Election, 'Jeopardy!' and more

Written by on December 24, 2020


USA TODAY TV Critic Kelly Lawler discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic affected TV reveals, networks and productions in 2020. USA TODAY

In a 12 months that noticed the world turned the other way up by the coronavirus pandemic, TV had its share of massive moments.

Positive, lots of your favourite reveals had been sidelined by production shutdowns, and the virus dominated information protection. However creativity usually triumphed as leisure producers sought to offer refuge; a wild presidential election sparked file scores for cable information networks; loads of reveals had been already filmed earlier than the virus started taking its toll; and the streaming age exploded with extra newcomers. (And let’s not neglect that 2020 started with a number of weeks of relative normalcy.) 

USA TODAY’s TV workers gives a glance again on the highs (and lows) from a 12 months we might reasonably neglect. 

A cheerful water-cooler second: What’s the ‘Jeopardy!’ GOAT Match?

Legendary “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter received a prime-time stage for ABC’s Best of All Time event in early January. The particular occasion was an enormous hit and had the nation speaking. Jennings clinched the title with three wins in 4 nights, telling USA TODAY that he feared going into the competition that he was “no longer as sharp as I used to be,” which clearly wasn’t the case. (Viewers will get to see the three champs once more on ABC’s “The Chase,” which premieres Jan. 7.) Regardless of Jennings’ achievement, the actual star was host Alex Trebek, a sport present legend whose fan base grew even bigger throughout his battle in opposition to Stage Four pancreatic most cancers.

‘The Good Place’ goes out on a excessive be aware

Every little thing really was OK within the January collection finale of NBC’s existential afterlife sitcom “The Good Place.” The collection got here to a becoming finish that left the present’s signature plot twists and meals puns behind in favor of a sentimental journey of goodbyes. “Good Place” did not have any extra solutions to life’s massive questions than we people can present. It was similar to us: imperfect, messy, formidable, loving, open-hearted, humorous and well-intentioned. Or not less than, it was similar to one of the best model of ourselves we might be. 

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira rock Tremendous Bowl’s halftime present

Though February seems like a number of a long time in the past, sure, there was a Tremendous Bowl this 12 months. And who might’ve guessed simply how infectiously joyous the combo of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira could be because the halftime present stars, smiling and dancing their approach via an lively set that was quick on over-the-top spectacle – there have been no big tiger puppets or high-flying entrances – however had loads of jaw-dropping choreography, Prime 40 hits and celebrations of Latin tradition.

Sarah Palin rapped on ‘The Masked Singer’ the day the pandemic received actual

Many people totally began to understand the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11. That Wednesday night time, the NBA suspended its season and Tom Hanks and spouse Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive for the novel coronavirus whereas in Australia. Additionally that day? Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was revealed as the tie-dyed, rapping (Alaskan) Bear on “The Masked Singer.” The mixture of the intense with the surreal would come to outline the information of 2020. 

The remoteness of awards reveals

The pre-pandemic Golden Globes and Oscars went off with no hitch. However there was no purple carpet to strut down for the Emmys and different awards reveals because the 12 months progressed. As a substitute,  stars served trendy appears anyway when accepting an award – or losing, as Ramy Youssef (Hulu’s “Ramy”) confirmed on the digital Emmy Awards ceremony. We had been additionally gifted the (controversial) second when Jennifer Aniston put out an actual dumpster fire.

Pandemic-era actuality TV: ‘Tiger King,’ ‘Love is Blind,’ ‘Ground is Lava’ 

We had been a captive viewers because of the pandemic, and there was loads of jaw-dropping tv to maintain us occupied, particularly on Netflix. “Tiger King” turned a phenomenon. “Floor is Lava” recreated a childhood sport. Little did we all know “Love is Blind” would foreshadow relationship in 2020: being in two completely different rooms, on their own with copious quantities of wine. And  “Too Hot to Handle” supplied its personal model of ostensibly sex-free quarantine. 

When the discuss reveals misplaced their viewers (after which went residence)

There was a bizarre, nearly deliberately Dadaist bent to Whoopi Goldberg opening the March 11 episode of “The View” shouting “ “Welcome to ‘The View’!” again and again to an empty room. The subsequent night time, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon hosted episodes of their late-night discuss reveals in equally abandoned studios devoid of conventional laughter. The audience-free talk show, a pit cease on the way in which to quarantine TV constructed from residence within the early days of the pandemic, was a weird, absurdist historic doc of how the world modified straight away.

Digital audiences fill empty studios on ‘Masked Singer,’ different actuality contests

 With out audiences to cheer on its contestants, “The Masked Singer” borrowed footage from earlier seasons to create the phantasm of a communal expertise. Not very best, as a result of the community by no means copped to the ruse, creating the impression it was violating California pointers by inviting an viewers into the studio.   “America’s Got Talent,” “America’s Funniest Residence Movies” and different reveals did their finest to make up for a scarcity of a theater viewers with digital viewers, watching on digicam from residence. 

… And at televised sports activities contests, too, because the pandemic restricts crowds 

The NBA tried that, too, ensuring well-known followers had been in digital courtside seats. Professional sports activities together with the MLB and NFL additionally tried to make up for often-empty stadiums with canned sound and even cardboard cutout followers (an alternate cash maker throughout a pandemic) at baseball video games. It wasn’t good, nevertheless it was higher than crickets. And, a house run that almost decapitated a cardboard fan gave us a brand new method to benefit from the lengthy ball!

