TV Shows and Movies That Guided Me Through 2020

T.S. Lowry

Blocking out the madness with fictional characters

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Photo credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

I’m not a pretentious person. I know… by writing those words, I come off as pretentious. What I mean is, well, I’ll give you an example: I rather eat at McDonald’s than a fancy steakhouse — even if money weren’t an issue. (Maybe I’m just an idiot.) I’ve spent countless Fridays and Saturdays purchasing *dinner* from 7-Eleven. Sure, alcohol is usually involved, but I love 7-Eleven. Mostly, I crave sloppy food that takes up the entire plate.

I don’t desire sophisticated food for the sake of sophistication. Likewise, I don’t prefer highbrow movies and shows for the sake of them being highbrow. Although, most — yet not all — of these pictures tend to come with remarkable casts, well-written scripts, all-star directors, and so on and so forth.

Let me be clear: I prefer TV shows and movies that make me feel something, typically happy and hopeful. I, therefore, naturally gravitate toward rom-coms. But I’m not solely a cheese-ball as I also love my entertainment to scare the shit out of me. Not everyone wants to watch a mentally torturous picture, but I encourage Michael Myers to chase after his victims, putting me on a delightful edge in the process. Hair-raising scenes in slasher and supernatural films make me feel alive, baby.

Dramas, at times, are capable of concocting a perfect combination of what rom-coms and horror pictures offer: intense situations with a sliver of hope. Similar to (I can’t remember where I first heard this) a good sports announcer being able to teach listeners more about life than someone who talks about life, a good drama can induce as much fear as fifty Freddy Krueger’s combined.

I strongly prefer sappy movies over action films. I like to watch shows and movies that could actually happen in my little world as is. I’m not the dude who’s going to save a falling bus filled with people from the top of a — how in the hell did this get here — burning building, while flexing my muscles and doing backflips. While, sure, that type of noticeable bravery takes a certain type of physical specimen, another form of bravery is saying exactly what’s on your mind, pouring out your heart, or following your dreams on a continuous loop of failure. So, naturally, I don’t fancy action movies. I can, however, see myself falling in love with a girl and, at least for a while, living happily ever after. Although I’m never going to live in a Black Mirror or American Horror Story episode, even if 2020 feels like a direct link to a future season of either series, I love horror movies and shows.

Before I bury the lead even further, ’tis the damn season to create lists of your favorite shows and movies. Here are my favorite shows and movies, accompanied by a one-sentence explanation, that helped me get through 2020.

(Note: The show/movie didn’t need to be released in 2020 — I just had to watch it for the first time this year.)

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‘Altered Carbon’ (Netflix series)

Back when the world first started morphing into a dystopian world, Altered Carbon showed me how to navigate the waters of a post-apocalyptic setting.

‘Dash & Lily’ (Netflix series)

There’s so much I want to say about this hopeful holiday series, but I already wrote an essay about it

‘Down to Earth with Zac Efron’ (Netflix docuseries)

I’m not a huge fan of documentaries because they typically push an agenda and are glittered with propaganda, and I’m not saying Down to Earth doesn’t do that, but it’s awesome seeing Zac Efron act like a “normal human” … while venturing all over the globe during a year when I’ve hardly left my apartment.

‘Emily in Paris’ (Netflix series)

Emily in Paris can feel, at times, like a watered-down version of Sex and the City or The Devil Wears Prada, but damn does pre-pandemic Paris look inviting.

‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ (Netflix film)

The concept is far-fetched, but I sympathize with people who struggle to make their dreams come true — and eventually, against all odds, make their dreams come true.

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ (Netflix series)

Not as scary as Hill House but The Haunting of Bly Manor is a perfectly splendid love story.

‘Holidate’ (Netflix film)

The Netflix film ends like all holiday rom-coms, but Holidate turns up the raunchy meter and I love the holidays — all holidays.

‘Hollywood’ (Netflix series)

As a struggling writer living in L.A., Hollywood hits close to home and, like all of my favorite movies, almost everyone makes it in the end.

‘Last Christmas’ (Film)

Readers, by this point, might spot a trend: My favorite shows and movies feature characters who are struggling in their careers or in life, yet they eventually get their shit together and find happiness — and that’s, in a nutshell, what Last Christmas is about.

‘Lovecraft Country’ (HBO Max series)

Lovecraft Country consists of all the horror elements that would make a teenage version of myself tingle while injecting social injustices and themes that are still, sadly, ongoing today.

‘Love Life’ (HBO Max series)

Love Life is about love and life… and it’s, quite possibly, my favorite show of 2020.

‘Ozark’ (Netflix series)

Ozark, similar to The Sopranos, makes real life feel more manageable due to the criminal activity that ensues on an episode basis.

‘Palm Springs’ (Hulu film)

Palm Springs is 2020 on repeat, only not as bad.

‘The Queen’s Gambit’ (Netflix series)

The Queen’s Gambit reminded me of the time when my family went to my brother’s national chess tournament in Tucson, Arizona — and for that, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

‘Rebecca’ (Netflix film)

In 2020, I also, coincidently, finished the 1938 gothic novel (by Daphne du Maurier) the film is based on — and I enjoyed both.

‘Schitt’s Creek’ (Series)

I witnessed Daniel Levy for the first time in Hulu holiday rom-com Happiest Season, looked up what else he stars in, and immediately pushed play on Schitt’s Creek, a sitcom that features four family members who make the best facial expressions on TV.

‘Sex and the City’ (HBO series)

Sex and the City is an older series, but it still makes for ideal escapist TV no matter what decade you’re living in — and it’s also fun to live vicariously through the characters as they conquer New York City.

‘Supernatural’ (The CW Series)

Thanks to my brother, I’ve invested so much time in Supernatural — and after 15 seasons, the Winchesters closed their doors for good.

‘Ted Lasso’ (Apple TV Plus series)

Ted Lasso is a happy-go-lucky comedy that somehow manages to not be too corny — and even when it is, it’s still really, really good.

‘Uncut Gems’ (Film)

Adam Sandler can’t act and his movies are rubbish, huh? (Technically two sentences, but a serious Adam Sandler fires on all cylinders in this dark comedy.)

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2020 has been a nightmare. But these shows and movies helped me weather the storm. Other shows (BoJack Horseman, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Dead to Me, Riverdale, Sex Education, The Umbrella Academy) and movies (Birds of Prey, Ford v Ferrari, Happiest Season) also helped distract me from the year that took so much away. A perfect combination of being stuck indoors and changing my profession to pop culture writer led to my screen constantly having TV and movies on. I didn’t keep track of everything I watched, so I likely forgot some of my favorite new characters. I hope these (mostly) fictional characters can help others block out the noise whenever they need an escape. Oh, and an item or two from 7-Eleven’s ‘grab-and-go’ station will make a perfect pairing with any of these titles.

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Just a guy who likes to cruise the aisles at the local 7-Eleven

Los Angeles, CA
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