Oh, how much Netflix we watched in 2020! It is almost embarrassing. I am going to devote this post just to the series we have consumed, often in two-or-three-episode gulps per evening. Individual movies will come later.
I’m not even listing all the series we watched, just the ones we really liked and can recommend if you share our weird tastes.
Of course, we watched season 4 of The Crown as soon as it came out, because we had already binged on the first three, and The Queen’s Gambit. Belatedly we also watched all three seasons of Anne with an E. We loved all of these popular series. But I wonder how many of our other favorites will ring a bell with you?
We began series bingeing well before the lockdown with Cheer, a documentary about a small Texas community college that has the best competitive cheerleading squad in the country. Another great sports documentary, The Last Dance, is about the Chicago Bulls in the Jordan years. We relived with pleasure and pain the events of all ten episodes. And then there is the historical sports series, The English Game, about how football/soccer became popular in the UK. So much for sports.
We watched Living Undocumented while we were speaking daily to an asylum seeker in detention whom we were hoping to sponsor. Our story and some of the ones in this series had happy endings but meanwhile, things got even worse for refugees in the waning days of the Trump era. Stateless is a fictional series about asylum-seekers in Australia–only slightly more humane than the USA.
Our favorite whodunnit was not fiction but a documentary series about the amateur historian obsessed with finding the truth about Who Killed Malcolm X.
Another truth-telling documentary about events we remember, Challenger was sometimes hard to watch but much better than the fictional series, Away.
Social Distance was funny and true when we watched it a few months ago. I wonder how it holds up now, when we are all just royally sick of this?
If you are a fan of Queer Eye, Queer Eye in Japan is the best! My husband even enjoyed it. For quirky Asian, however, nothing beats Crash Landing on You. South Korean fashionista drops out of sky onto North Korean army captain and falls in love. Funny and informative, I guess, about South and North Korean cultures.
We liked the reality show Indian Matchmaking better than Married at First Sight because Indians know what they’re doing when it comes to arranged marriages; American TV producers and psychologists do not. Unorthodox explores the same territory fictionally, among Orthodox Jews.
Narcos is docudramatically about the Colombian drug cartels and the US war on drugs. We haven’t followed the series yet into Mexico but we will. There is violence but at least it is truthful, this stuff actually happened. Yikes.
Money Heist is a Spanish action series, totally fiction, featuring rather adorable, idealistic crooks.
And for a cultural glimpse into another part of the world, watch the Turkish soap opera-ish Ethos and learn something about Kurds and Turks and religious/secular cultural divides.
So much great Scandinavian noir! Herrens Veje takes you into the grim world of Danish Lutherans. Occupied imagines a soft Russian takeover of Norway in the near future. Borgen has a female politician struggling against the male odds. All have wonderful, complex characters, compelling story lines and important themes. And then there is Young Wallender, prequel to all the other Wallenders. I can’t get enough of any series based on the Swedish cop. (I’ve read the books, too.)
Finally, at the very end of the year we switched to our son’s Amazon Prime account, which we shamelessly pirate, and discovered our favorite series of the year, Small Axe. The five episodes are director Steve McQueen’s individual films set in the Afro-Caribbean community in London, from the sixties to more recent times. Subtitles come in handy for the dialect, even if you’re not hearing impaired, for this rich exploration of resilient humanity in the face of racism and oppression.
Perhaps all the foreign shows were especially appealing this year when we couldn’t travel. The one piece of Hollywood entertainment we enjoyed was The Kominsky Method because … two seasons of Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin.
And remember, all of these are multiple episodes, sometimes multiple seasons, providing many happy, zoned-out hours of viewing!
What have we missed? Please send your best binges.