with Kevin Fallon
Everything we can't stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
This Week:A look back at how much we forgot about in 2020. The things to look forward to in 2021. Hilaria Baldwin, obviously. My new crush, Bridgerton's Jonathan Bailey. The hottest photo I have ever seen.
Hahahaha That Was This Year?!
There is a rumor that I was actually happy at one point in 2020. The alleged incident was said to have taken place on February 2, just blissful weeks before the world stopped turning, things ceased to make sense, people refused to wear masks, and things like sanity and fulfillment were realities, not merely concepts.
This so-called happiness apparently occurred in the evening. The talented entertainer Jennifer Lopez was starring in the Super Bowl. (Who were the teams? Sorry to those men.) It was fresh off the one of the most irreconcilable sins in cultural history—she was not nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Hustlers—and yet she rose from the pyre of negligence at the Academy's feet. Literally, she climbed...up a stripper pole.
She had already burned more calories singing and dancing to her underrated catalog of bops than the average American does in a decade, and yet she climbed. She got to the top, spread her arms like a glittery diva on the crucifix, and smiled. "This rocks," I said.
That now-unfamiliar experience—serotonins???—is reported to even have lasted for an entire week. It was just seven days later when Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars, the rare absolutely correct and deserving coronation from a body so negligent they, again, did not nominate Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers.
You could look at those two events in tandem and even argue that the year 2020 even started out...kind of great? My god. Imagine.
The real shock is that those two cultural highlights actually took place this year at all. From our perch (the corner of the couch from which we have not moved for going on 10 months now), J. Lo's Super Bowl performance and Parasite's Oscar win might as well have taken place centuries ago, when my soul was in another body before being reincarnated into this blobby sack of cheese snacks and fraying sweatpants.
It made me wonder, what else happened this year that we have completely forgotten about—or at least wouldn't believe actually was a moment in time during this merry-go-round of shit, operating at lightspeed, that we called 2020.
Tiger King was this year. Remember that? There was a time when "that bitch Carole Baskin" was not just a misogynistic meme, but the thing we were most preoccupied by. Ten months of a pandemic? A coup? Who could even think of such a possibility when there was the matter of whether that kooky lady in the flower crown murdered her husband and fed them to the tigers.
Love Is Blind was also this year. My god! Were we ever that young? I vaguely recall watching a lady who was 34 (but he was 24) giving her dog some wine, but it could also just have been a fever dream from a former life.
The first TV show I saw in 2020 was Spinning Out, a soap-opera-thriller about a bipolar former figure skater trying to resurrect her career in spite of the trauma caused by her also-bipolar mother played by Betty Draper herself, January Jones. That is actually the plot line, and we didn't care! No one watched! How naive we were, not knowing how good we had it. We'd take a recently sharpened skate and drive it into a nemesis' achilles to have a show like now that to divert us from the real world.
Cheer did the whole damn thing in 2020, being the rare piece of entertainment every single human could love and root for, and then becoming the subject of a disturbing, heartbreaking scandal—amidst which one of its subjects competed on Dancing With the Stars.
There was an entire new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm that aired in 2020. What?! Is Larry David even still alive?
My notes tell me that there were episodes of Westworld that aired this year, but I cannot definitively prove that. It is also whispered about that we used to all clamor for new episodes of YouTube cooking videos from the Bon Appétit test kitchen, which, if true, surely we've all been canceled by now.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were still part of the royal family in this, the year of our Lord 2020!!!
Jada Pinkett-Smith took herself to the Red Table, and introduced "entanglement" into the vernacular. There was a film called Birds of Prey and I even purchased a ticket to see it in a real-life theater. Pick my jaw up off the dang floor, because I just confirmed that I also went to see Broadway shows!
People were mad about scooter-sharing services, which indicates that people actually went places. "Karen" was still funny. I could be certain that when I saw something that couldn't possibly be cake, it was not cake. I pulled a hamstring trying to do the "W.A.P." dance and couldn't walk for three days. Dorinda was still a Real Housewife. I received mail on time. Pete Buttegieg???
