dropped its 10-episode third season on Netflix (after two years on YouTube Premium), has come along at a perfect cultural intersection where storytellers give fans what they want and actors don’t hesitate over small-screen roles. What was a pipe dream of “Karate Kid” fans a scant few years ago has become not only reality, but also one of the elite must-watch shows on TV. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
2021 will be a hugely transitional year for television and cinema as they react to our new post-pandemic habits. It could also be hugely entertaining year for audiences, as we get all those delayed 2020 releases plus some new ones. Here are my picks for three TV shows and three movies to see this year, plus a rundown of other big series and films:
The Oscars are expanding the 2020 movie year by two months in order for more films to get released and compete for statuettes. That’s a smart move, but on Dec. 31, I’m happy to make my year-end list and say good riddance to this year of the pandemic and all it wrought – including the push-back of many films to 2021 and the beginning of the end of cinemas. But we’re not tossing out the movies with the year itself, because enough good ones took the financial risk of coming straight to our home theaters. These were my 10 favorites:
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:
Like the 2018 original, “The Christmas Chronicles 2” (Netflix) feels like an instant family-friendly holiday staple with its colorful filmic magic, broad messages, and warm relationship between Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) and his young True Believers (led by Darby Camp’s Kate). It’s a children’s movie that will make adults feel good in the moment, even if we forget the details as soon as it’s over.
Mike Flanagan counts himself as an admirer of writer-director Remi Weekes’ “His House” (Netflix), and it’s no wonder: Like Flanagan’s work, Weekes’ calling-card film uses the structure and tropes of horror to slyly tell a surprising, insightful story about the human experience. Specifically, it’s the chronicle Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) Majur settling in the U.K., having fled the tribal war in South Sudan.
I’m not a huge connoisseur of courtroom dramas about wrongfully accused defendants, similar to why I don’t like war movies. I already know war is hell, and that the U.S. justice system is rotted by corruption. When convinced by my friends that I have to see a movie – such as Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” – I just hope there’s comic relief and other layers amid the messaging about how horribly unjust everything is.
There’s no new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” this year, but “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix) has us covered like a pawn wall protecting friendly pieces. The miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel takes us to the 1950s and 1960s in all their pastel and analog glory to tell a fictional story set against a real-world backdrop. Indeed, your only lament coming out of these seven episodes might be that there wasn’t a real Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) who took the chess world by storm.
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.)
Not all October premieres have to be scary – although a lot of them are (see later in this post) – so let’s start off this look at first episodes of new streaming shows with “Emily in Paris” (Netflix). Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not at all scary. The story of Chicagoan Emily’s relocation to Paris for her job emphasizes her outsider status and loneliness even though she always puts on her delightfully Lily Collins face.