Historians will remember 2020 for many things: Covid, Trump, Brexit, forest fires, civil unrest, the election that wouldn’t end, Covid (again), yet they will probably get it wrong. All that stuff happened and it was truly awful. However, to the average Joe, me, for instance, none of that really sums up my year accurately.
Yes, all those ridiculously terrible things occurred and they affected me, sometimes very directly. But more than any of that, I will remember 2020 as the year I sat on my ass and watched absolutely unbelievable amounts of crap.
Sadly, there wasn’t really a whole lot else to do. Wait, actually that’s wrong. There were plenty of things I could have done. Or should I say, should have done: cleaning and doing DIY projects in my apartment, mastering a new skill, using all that time to write another novel. But, truth be told. I just didn’t feel like it.
Which, tragically, is another one of the many cruel things about 2020. All that time available, yet no desire to do anything productive. Zero. It’s an irony that kills me. But it’s true, why do something taxing (even if it’s rewarding) when you could just sit and watch TV instead?
What’s worse is this the trend toward the easy and lazy extended even toward the things I watched. This year I viewed a few heavy Russian movies and classic Japanese films. A slew of comedies from the 30s. A couple indie movies so dark they still haunt me. But honestly, there was only so much I could do of that. I needed my garbage TV. Like, a lot of it.
Which is what this list is about. I will mention a couple of gems in here. TV shows that are just plain good that you may have missed. But most of it is exactly what the title says. Crap.
I want to clarify. There is crap and there is crap so bad that it’s boring and unwatchable. This list is about the first one. Stuff that might not be great but still had something about it. Something that made it feel extremely easy and comfortable to just sit and stare at it for hours on end.
I think a person’s taste in crap reflects their individual quirks and interests far more than their tastes in “the classics.” We can all agree that “The Crown” is well-made even if it’s not our cup of tea (so to speak). But it’s much harder to defend the dozens of hours joyfully spent watching badly created CGI monsters run amuck in a Korean apartment complex unless you’re the sort of person that just gravitates toward such things.
In other words, one man’s crap does not fit all. You have been warned.
Not all of shows mentioned were made in 2020, btw. That’s just the year I got to them. Having said that, like most people, I am always a sucker for the “recently added” choices on Netflix and Amazon.
So here it is. A very small taste of the shows I streamed on Netflix and Amazon that were not classics by most standards. Yet, brought me many, many hours of joy and distraction in a year that basically sucked.
I present to you The Crap I Watched in 2020.
SWEET HOME: This is the Korean monster show I mentioned in the intro. Basically, it’s a zombie movie with the zombies replaced by a variety of not-very-well-executed CGI monsters that invade an apartment complex. I couldn’t get enough and blew through the whole series in a day or two. So, it had something to it. Good characters? Maybe. I’m still not sure. I just know I watched it and liked it enough that I plan on binging on the new season the moment it arrives.
KINGDOM: This is another Korean zombie/monster movie. But historical! I really liked this show. It’s actually from a couple years back and kind of surprised me in terms of how good it was. I guess that explains why it won a bunch of awards when it came out. Its plots are complicated and somewhat Game of Thrones-like. They are as much palace politics as murderous zombie mayhem. But when the mayhem comes, it tends to be pretty spectacular. It’s kind of a slow burn thing, especially for a zombies series. Make sure you give it at least three episodes before deciding if you like it or not. But I highly recommend it.
ALIVE: This one made my Halloween 2020 list. It’s also Korean (the last on the list, I swear). It’s on the lighter side as far as zombie movies go. The story centers around a young guy trapped in an apartment complex who discovers a girl of similar age across the building. The relationship between the two sets this movie apart from your usual, generic, zombie-mob-chasing-people flick.
RUST VALLEY RESTORERS: This is a reality TV show (crap alert, right there!) and it’s probably the oldest thing on the list. It’s about guy who buys really beat up old cars and restores a few of them to drivable, affordable classics. The main character is so passionate and emotional about his cars that his business is always teetering on bankruptcy. In addition, his relationships with his best friend/co-worker, son and the other employees are strained but often very funny.
