The arts came to the rescue this year when we needed distraction the most (though nothing and no one seemed to come to the rescue of the arts…). And through everything we’ve endured, we’ve enjoyed some truly era-defining music, film and telly.
But it’s not all been so rosy. There were the TV scrag-ends – the moments that had us reaching for the remote, then silently placing it down next to us when we realised we had nothing else to do but to watch this dross through the tears we were wiping from our faces with last week’s stale banana bread.
The ‘normal’ stuff wasn’t really around, or had to adapt. X Factor was on a sabbatical anyway – but this wasn’t the year for watching members of the general public have their dreams ripped apart in front of an entire nation, no matter how much BBC News tried. EastEnders temporarily shut down, giving the residents of Albert Square time to find another pub, look for work outside the Walford area, search for a better mechanic, get some counselling, and not get shot.
Sunday Brunch somehow made itself more annoying (almost an achievement) by distilling knockabout football every-lad, Tim Lovejoy, into one inescapable zoom frame, in a living room which seemed to have been furnished by HomeSense and John Terry.
The Zoom trend of course spilled over… like some sort of virus that spreads quickly… into all corners of TV – not least the adverts, which seemed to feel the need to tag a nervous laugh or ‘was that okay?’ to the end of their one minute masterpieces, all assuring us that ‘now, more than ever, you need an (insert business type) that’s here through the good times and the bad’… and by the way we’re moving all our operations to mainland Europe as of January.
The line has now been replaced, temporarily at least, by ‘this will be a Christmas like no other’ and Idris Elba inexplicably singing the ’12 Days of Christmas’ for Sky TV. If you listen really hard, you can hear existential screaming. That’s his damaged ego doing the harmony.
Two dating formats arrived on Netflix in the shape of Love Is Blind and Too Hot to Handle. I use the term ‘formats’ loosely, due to the fact that both shows stuck to their unique selling points (assuming anyone wanted to buy them in the first place) for as long as it took for one of the male Ken dolls to display at least one ab.
The concept of the latter format – to not have sex, or do anything within the orbit of sex (I believe this is called ‘marriage’), fell away quickly when it turned out they could, in fact, have sex, but only in a special hut… or a bedroom, as we know it. There was more sexual tension to be found between Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic.
And that brings us to the blue ribband blockbuster of the year – the one which nabbed all the viewers, had everyone glued to their TVs, laptops, smartphones and frontal cortex implants, hanging on every word that emerged from the lolloping mouths of those involved. No – not Normal People, nor I May Destroy You… not even Bake Off.
The shitcast that was the 5pm Downing Street Briefing was appointment viewing. The ratings smash – with ungenial host Boris Johnson blabbering his way through a worldwide crisis with all the statesmanship of a colostomy bag in a tie – gave us all an allergy to overwrought analogies. Deferring to experts who were less charismatic than the machine on Tipping Point, Johnson managed to scare, confuse, and anger the nation on this brand-new prime time game show, where the star prize was making it out alive.
And yet here we are, huddled around the warm glow of our screens, staring down the barrel of another year that, for once, can’t be any worse than the one we’ve just gone through, can it? Oh, what’s that you say? BBC One have just commissioned a Christmas special of Mrs Brown’s Boys for every year up until 2026?
I’m not sure there is a word for the sound you make when you place your face into a pillow and scream, a scream from such depths in your soul, that you hope the muffling offered by the memory foam is adequate enough for the neighbours not to dial 111 out of concern. But no matter – after this year, we’re all very familiar with that sound.
And after all the dross TV we’ve put ourselves through this year, there’s only really one thing left to be said – fetch me my screaming pillow.