The Digital Fix End of Year Television Review: The Highlights of 2020
2020 is not a year we will soon forget. For many of us, TV has been an escape from everything happening outside our door and once again, we've had some great shows to choose from. Seasons may have been cut short, production delayed on new episodes and some favourites might have been missing from their usual slots, but there's still been plenty of great TV moments for us all to enjoy.
January kicked off with Steven Moffat and Mark Gattiss' latest collaboration, a somewhat decisive adaptation of Dracula, while Doctor Who upped the ante in Jodie Whittaker's second series as the Doctor. The BBC gave gave us plenty to enjoy this year, from new Inside No.9 to, pandemic comedy series Staged, one of the first productions to truly to adapt to the global lockdown. We had critically acclaimed TV adaptations of Malorie Blackman's 2001 novel Noughts + Crosses, Sally Rooney's Normal People, transgender kid's drama First Day and a welcome return of His Dark Materials.
There were other notable UK shows that proved there was far more out there than lockdown binge-watching your old favourite shows. ITV delivered a fun dramatisation of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire scandal in Quiz, while Red Dwarf returned on Dave with mini-series Red Dwarf: The Promised Land. When The Great British Bake Off rolled onto our screens on Channel 4 this Autumn, it was just the comforting blanket we all needed after this year.
Streaming television gave us plenty to watch too. Netflix kicked gave us lavish drama, horror and comedy - from Locke & Key, to Cursed and The Crown, emotive part-Yiddish drama Unorthodox, a televised version of Snowpiercer and Mike Flanagan's long-awaited horror follow-up in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Not everything worked; from Netflix's 'comedy' Space Force to a revival of Spitting Image on Britbox, neither of which were funny in the slightest. But there were plenty of treasures too; Amazon gave us a gorgeous anthology show based on the art of Simon Stålenhag in Tales from the Loop and its own varied comedy offerings with the likes of new shows Upload and Truth Seekers. And of course, for the UK, there was the long-awaiting debut of Disney+ which we all got just to watch the terrific The Mandalorian.
HBO didn't need to worry about the end of a certain fantasy series the year before. The third season of Westworld took the show in a refreshing new direction. While slow at first, prequel reboot Perry Mason absolutely shone in the end. We became enthralled in the mysteries of HBO's Stpehen King adaptation The Outsider and were pulled into the powerful drama of Lovecraft Country, a show that felt very timely given the events unfolding in the wider world.
2020 was the year we said goodbye to The Good Place, Supernatural delivered the end of Sam and Dean Winchester's journey after fifteen years, the Arrowverse reached new heights with the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths and the end of Arrow, while Star Wars: The Clone Wars gave us one more thrilling run of episodes after its cancellation years earlier. Star Trek was big business, with the return of Jean Luc Picard in the much anticipated Star Trek: Picard and a strong return for Star Trek: Discovery in its third season. It's a crime however that the UK didn't pick up Star Trek: Lower Decks for its release (though that will be rectified with its debut on Amazon Prime on the 22nd January).
There's been a lot to celebrate and once again, I've assembled a team of The Digital Fix writers to pick their highlights of the TV year. Joining me are Lachlan Haycock, Chris Philp, Robert Turnbull, Gary Couzens, Eamon Hennedy, and Daisy Treloar.
And if you want to see what our picks were in previous years, check out the end of year TV features below...
But now we look to 2020. Allow us to present our The Digital Fix End of Year Television Review: The Highlights of 2020...
Best TV News Item
New Alien TV Series Announced (Baz Greenland)
I was all ready to champion the news that Anson Mount's Captain Christopher Pike from Star Trek: Discovery's was getting his own series. But then, the end of the year saw Disney announce that a new Alien TV series was in development. Set in the near future Earth and developed by Noah Hawley, who did fantastic work on Fargo and Legion, this was the most exciting announcement for me at their Investor Day, even with all those wonderful Star Wars and Marvel TV confirmations...
More Worzel Gummidge in 2020 (Robert Turnbull)
Worzel Gummidgewas a highlight of my Christmas 2019, warm, charming and a little creepy in that way that’s good for kids. It was a genuine and funny family show with a great cast, beautiful music and gentle pace. After the chaos of 2020, I was very excited to hear that Mackenzie Crook and his team would be able to deliver another magical installment this year!