I don't know what the point of all this is. A year is longer than we think, so don't dwell on the shitty parts? Things were once so perfectly fine that what we now think of as outrageous milestones seemed inconsequential? That the world moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it? OK, now I'm just plagiarizing Ferris Bueller/citing my senior class high school yearbook quote.
2020 was a lot, in every sense. I hated so much of it. I've never been more scared, more sad, or more miserable. But...hey. We still had fun.
The TV Shows to Look Forward To
With "Moderna" and "Pfizer" the sexiest words you could ever hear, people have been joking and posting about all the things they're going to do once they get a vaccine and can go out in the world and be around crowds of people.
I, however, have just finished prepping my 2021 editorial calendar and confirmed that I will apparently be leaving my apartment less than I already did in a pandemic.
That is to say I have discovered that there is a lot of really excellent television coming in 2021—or at least ones worth talking about—and so anyone looking for a reason to continue the sweet life of permanent sweatpants and not having to pretend to care about seeing other people is in for a treat.
I feel like we're all pretty familiar with the "nothing is set in stone and plans are fluid and/or cancellable" part of life by now, so know that these are all projects merely expected to come out in the next year. Things could change.
Still, who's not looking forward to Impeachment: American Crime Story, the dramatization of the Monica Lewinsky scandal from Ryan Murphy, who, for whatever you think of his projects, has indisputably turned the previous O.J. Simpson and Andrew Cunanan iterations of the anthology series into marquee cultural events.
Fresh off delivering the horniest Christmas in memory, Shonda Rhimes will release her limited series Inventing Anna, based on the New York magazine article about New York society grifter Anna Delvey. While Shondaland produced Bridgerton, this will be Rhimes' first return to showrunning and receiving episode writing credits since the Scandal finale.
Cecily Strong is starring in a satire of 1940s musicals called Schmigadoon, which is a project I can't believe exists outside my wildest dreams. Rose Byrne is starring in a series about the drama of the 1980s-era world of aerobics that is actually called Physical, like the Olivia Newton-John song. And Lauren Graham is starring in a Disney+ reboot of The Mighty Ducks, which I'm optimistic about because the recent kid-friendly revivals of prized '90s nostalgia Saved By the Bell and The Baby-Sitters Club were so good...and also because of the phrase "Lauren Graham is starring."
With WandaVision, there's finally a Marvel series that I'm interested in watching. The Showtime series In Treatment is getting revived with the incomparable Uzo Aduba in the therapist's chair. And there is a Tina Fey comedy about a washed-up former girl group reuniting called Girls5eva starring Sara Bareilles, Busy Phillips, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Paula Pell, which has reportedly been written explicitly for me.
I've never been more pleased with a decision than my one to make my television my best and only friend.
We Need to Talk About Jonathan Bailey
Let me invite you into a very private, intimate habit of mine: Late-night drunk Googling about hot actors starring in TV series I just watched.
That is how I learned that the hot and cranky (and thus even hotter) older brother Anthony in Bridgerton is played by Jonathan Bailey who is not only a former co-star of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Crashing) and Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), which makes him two-for-two on working with the best Brits, but also a musical theatre performer on the West End.
He won the Olivier Award last year for his role in the gender-swapped production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, earning raves for nailing the all-time-great comedy number "I'm Not Getting Married Today," this time sung from a man to his male fiancé.
Bailey, who is openly gay, delivered a phenomenal acceptance speech about the significance of turning that number into a same-sex love song, which you can and should watch here. And should you want to know any and every other detail about Bailey's life otherwise, I am now an expert and you can come find me.
2020, as a Photo
I will never stop thinking about this photo.
RuPaul's Drag Race: It's been roughly 12 hours since a new Drag Race episode aired, I'm parched. (Friday on VH1) Cobra Kai: Y'all know how good this Karate Kid reboot is, right? (Friday on Netflix) Pieces of a Woman: Vanessa Kirby should win an Oscar for this. (Thursday on Netflix)
The 90-Day Fiancé spinoffs: Discovery+ is launching with like 100 of them, but we need to all abandon this tragic cultural phenomenon. (Monday on Discovery+)
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Dear God, These Things Actually Happened in 2020
Everything we can't stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.