CAR MASTERS: RUST TO RICHES: OK, this is true crap. As in, I can’t believe I watched every available episode of this. But I did. It’s a reality show about a small LA-based custom auto businesses which just happens to feature a hot girl who’s an engine expert on its crew. It’s such a guilty pleasure I almost feel ashamed putting it on this list. But I did watch all of it. So, it had something to it, I guess. I still blame 2020 for this one, though.
KIM’S CONVENIENCE: This is NOT crap. At all. This is a seriously good show. Which shocked me because I wasn’t expecting it to be. I’m not usually a sit-com guy but I was desperate. I am also not usually drawn to shows about “the immigrant experience” or cultural misunderstandings. But this show is just quality. It’s a Canadian produced series about a Korean family in Toronto just dealing with day-to-day life. They feel like they could be your neighbors. And it’s funny. Really funny. The father character alone is worth watching it for. Seriously, try it. It’s on Netflix right now (in the US at least). Go. Now. Finish reading this later…
THE FAMILY COOKING SHOWDOWN!: This is a British show pitting families against one another to see which are the best amateur cooks. Pure game show and some of the meals are interesting. However, what really makes it gripping are the social dynamics. Some of the families are first or second generation immigrants bringing the food and techniques of their cultures to their game. Others are white, sometimes very wealthy, traditional English families. It can be a weird thing watching one family cook in their tiny rental apartment in Birmingham and another in their historic English manor in the countryside. The whole thing is kind of like PARASITE with better food and a more uplifting outcome.
BEST LEFTOVERS, EVER!: This show is super cheezy. It’s the cooking show equivalent of that lava game show (which even I didn’t get desperate enough to watch). The hosts are way over the top and obnoxious. The contestants are sometimes even worse. However, and this is a big “however,” the show’s basic premise is very handy. The contestants have to turn regular day-to-day leftovers into new meals. Not a bad skill in the Age of Covid. I’m hooked.
ALICE IN BORDERLAND: A Japanese show about a group of young people who are forced to play very dangerous games in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. I expected to like this show more than I actually did. A lot of the “drama” comes from people trying to solve puzzles which got old for me pretty quickly. I’m guessing I’m not the only one because about halfway through the show it takes a pretty big turn. A cult is discovered in a luxury hotel where hundreds of very attractive men and women are living. The rules of the cult encourage “living for the day” including unlimited alcohol, access to the pool, and a rule that no one is allowed to wear anything more than a swimsuit (ever) for “security reasons.” But I watched it for the puzzles, really….
KAKEGURUI: I couldn’t not add this one to the list after writing about ALICE IN BORDERLAND. It’s very similar in some ways. Just to clarify something else, there is a live action version of this as well as an anime version. I’m talking about the Japanese anime version here. The premise is that there is a special High School for gamblers. And they don’t just gamble for money. The idea is to bankrupt your opponents and to make them so indebted to you that they become your “pets.” Even the title sequence is as strange and kinky as it sounds. Sometimes the show got away from all that and turned into yet another show about solving puzzles. But enough episodes were so dark, sexual, warped and just plain weird that it was just too hard to walk away.
SUNDERLAND ‘TIL I DIE: Non-sports fans, don’t skip over this one. There are a lot of great reality series on sports. However, most of them aren’t all that interesting unless you are a fan of the specific sport, or in some cases, even the specific team. SUNDERLAND ‘TIL I DIE is one of those rare sports documentary series that might transcend that. It’s about an English soccer team that was once in the elite but has spiraled downward with shocking speed. The financial results are catastrophic and there is a chance the team could actually disappear from the professional game. On top of that, the city of Sunderland, always a tough place to live, has also fallen on hard times. The city and the soccer team are linked in a way that is unusually close and heartwarming. Even non-soccer fans may find themselves yelling at the screen once they start watching.
Alright, that’s just a tiny bit of the series that sucked hours from my life over the last year. Given that my life had nothing better going on, I guess that worked out just fine.
Good riddance 2020. Don’t let the door kick you in ass on the way out.
So, what’s new on Netflix?