The Third Day Live Episode Announcement (Eamon Hennedy)
Darkly entertaining folk horror drama The Third Day arrived on screens after having been delayed from earlier in the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and with it the announcement of a 12-hour live episode in the middle of its six-episode run. The ambitious middle segment of the Jude Law/Naomie Harris thriller, entitled Autumn, was originally planned to be an interactive theatrical event that audiences could attend as opposed to watching at home. The impact of Covid meant it was set to become one of the most unique television events of recent times. It's always intriguing and exciting when a drama is staged live on television, but this promised to be something much more ambitious and unique, and as it turned out, it didn't disappoint.
Play for Today Volume 1 release on Blu-ray (Gary Couzens)
2020 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Play for Today, which had over three hundred plays and films broadcast over fourteen years; many of them are now classics and you can see the influence of the series years later. The BFI announcement of a a Blu-ray release, gathering together seven fine examples, comedies and dramas both, and in more than one genre, resulted in the best TV media releases of the year.
Check out our review of Play for Today Volume 1 here.
Best UK TV show
Staged (Baz Greenland)
The Covid-19 Lockdown gave us one of the funniest, heart-warming TV series of 2020 in Staged, a BBC comedy drama with David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing slightly exaggerated versions of themselves. With some terrific guest stars, genuinely emotive moments, cringe-worthy comic one liners, a superb real-life support cast and delightful chemistry between the two leads, it became a joy to watch - a recently announced second season for next January is most welcome.
Normal People (Lachlan Haycock)
The twelve-part BBC Three series, based on Sally Rooney’s book of the same name, captures the joys and sorrows of teenage romance with a fierce honesty. Heartfelt and raw, Normal People remains wholly faithful to the novel’s spirit and characterisation that has made it such a big hit.
Check out our review here.
The Great British Bake Off (Chris Philp)
After the depressing pandemic filled summer it was great that Britain could finally get back to what’s really important, getting far too emotionally involved in a baking contest. Sprinkle in a little Matt Lucas to increase the surrealism factor and serve hot.
Check out our reviews of every series eleven episode here.
Ghosts (Robert Turnbull)
The latest offering from the original Horrible Histories cast (they really need a group name!) this witty, well oiled comedy is a cozy, legitimately cross generational and family friendly show; suitable for kids while being sharp and at times dark enough for adults. In this second series we’re more familiar with the various ghosts and the series dips even deeper into their past lives and deaths, providing some genuinely touching and emotional moments; a nice show in a dark world.
Call The Midwife (Gary Couzens)
My lockdown viewing this year was to rewatch the whole of Call the Midwife from the start; all seventy-eight episodes of it, most of which I hadn’t seen since their original broadcast. Nine series in, we arrived in 1965, in what has consistently been one of the best series on television, able to deal with some decidedly difficult issues even before the watershed, and excellent at tracking changes in social attitudes over the time. It’s also a celebration of the work of and the friendship and solidarity between women – the men, while still present, are secondary.
I May Destroy You (Eamon Hennedy and Daisy Treloar)
Michaela Coel’s follow-up to Chewing Gum not only indicated that she is a writer who can move fluidly from raucous comedy to searing personal drama, but she is perhaps one of the most unique chroniclers of modern millennial life. Inspired by her own experiences, I May Destroy You pulls you into its orbit with raw power, anchored to superlative performances from its cast and delivered with an unflinching adult style. (Eamon)
With a show-stopping central performance by Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You continually delivered a trailblazing, unforgettable examination of today’s most controversial issues, week on week. Its totally unique tone, juxtaposing bizarre yet familiar banter with brutal trauma, proved that there’s no one way to deal with anything, and there’s nothing more realistic than that, (Daisy)
Best US / Overseas show
Westworld (Baz Greenland)
While the critical acclaim of the first season may have tarnished by the time season three came about, Westworld still continued to be one of the most inventive, stunning and well-acted shows currently on TV. Taking the action out of the park gave the show a breath of fresh air; with episodes like the out the box Genre, the cast on dazzling form and Ramin DJawadi's breath-taking musical score, there was so much to enjoy in its third run.
You can find all our season three reviews here.
