But there’s no grand sense of humor or wit to the project, even if some of the cast members try to have fun playing their archetypes (Cristin Milioti might be the MVP with her forcefully smiling, Facebook-radicalized Karen prototype). The voiceover from Laurence Fishburne in particular can be cringeworthy too, like the line “critics described the lack of ventilators as ‘breath-taking,’” the kind of teeth-gnashing garbage that comes from the show’s apparent self-amusement and lack of quality filter. You wish that the series would lean into its poetic absurdities more, as with one moment in which a joke is made about a Black man switching bodies with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It’s also funny when a woman picked to be the face of average people (Diane Morgan) says that she developed multiple personalities to keep herself entertained in quarantine. But this series doesn’t have the creativity to follow those comic strands, instead hoping to sound edgy with a joke that simply references how Millennials posted black squares in an act of protest this past summer.
More than usual for Netflix fare—and this is really saying something—”Death to 2020″ can be most accurately described as a piece of content. It’s simply meant to pop on the home page with its universal title sentiment, grab some curious Netflix viewers, and ultimately direct them to other Netflix titles. The streaming service never hesitates to use one of its shows to reference another (“Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun” had a whole episode about “The Crown”), but the synergy here is especially egregious and tacky. Among the special’s look at history, of course they pat themselves on the back for the lockdown-timed phenomenon of “Tiger King,” and later on there are more references to “The Crown” and even “Selling Sunset.”
It’s almost as if the creators decided that something had to be said about this year, but they couldn’t land on anything especially clever, and certainly weren’t going to challenge themselves to offer any thing we hadn’t thought about with regards to 2020. Even the simplicity of the project seems to be a cop-out, and is especially disappointing given how readily Brooker’s “Black Mirror” can take the familiar, and reimagine it with some dangerous storytelling. This project on the other hand, only tries to engage with the viewer by scanning though headlines and giving it all a funny face, which itself is a cynical approach to a year that might have taken a lot out of us, but became important and revealing in its own absurd way. 2020 deserves better.
Now available on Netflix.