The year 2020 was marked by a lot: a global health pandemic that kept everyone inside and made conspiracy theorists incredibly easy to spot, protests centering around racial injustice and police brutality, a nightmare election year with shockingly good results, and streaming a bunch of bad shit to numb our minds and smooth our brains. Jezebel watched some good television and movies this year, but we also suffered through a lot of mediocrity, just like everyone else. Here’s the crap we streamed after running out of things to watch.
Historically, unless I am obligated or being paid to watch a show in its entirety, I know when to give up on it. Life is too short to waste on TV I’m simply not feeling anymore; I gave up on LOST nearly a decade ago, I gave up on The Queen’s Gambit just the same a few months ago. But I didn’t give up on The Undoing, the icy, Upper East Side murder mystery starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. Its strength lay in the show’s necessary cliffhangers, a dying art in a moment when a lot of television is written and assembled to be binged rather than work (and it’s more work than ever!) for your attention in weekly installments. But after years of being primed for prestige crime drama twists, The Undoing’s finale felt drearily predictable, a balloon of anxious twists and turns deflated with obviousness (and not to mention the laughably over the top courtroom scenes that give Law & Order: SVU a run for their money.) Pretty, with a horror-movie creepy start, The Undoing has to be the most disappointing show I saw this year! —Hazel Cills
I’m not a huge binge-watcher, so I’m not totally sure if the three-episode miniseries is a new trend in television, but I do have a strong opinion on the format: it blows! Over Thanksgiving break I streamed Hulu’s reboot of Black Narcissus, based on Rumor Godden’s 1939 novel and the 1947 film, and it sucked. It was far too long—it was already a movie once, why draw it out?—and the tale of Anglican nuns colonizing a section of the Himalayas felt uninspiring. There’s a twist to it, a paranormal terror, and yet even that arrived too late in the series to save it. If television is what destroyed my attention span in childhood, why is it attempting to make that audience engage with longer, slower programming? Is that the secret to prestige? Everyone needs an editor. —Maria Sherman
I’ve already written about why Emily in Paris was bad, but I’d like to just double down on my previously-held opinion that this is one of the worst things I’ve watched this year. I have had a difficult time finishing any television show, so it is notable that I made it through nine of the 10 episodes. However, I don’t remember a single thing that happens in any of those episodes, nor do I care to remember! The “finale” of this season is still waiting for me at Netflix, and it will sit there, unwatched, forever! —Megan Reynolds
Barbarians, a German import on Netflix, is a show ostensibly about the events that unfolded prior to the Roman army’s decimation at Teutoburg Forest. I say “ostensibly” because it basically takes a handful of historic names—Arminius, Varus—and conjures up entirely new histories. That would be fine (see: The Great) but Barbarians takes itself so damned seriously that it’s farcical. It is a show, however, that bravely asks an important question: What if everyone at the Battle of Teutoburg was extremely hot? Since I have absolutely no self-respect, I watched every single episode. —Stassa Edwards
I love Tom Holland. I love English people doing Southern accents. I did not by any stretch of the imagination love The Devil All the Time. I had been saving this movie for a rainy day because it looked serious and thinky and I ended up watching it sometime in November. It was so incredibly boring and disjointed, and overall forgettable apart from one scene that absolutely wrecked me. Everyone in this movie is poor to some degree but they try their best with what they have. When Robert Pattinson’s preacher character first comes to town, the church puts together a potluck to welcome him. Tom Holland’s aunt, whose name isn’t worth remembering, is said by the narrator to be the best cook in the entire town. But she is poor. So she presents the preacher with fried, breaded chicken livers. Pattinson destroys this woman in front of the congregation for being so poor that all she could afford was chicken livers. Just absolutely shames her and says that he will eat the livers to remind him of the struggle of others. The secondhand embarrassment from that scene followed me for about a week. —Shannon Melero
In a way, this blurb isn’t quite fair because so many things I started to stream and promptly shut off were probably worse than the astonishingly needless 14-years-later sequel to Borat. I just happened to finish this one, which means that it was at least...finishable. (As opposed to something like Happiest Season, which I peaced out after maybe the third time the movie’s protagonist couple stared intensely into each other’s eyes, silently conveying, “We’re lesbians...we’re in love...it’s Christmas...and...it’s complicated.”) Far from an absurdist pulling back of the curtain to reveal the real America, as it seems to want to be, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm reveled in what we already know, took cheap and mean shots, and gave a toxic cretin like Rudy Giuliani an opportunity for sympathy after rather blatantly setting him up in an interview that was meant to scandalize but blew over practically immediately. Sacha Baron Cohen’s spectacle was no match for that which the right produces as a matter of course and a means to seduce and placate its followers. There are no revelations here, just some dumb Republicans who were tricked into being dumb on camera with no varnish. If comedy is tragedy plus time, then comedy minus time is tragedy, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm confirms this while chuckling to itself. Simply depressing. —Rich Juzwiak
I’ve actually enjoyed or at least tolerated every TV show I’ve streamed this year, but I did stream a terrible movie. You might have heard of it: It’s called The Hobbit. My boyfriend and I have been watching the Lord of the Rings movies almost every single day for the last two weeks (good background noise for me, nice distraction from law school studies for him), but one day we decided to give The Hobbit trilogy a shot as well.
I mean, I got frustrated as soon as there was a 15-minute-long scene dedicated to dwarves inviting themselves into Martin Freeman’s—er, Bilbo Baggins’s—lil house. But then it went on for three more hours, unsure if it wanted to be a fun children’s adventure movie or a dramatic saga like LOTR films. I think it wanted to be more like the latter when it should have just stuck to the former. I frankly found it overly long and, at times, confusing. Also, I hated that blue mega orc dude.
That said, Richard Armitage as a dwarf was hot, so that was one silver lining at least! —Ashley Reese