Lovecraft Country (Lachlan Haycock)
Full of bold and imaginative ideas and rarely shying away from its pulp science fiction-fantasy roots, the engrossing first season of HBO’s Lovecraft Country proves that no matter how horrifying the monsters of Lovecraft-inspired fantasy, ultimately people are the real villains.
Check out our reviews of every episode here.
Dark (Chris Philp)
The third and final cycle of German time travel mystery Dark was an immensely satisfying conclusion to the absolutely mind bending tale. Storylines converged across multiple timelines and character arcs were resolved beautifully. Some of the best genre TV in years.
Duck Tales! (Robert Turnbull)
I love this show! My appreciation for the original Duck Tales was always 50% the show, 50% the theme tune, but the reboot is on another level with more emotionally charged storylines, beautiful animation and a closer connection to the old Disney comics. More akin to Gravity Falls than Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse, the show has a great voice cast (its really racking up the Doctor Who actors!) and some really deep-cut Disney references, even providing a backdoor pilot for a Darkwing Duck reboot!
Itaewon Class (Eamon Hennedy)
Netflix is filled to the brim with international content, and in a year that started off with a monumental Best Picture win for Parasite, and the increasing popularity of k-pop, it’s no surprise that so much international content stems from South Korea on the world’s increasingly biggest streaming service. One of the big hitters from the country this year was Itaewon Class, a sprawling drama combining a rags-to-riches story with revenge narrative that was glossy, escapist, but also poignant and dramatic, going through about three genres before settling into a groove with a gifted ensemble cast headed by Park Seo-joon and a plethora of never-ending twists and turns.
The Mandalorian (Daisy Treloar)
After the success of Season one, there was a lot of pressure on whether the Star Wars spin-off’s second outing would match up. But the show’s gradual adoption of the wider Star Wars universe’s expansive lore imbues our favourite bounty hunter’s adventures with that much more depth and mystery. And, of course, The Child is as adorable as ever.
Best TV Factual / Documentary / Reality Show
The Great British Bake Off (Baz Greenland)
The Great British Bake-Off came at just the right time - as pandemic fatigue was setting in and cases started to rise, the most British show on television was like a warm, comforting breath of fresh air. Filmed entire in quarantine conditions, this latest series was warm, funny and filled with brilliant contestants - and new host Matt Lucas was surprisingly good too.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Robert Turnbull)
Technically the show started airing in November 2019 but finished the back half of its run in January 2020 so I think it counts (the excellent Coffee episode was 2020 so let’s pin it on that!). Funny and irreverent while actually insightful, Goldblum seems genuinely interested in the people and worlds he encounters. If you enjoy his wry, ethereal shtick then you’ll love seeing him Goldbluming over tattoos, antique jeans and ice cream; Goldblum’s giddy sarcasm was a positive beacon in the 2020 storm, one that I revisited several times.
David Stratton’s Stories of Australian Cinema (Gary Gouzens)
Actually from 2017, but it had its first showing on UK television this year so I’m including it. David Stratton, as a critic (print and TV, the latter in partnership with Margaret Pomeranz), festival organiser and advocate for Australian cinema since the 1960s. This series is both an overview of some of the most influential films in the country’s cinema and also a story of a life spent in film.
Unsolved Mysteries (Eamon Hennedy)
While television has become more famous for risks and originality in comparison to its big-screen counterpart, it’s a medium that can still rely on old favourites to bring back, one of the highest-profile examples being Netflix’s revival of Unsolved Mysteries. Former host Robert Stack is briefly glimpsed in the opening credits, but the series returns in a sea of real-life crime documentaries and stands out with some powerful stories and accounts of cases and mysteries that have never been provided with an answer and which makes for an enthralling yet haunting experience.
Best Mini-Series / Limited Series
Unorthodox (Baz Greenland)
The four-part series based on Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots was Netflix's first show recorded substantially in Yiddish. Shira Haas delivered a powerful performance as young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman Esther Shapiro fleeing her life in New York to discover freedom, passion and her love in music in Berlin; this was a compelling, sometimes harrowing and always absorbing drama with a wonderfully uplifting ending.
Check out our review here. You can also read our interview with Unorthodox composer Antonio Gambale here.
