27 December 2020 14:32
Review at a glance A t the start of this 70 minute recap of the year we all wish never was, New Yorkerly News reporter Dash Bracket (Samuel L. Jackson, doing Samuel L. Jackson, impeccably) asks the film crew recording him in his fancy sky-high office why on earth anyone would want to make a show looking back over 2020. This is, it turns out, an excellent question. With its Screenwipey format of silly fictional talking heads, gently facetious commentary and real news footage, it was inevitable that Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones's Death to 2020 would be compared to that finely tuned, hugely enjoyable show.
Let's get that out of the way first. It's not as good, not by some distance. 70 minutes is a long time to sustain this sort of thing, even when the year didn't already feel like an endless night-drive up a wet motorway with no street lights. When it's literally just been 12 months of one damn thing after another, to the point that we're not really even shocked anymore by how s*** everything is, it was wearing. Still, there was some enjoyment to be had.
Hugh Grant, fresh from his triumph as an utter wrong'un in The Undoing, continued his unbroken run of brilliant roles as Tennyson Foss, a believably bigoted professor who referenced Game of Thrones as a historical text and kept his "little helper" (a Negroni, by the looks of it) just out of shot. The names of Brooker's cast of fictional characters were glorious: Kumail Nanjiani's ghastly tech billionaire Bark Multiverse; Samson Kayo's earnest virologist Pyrex Flask; Leslie Jones's people-hating behavioural psychologist Dr Maggie Gravel (also on the Negronis and whose book, In My Professional Opinion We Are F***ing Imbeciles, I would read in a heartbeat); and America's super-charged answer to Nathan Barley, content creator, barman-slash-mixologist, DJ and life coach Duke Goolies (a squirmily convincing Joe Keery). (Hugh Grant's bigoted, addled prof is a joy / KEITH BERNSTEIN/NETFLIX) The women, especially, were brilliantly chilling: Lisa Kudrow as White House spokeswoman Jeanetta Grace Susan was almost too real in her blithe and wild denial of truth, and Cristin Milioti's "self-described regular soccer mom" influencer was superbly horrible. Diane Morgan, of course, was touchingly idiotic as "average citizen" Gemma Nerrick, even if the idea that she was average was pretty alarming. It was the incidentals in the script that brought me the most joy, the moments when you felt Brooker wasn't trying, just sprinkling the little dashes of inspired silliness that he's so good at. The ever-changing descriptions of the main players by the narrator (Laurence Fishburn) kept you tickled - the president-elect was "amiable phantom Joe Biden" or "prehistoric concierge…", and when Boris Johnson was hospitalised with Covid-19, the sneeze-and-you'll-miss-it line "52 percent of the nation holds its breath" was a nice touch. But too often it wasn't quite clever enough to raise much more than a half-smile at this already listless moment in a miserably uncertain year. Mostly it made you realise just how much you didn't want to remember. Yes, it's important to be reminded just how terrible the footage of George Floyd's last minutes is. And some of this year has seemed like such a weird dream, and we're all so sick of it, that perhaps we should just check in to remind ourselves why we're still at sodding home, and need to stay there. But honestly, 45 minutes of this would have been quite enough. Like the year it reflected on, Death to 2020 outstayed its welcome. Black Mirror Creator's Death To 2020 Is Now Streaming On Netflix Netflix Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones' timely mockumentary Death To 2020 is now available to stream on Netflix, offering a darkly satirical take on what has arguably been the worst year for a generation. Much like Brooker's previous Screenwipe and Newswipe episodes, Death To 2020 takes a cynical look back over the year, with insight offered from various fictional talking heads. This year, of course, there is plenty more material to draw from. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the 70-minute mockumentary features some pretty big names, including Samuel L. Jackson as New York journalist Dash Bracket, Hugh Grant as historian Tennyson Foss and Tracy Ullman as the Queen herself. We also see turns from Lisa Kudrow as a right-wing political spokesperson, and Cristin Milioti as racist suburban soccer mom and conspiracy theorist, Kathy Flowers. Longtime Brooker collaborator Diane Morgan also makes an appearance as Gemma Nerrick, described as being 'one of the five most average people in the world'. Death To 2020 covers some of the biggest news stories of the year, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the US election and the death of George Floyd. As Netflix puts it: Death to 2020 is a comedy event that tells the story of the dreadful year that was — and perhaps still is? This landmark documentary-style special weaves together some of the world's most (fictitious) renowned voices with real-life archival footage spanning the past 12 months. Advert 10 It's the ideal end of year watching for those who still can't believe the omnishambles that was 2020. Death to 2020 is available to watch on Netflix now.