Todd Grotenhuis

29 Dec 2020

2020: 📺 & 🎥 Review

To view other 2020 review posts, visit the main post here.


When it comes to screens, I prefer to do something that requires engagement from me. Thus, when I’m in front of a screen for enjoyment, I’m often reading or playing. When I’m watching, I prefer something humorous, challenging, or both. I generally don’t like passive entertainment.

With the diffusion of shows and movies across streaming services (and Netflix & Apple TV not playing nice together), I started using JustWatch to track “to watch” lists. JustWatch let’s me have a single watch list, and go to wherever I can stream (or rent or buy) the show or movie.

This year, I continued my quixotic quest to “watch all the sketch comedy”. Here are some of the new (to me) ones I that I recommend:

We like to watch “funny news” at our house. My favorites are:

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: the in-depth segments cut deep but also discuss opportunities to do something about it.
  • Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj: a little less what-can-you-do-about-it and a little more in-depth. These could be heavy, which is probably why it’s now cancelled.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: I would occasionally watch the previous night’s intro portion of this show while having my breakfast. I find Colbert (& his writers) to be the funniest of the late night hosts. Also, lately, the moments where you can hear his wife (or their interactions) are charming.
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers: Like the above, it was an occasional morning watch of the intro portion of the show. He pulled no punches on calling out problems in the USA presidential administration, to the point where I’m frankly surprised he’s been able to stay on the air.

At our house, we also enjoy some murder mysteries and “police procedurals”. Here are the couple that stood out for me this year:

  • Endeavour: It’s Inspector Morse when he was younger, and they do a brilliant job of creating the setting of each episode (which is really a movie): visually, historically, and audibly.
  • Criminal: the premise of these series is that it’s a very sparse set of the interview rooms and a couple hallways, yet they are able to do so much with it. ( note: check for 4 different countries and languages; there are multiple versions with different stories)

Here are other shows that I recommend:

  • Ted Lasso: this is my top recommendation from this year. On top of being very funny, I appreciate how much maturity and humanity people show each other, even in the face of most of the characters going through something incredibly difficult.
  • The Repair Shop: this is an incredibly charming show about a shop where people bring in their antiques, family heirlooms, and broken items to be reconditioned. It’s a brilliant spot of light in a throwaway consumerist culture, and there are wonderful moments of joy.
  • The Good Place: a hilarious show that introduces and mashes up a lot of philosophical concepts and questions
  • Watchmen: full disclosure, I hadn’t seen the movie or read the comics before watching this spinoff TV show, but am familiar with their basic story line and themes. This was an incredible production that explores a number of both contemporary and timeless problems.
  • Fargo: like Watchmen, I haven’t seen the movie, but I am riveted to every season of this show. What I like most about this show is the juxtapositions: beauty & horror, fortune & reversal, education & gallows humor, and much more.
  • The Mandalorian: yes, it’s full of fan service, but it’s really well-done fan service that re-explores many tropes in fresh ways.
  • The Boys: these comedy-horror comic book characters made it to TV, and it presents a scathing critique of various power structures.
  • Community: I wrapped up this series this year. It’s intelligent and funny, but you really do have to watch from the beginning in order to understand the characters and their dynamic. Troy & Abed will always have a special place in my heart for the way they portrayed nerdiness in a more authentic and laughing-with rather than laughing-at way.
  • Alone: I generally shy away from “Reality Shows” due to vapidity, repetition, and manufactured melodrama. I will often check out survival shows, though (hey, Eagle Scout here!). What I like about this one compared to some others is that you can see how they setup for the long haul, giving us a chance to see how challenges and priorities shift over the duration of their stay. (Of course, it’s also relevant to my theme of Resilience.)

The Big Screen: I didn’t watch a lot of movies this year (who did?), but here are the two that stuck with me:

  • Knives Out: as I mentioned earlier, we enjoy murder mysteries in this house. This was a great twist on those tropes. (I feel like it’s this generation’s Clue)
  • El Hoyo (The Platform): this minimalist dystopian horror film offers several critiques of the current age.

What did you watch this year? Any recommendations?