Tales From The Loop (Chris Philp)
Amazon brought Simon Stalenhag’s narrative artbook to life and created a gorgeous looking and deeply emotional sci-fi classic. Retro-futuristic robots inhabit an alternate small town America where nothing is ever as it seems.
Check out our review here.
Fraggle Rock: Rock On! (Robert Turnbull)
Who better to shine some much needed light and positivity in 2020 than the Fraggles! Fraggle Rock: Rock On! was a wonderful series of mini episodes produced in lockdown as a response to the pandemic; a fun, hopeful show that provided reassurance for younger children as well as laughs and insight and it was lovely as a 40 year old to see these characters who shaped my childhood and know they are just as relevant and can be just as influential to today’s kids. It was great to dance my cares away once again.
Small Axe (Gary Couzens)
BBC drama often goes where the talent wants, and this year (with Amazon Prime) they got behind Steve McQueen’s auteur project: five feature-length episodes each dealing with an aspect of West Indian British history, moving from courtroom drama (Mangrove) to biopic to, with Lovers Rock, a simple evocation of a night and a party, a moment in time and the people you shared it with.
The Queen’s Gambit (Eamon Hennedy)
Not without flaws admittedly, Scott Frank’s adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel does at times feel a little padded out in a way it may not have been if it had been made for cinema, however, the expansion of certain scenes and themes means that when that approach works, it does so magnificently. One of the big hits of the year, it’s seen a new wave of popularity for chess, but also confirms that star Anya Taylor-Joy is a genuine talent to watch out for.
Read our The Queen's Gambit review here.
Normal People (Daisy Treloar)
Based on the bestselling, Man Booker Prize longlisted novel by Irish literary sensation Sally Rooney, BBC’s Normal People had a lot to live up to, but didn’t disappoint. I would go as far to say it was even better, in fact. These twelve concise, well-paced bites of television artistry track the excruciating miscommunication and mutual pining of Connell and Marianne, whose respective social statuses switch when they make the change from school to university.
Best Streaming Show
The Umbrella Academy (Baz Greenland)
The first season was great, but season two took things to another level with a delightfully twisted race against time to save the Earth as the displaced Umbrella Academy siblings found themselves in 1960s Dallas. More humour, more action and some unexpected character revelations made this quite simply the most enjoyable series I watched in 2020.
Check out our season two review here.
Dorohedoro (Chris Philp)
I find a lot of anime to be hit and miss but Netflix absolutely hit it out of the park with this manga adaptation. From the riotous opening theme music to the frantic and frenetic animated action sequences this tale of sorcerers, violence and a man with a lizard head, this show had me hooked.
Truth Seekers (Robert Turnbull)
This Amazon Prime show from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is a must see from the streamer; the emphasis is on Frost staring (Pegg is little more than a reoccurring cameo) and plays well to his strengths and avoids feeling as one trick as some of his other characters! The show is genuinely scary while still having a slightly goofy sense of humour and an almost 90s Children’s BBC vibe (think The Demon Headmaster). It’s quite touching at times and the cast are excellent, especially Malcolm MacDowell and Susan Wokoma, who do most of the pathos heavy lifting - while both still being very funny. Creepy, fun and twisty!
The Crown (Eamon Hennedy)
Given that it was throwing itself headfirst into the era of Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana, Peter Morgan’s The Crown was hitting a few raw nerves that have never truly gone away, hence the real-life counterparts of the show’s characters seemingly taking notice. What cannot be disputed was just how enthralling it all was once again, with magnificent writing and performances from everyone, not least Emma Corrin as Diana and a more embittered portrayal of Charles depicted with increasingly unsympathetic power from Josh O’ Connor.
Read our review of The Crown season four here.
Sex Education (Daisy Treloar)
Sex Education is a melting pot of hybrid Anglo-American influences, from its ambiguous setting to its 80s-movie fashion. But while its aesthetic is certainly distinctive, the real brilliance of this coming-of-age dramedy lies in the sparkling wit and charming awkwardness of its teenage characters. With the second season, some, previously relegated to comic relief, are even given complex and distressing storylines of their own.
Best New TV show
Upload (Baz Greenland)
Upload felt like the spiritual successor to The Good Place, which delivered its heart-warming finale at the start of the year. Starring Robbie Amell as decease Nathan Brown uploaded into a virtual afterlife, this Amazon Prime drama had a compelling mystery and plenty of good-natured laughs from beginning to end.
