Death to 2020 review – a fittingly predictable end to the year

December 27, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Reviews
2

Summary

Death to 2020 has some sharp gags here and there, but its targets and the jokes at their expense are all really a reminder that we’ve been living this exact satire for a year now — it’s about time we found new ways to make fun of it.

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2

Summary

Death to 2020 has some sharp gags here and there, but its targets and the jokes at their expense are all really a reminder that we’ve been living this exact satire for a year now — it’s about time we found new ways to make fun of it.

For years now, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’s Black Mirror has been the rubric for whatever kind of hellish dystopian future we’re hurtling towards, and 2020 has been the closest our real world has come to achieving a kind of singularity with that speculative sci-fi version of it. It only seems right, then, that it’s Brooker and Jones themselves who send up this cursed epoch in an hour-long round-up, now streaming on – where else? – Netflix. It also only seems right that Death to 2020 is a predictable reminder of how easy this year is to satirize – you might have hoped such reliably brilliant satirists would do a better job of it all the same.

Taking the format of Brooker’s reliably scabrous annual BBC “Wipes”, Death to 2020 wheels out parodic talking heads who are, thanks to the streaming giant’s bottomless coffers, played by a who’s who of big deal celebrities, including Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Leslie Jones, Cristin Milioti, Kumail Nanjiani, and Tracey Ullman. Laurence Fishburne narrates, and long-time Brooker collaborator Diane Morgan (whose Mandy on BBC Two was one of the better, if weirder, comedies of the year) manages to stand out even among all the A-listers.

You can’t summarize, much less satirize, the year of 2020 without hitting some obvious targets: Australia catching fire; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle abandoning their royal duties; virtually everything Donald Trump said and did; the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests; and, of course, the still on-going Covid-19 pandemic. This, you’ll notice, is virtually everything that this year’s BritBox-exclusive remake of Spitting Image also covered in much the same fashion, and it’s a shame that Death to 2020 hasn’t managed to come up with anything new to say about any of the topics.

The sad reality is that these things reliably make fun of themselves. You need only to watch five minutes of a Trump rally or a Boris Johnson national address to find them both ridiculous, and making fun of conspiracy theorists hardly seems worth the bother. Inherently racist U.S. law enforcement and openly corrupt and self-serving Big Tech and Pharma companies are easy – if worthy – targets. The characters Brooker has invented to take aim at them only have one round in the chamber, and only now and again does it find its mark. Lisa Kudrow’s Republican press secretary type recycles the same fake-news bit again and again to diminishing returns, and the eventual payoffs for the WASP soccer mom and well-meaning millennial vlogger really being racists are predictable.

Some of the writing is sharp, and there are funny turns of phrase everywhere. The best character, a pompous toff historian played with great relish by Hugh Grant, has a load of solid lines, and Morgan’s “average” member of the public, a dimwit who is her Philomena Cunk persona from the Wipe shows in all but name, is reliable entertainment. The problem is that we’ve heard it all before. Death to 2020 is a reminder that we’ve been living this satire all year.


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