The Mandalorian (Chris Philp)
Sure, half the episodes in its opening season could be classed as filler but it’s Star Wars filler! Just seeing X-wings, TIE fighters, Banthas and the cuteness overload of Baby Yoda on my TV screen made this fanboy very happy.
Check out our The Mandalorian reviews on our Star Wars page.
Lovecraft Country (Robert Turnbull)
An exploration of 50s Black America set to a backdrop of actual Lovecraftian monsters, Lovecraft Country has charming cast, slick production values and slightly goofy, pulp-fiction/monster movie vibes make this an entertaining, almost old-school experience. It suffers from some of HBOs vices but the use of non-era specific music and archive civil rights audio give the show a strange, grounded edge; like an historical fable being recounted, it offers episodic storytelling, utilising different genres, while still maintained a coherent and engaging arc.
All Creatures Great and Small (Gary Couzens)
Did we need another adaptation of James Herriot’s books, particularly those of us with memories of the 1970s/80s BBC series? Well, in a year of lockdown, it turned out we did. Set in the 1930s, the series treads a fine line between cosy nostalgia and something a little tougher, especially when we think of what would happen in the world only a few years later. Excellently acted and put together, it’s a warm bath of a show and all the better for it.
Love Life (Eamon Hennedy)
It took a while for Love Life to reach UK shores after debuting earlier this year in the US on HBO Max, but thankfully the BBC gave it a UK home through its BBC Three-strand. An elegant, funny and poignant exploration of romance and love through the prism of one character and the relationships along the way to her eventual meeting with ‘the one’, it’s delivered with some lovely writing, a great Anna Kendrick performance and a superb observational voice-over from Lesley Manville.
The Queen's Gambit (Daisy Treloar)
In this sublime limited series based on a book of the same name, Anya Taylor-Joy dazzles as a troubled genius vying to become world chess champion in the 60s. Its understated yet somehow epic execution, as well as its heart-swelling soundtrack, make it a character study fit to last.
Best TV Episode
Legends of Tomorrow: 5.14 The One Where We're Trapped on TV (Baz Greenland and Robert Turnbull)
In one of its best seasons yet, this Legends of Tomorrow put a beaming smile on my face as the Legends found themselves trapped in various TV-show spoofs by the Fates of Time. From a spot-on Friends parody to awkward Downtown Abbey period drama, this really topped the list with a hilarious classic Star Trek spoof, complete with stoic Spockisms and a cringe-worthy Khan-style villain. (Baz)
I’m piping for Legends of Tomorrow: The One Where We're Trapped on TV for its sheer fun and exuberance... and because I always like to throw a little love this show’s way! With the team trapped in a cycle of popular TV programmes, we’re presented with a series of genuinely great TV parodies (including the best Friends and Star Trek spoofs I’ve seen in a long time) as they try to escape. The season's penultimate episode, which ends on a song, was a perfect mix of hilarious fun and genuine emotion that this show does so well. (Robert)
Check out our review of The One Where We're Trapped on TV here.
Lovecraft Country: 1.01 Sundown (Lachlan Haycock)
Kicking off the tremendous first season of Lovecraft Country is Sundown, a slow-build hour of drama with rich characters, gorgeous set design and costuming, and acute social comment. The episode commits instantly to celebrating Black identity and community even as it criticises prejudice and fear.
Check out our review of Sundown here.
The Mandalorian Chapter 2: The Child (Chris Philp)
Sure this episode introduced everyone’s favourite little green force wielder to the galaxy but more importantly it features a wholes sand crawler full of Jawas trying to outrun one of the greatest bounty hunters of all time. Most importantly of all, it made me realise that this is what I want from a Star Wars TV show.
Check out our review of The Child here.
The Crown: 4.03 Fairytale (Eamon Hennedy)
A lot of eyes were on The Crown this year and still are given the controversy over what was depicted and the conversation over a potential disclaimer. The year that saw Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana make their debuts into Peter Morgan’s account of the British Monarchy and modern British history, this season’s third episode and it’s exploration of Princess Diana’s engagement to Charles and the lion’s den she finds herself in was a truly magnificent hour of television, not least because of Emma Corrin’s mesmerizing and unforgettable depiction of Diana herself.
BoJack Horseman: 6.15 The View from Halfway Down (Daisy Treloar)
In the penultimate episode of the dark animated comedy-drama, our equine anti-hero attends a bizarre dinner with all of the dead people from his past. It’s a madcap yet disturbingly affecting dream-nightmare which champions a frank discourse surrounding death, sacrifice, selfishness, suicide, and much more besides: a true testament to everything that made BoJack Horseman so striking.
Best TV Performance
Dolly Wells as in Dracula (Baz Greenland)
For me, it wasn't a case of who would I pick for best TV performance this year; it was more, who could beat Dolly Wells after her wonderful performance as Sister Agatha in BBC's Dracula on New Year's Day. With sharp wit, charisma and a convention-defying nurse-turned vampire hunter, she stole show from everyone, including Claes Bang's Dracula himself.
Check out our review here.
Shira Haas in Unorthodox (Lachlan Haycock)
In the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox, Shira Haas delivers a prodigious performance as Esty, a Hasidic woman who becomes disenfranchised with her conservative upbringing. Small in stature but never less than incandescent, the highly talented Haas plumbs the depths of a wide range of emotions.
Aidan Gallagher in The Umbrella Academy (Chris Philp)
Last year Robert Sheehan got my vote so it’s only fitting that this year his The Umbrella Academy sibling Number Five gets the nod. An incredible performance from a 16 year old Gallagher as he undergoes the seven stages of Paradox Psychosis, from homicidal rage to excessive gas!
Michael Sheen (with David Tennant) in Staged (Robert Turnbull)
It’s a tie for me (well, with a slight winner) of David Tennant and Michel Sheen in Staged. The whole cast is on point and Tennent, playing against his usually energetic type is fantastic but Sheen just pops slightly ahead with his charmingly unhinged but vulnerable performance that summed up how many of us have been feeling in lockdown. I guess this counts in his long repertoire of playing real people? Georgia Tennant gets special mention for low key stealing each scene she is in!
Yvonne Strahovski in Stateless (Gary Couzens)
Stateless was inspired by a true story, with Strahovski playing a troubled woman who joins a cult and then falls out with it. Next thing we know, she turns up at an immigration detention centre claiming to be a German tourist who has lost her passport and overstayed her visa. Soon, her mental state begins to fray. That’s one strand in a complex story dealing with a difficult subject (Australian immigration policy) but Strahovski ably holds centre stage.
Read our review of Stateless season one here.
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (Eamon Hennedy)
An increasingly important voice and writer on British television, it’s easy to forget just how great an actress Coel is as well. There is considerable power to her performance as Arabella throughout all twelve episodes, a million miles away from the charm and silliness of Chewing Gum’s Tracey as Coel lays bare her own experiences with sexual assault in a manner that is heart-wrenching but which goes beyond the term powerful.
Emma Corrin in The Crown (Daisy Treloar)
The role of Princess Diana has always been thought unplayable – until now. With an uncanny replication of her vocal lilts and mannerisms, yes, but also brought to life with a heart-breaking vulnerability and, later, a blossoming strength, newcomer Emma Corrin marches onto the world’s stage.
Best TV Moment
The Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion on Star Trek: Picard (Baz Greenland)
While Star Trek: Picard succeeded in being far more than a nostalgia-driven continuation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's best moment was the long-anticipated reunion between Picard, Riker and Troi. The whole episode was a warm embrace of nostalgia and it was that moment that the three shared a hug, not just as the characters they play, but also between Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, that made this my favourite TV moment of the year.
You can find our Star Trek: Picard reviews here.
Captain Jack returns to Doctor Who (Lachlan Haycock)
The continuity-heavy twelfth series of Doctor Who has its fair share of ‘wow’ moments, but it was the unexpected return of John Barrowman’s fan-favourite character Captain Jack Harkness in Fugitive of the Judoon that had fans erupting into smiles of joy and punching the air in triumph
Check out our reviews of Doctor Who series 12, including Fugitive of the Judoon here.
The introduction of The Child in The Mandalorian (Chris Philp and Eamon Hennedy)
The now iconic shot of the fearsome bounty hunter standing over the hovering pram as a tiny clawed hand reaches out to him. A thousand memes were launched and the internet rejoiced, unified for once with love for the cutest Star Wars addition since the Porgs. (Chris)
Yes, technically this was last year because it aired in the US upon the debut of Disney+, but since UK audiences had to wait until this year, I’m putting it here. We all knew he was coming, but the moment that little green hand moved the blanket down and his Yoda-like face filled the screen, it was hard not to feel like Werner Herzog’s character and demand to see the baby. (Eamon).
Brandon Routh's Superman in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Riker saving the day in Star Trek: Picard (Robert Turnbull)
Brandon Routh returning to the role of Superman in Crisis on Infinite Earths - in particular as Clark Kent, when he meets the Arrowverse Lois and the John Williams love theme kicks in - blew me away emotionally and reminded me why I love and miss Routh’s take on not just Superman but Clark (I feel like we need a little Clark Kent right now).
But, the US/UK broadcast scheduling was so weird it doesn’t really feel like a 2020 TV moment, even though we didn't get the crossover until this year. So I’ll cheat and also say Riker saving the day in Star Trek: Picard. A show that gets more wrong than right it feels like its heart is in the right place and that final moment of Riker turning up with that music playing made everything okay. Nostalgia can be a dangerous drug but it’s no coincidence that in the craziness that is 2020 my favourite moments have been the ones that transported me back to those safer, simpler, more hopeful times
Silly Games in Small Axe's Lovers Rock (Gary Couzens)
In which at a party Janet Kay’s song is played, first the record which had been the first lovers rock song to be a UK hit (number two in 1979) and then sung along to by the partygoers, not all of them managing to hit Kay’s sometimes very high notes. It’s a key scene in the film’s evocation of a time and place, and one of those spontaneous moments that define it.
Catra and Adora kiss in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Daisy Treloar)
In a watershed moment for children’s animation, and after five seasons of exquisite character development, queer love saves the universe. Friends-to-enemies-to-lovers Catra and Adora finally disable the superweapon at the core of Etheria, and through Catra’s last minute confession of love – and Adora’s acceptance of it – everyone lives to tell the tale. “Don’t you get it? I love you! I always have. So please, just this once, stay!” – off to my room to cry now.
And a late minute addition, courtesy of last Friday's The Mandalorian. Spoilers below...
Special mention - the return of a certain character in The Mandalorian season two finale (Baz Greenland & Chris Philp)
Sure, we're cheating here, but we couldn't not mention last Friday's momentous crowd pleasing Star Wars moment. Spoilers within...
Coming off the live-action return of Boba Fett, Ashoka and Bo-Katan, the surprise arrival of Luke Skywalker himself in the season two finale of The Mandalorian was a jaw-dropping moment, taking out the Dark Troopers in full Vader-in-Rogue One mode (thanks to a clever use of hood to hide his face), followed by the digitally de-aged Mark Hamill for the final scene. Oh, and we got R2-D2 too. This made me smile from ear to ear. (Baz)
Let's face it, 2020 has been one of the worst years ever. Then just as we're about to consign it to history's scrapheap along comes Jon Favreau and Mark Hamill and give us an early Christmas present. The Mandalorian has rarely put a foot wrong in its second season and its finale is no exception. The arrival of Luke Skywalker in his prime, faithful R2 unit at his side, will go down as one of the greatest moments in television. Cutting a swathe through a squadron of Dark Troopers with ease to rescue our heroes, this is the Luke we've waited to see for almost 30 years. Fans around the world rejoiced! (Chris)
You can read our review of the season two finale here.
And that wraps up our End of Year TV Review 2020. It was a year where we found comfort in good old fashioned nostalgia - from Star Trek Picard to All Creatures Great and Small to Fraggle Rock and we all fell in love with Baby Yoda. The BBC triumphed with an adaptation of Normal People that captured all our hearts and bold drama such as I May Destroy You and Small Axe, while Michael Sheen and David Tennant delivered scene stealing performances for a second year in a row. Lovecraft Country was HBO's big show of 2020, and Netflix triumphed with the likes of Unorthodox and The Queen's Gambit, while everyone was talking about The Crown. Pandemic or not, 2020 still offered some of the finest TV of recent years.