Pandemic manufacturing shutdown is the mom of TV invention

When the pandemic shut down TV manufacturing in March, some stations discovered inventive methods to proceed. With solid members restricted to their properties, CBS authorized drama “All Rise” produced an episode targeted on a trial performed through video convention, as some real-world courts did, with solid members filming from their properties. NBC’s “The Blacklist,” caught with {a partially} filmed episode, ingeniously employed eye-catching animation to create a memorably makeshift season finale. NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” got here out of retirement for a much-praised, socially distanced reunion episode, a fundraiser to feed the hungry. Sadly, one other nice comedy, “30 Rock,” had a much-derided distant return for a numbing ad-sales infomercial plugging NBCUniversal. Blerg!

The streaming service membership will get even larger

Streaming approached saturation ranges, as two extra massive business gamers, Comcast (Peacock) and WarnerMedia (HBO Max), simply months after Apple TV+ and Disney+ launched, becoming a member of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. As Disney+ loved early success with “The Mandalorian” and its staggering library of movies, and Peacock launched a free, ad-supported service. HBO Max had a less-than-robust launch – simply over 12 million have activated the service – however the success of “The Flight Attendant,” renewed for Season 2, and the Christmas premiere of  “Surprise Lady 1984,” the identical day it opens in theaters, present a shot within the arm. In response to theaters closed by the pandemic, Warner Bros. determination to launch its whole 17-film slate on HBO Max in 2021 could possibly be transformational.

Say goodbye to the massive, long-running, culturally connecting sitcom

April’s “Modern Family” finale not solely marked the top of a hilarious, Emmy-laden comedy. The critically praised ABC sitcom would possibly simply be the last of TV’s top-rated, long-running sitcom hits,  one 12 months after the exit of CBS  juggernaut “The Big Bang Theory.” With audiences fragmented by streaming and shorter, fewer seasons, it’s exhausting to think about one other collection, irrespective of how good, turning into as massive a fixture within the cultural dialog. And that was earlier than the pandemic, which threatens to speed up the traits pushing in opposition to a giant, bonding comedy – the type of factor all of us might use as of late. At the very least we nonetheless have reruns of “Household,” “Massive Bang,” “Pals,” “Seinfeld” and “The Workplace” on streaming providers, however there don’t seem like many more moderen reveals on that stage to affix them.

‘Schitt’s Creek’ says goodbye, and sweeps the Emmys

There have been no vacancies on the Emmys for “Schitt’s Creek,” the Canadian best-comedy winner from obscure Pop TV – popularized by Netflix – which wrapped after six seasons in April and swept the comedy categories, a primary. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy received as lead actors, whereas Annie Murphy and co-creator Daniel Levy took the supporting classes. With wins for writing, directing, casting and costumes, there wasn’t a thorn for the Roses in sight.

The TV season launch that wasn’t 

Mid-September often means it is time for the (declining) broadcast TV enterprise to roll out a slate of latest and returning collection, a customized that dates again to sponsorships by automakers to roll out their new automobile fashions every fall. However the pandemic manufacturing shutdown led to a staggered rollout: Some reveals arrived in late October, others in November. And two whole networks (Fox and CW) will wait til 2021 to introduce their programming staples. 

‘SNL’ returns with a masked viewers (and Jim Carrey’s dangerous model of Joe Biden)

In a 12 months as tumultuous as 2020, “SNL” writers made valiant efforts to air spring reveals remotely. However the 46th season, which boasts hosts together with Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, has been extra of a whimper, particularly with regards to masking the 2020 election. Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden impression fell flat in a 12 months when the information is stranger than something sketch comedy writers can give you. He bowed out, and common solid member Alex Moffat replaced him on Dec. 19. 

Netflix hit ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ begins a chess craze

Who knew chess could possibly be so cool? Anya Taylor-Pleasure’s vivid performance as (fictional) champ Beth Harmon in what Netflix referred to as its hottest restricted collection, which debuted in October, made the traditional sport of technique extra interesting than ever and boosted gross sales of chess units. Whereas it’s straightforward sufficient to seize a elaborate set and take a look at your hand on the sport, replicating Beth’s genius is slightly tougher.

The 2020 election (aka The By no means Ending Story)

Who wants fictional drama? The presidential election and the way in which TV information lined it supplied thrills, chills and spills that can hold everybody speaking till the subsequent presidential contest. The primary presidential debate was one for the ages, principally due to President Donald Trump’s out-of-control interruptions; Trump had dust-ups with CBS’ Lesley Stahl and NBC’s Savannah Guthrie; Fox Information’ Tucker Carlson and NBC Information received into an on-air fight days earlier than the election; and the race was too near name on Election Night, as information divisions had predicted. Community anchors appeared to breathe a sigh of reduction when Joe Biden introduced again a extra conventional tone a number of days later, after information organizations decided he had the votes to be anointed president-elect. However Trump nonetheless managed to get protection with claims of a “rigged” election, even after the Electoral School sealed Biden’s win.

Legendary ‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek dies after courageous most cancers battle

Followers cheered Trebek as he continued to tape ‘Jeopardy!’ via October  as contestants supplied emotional testimonials. The host offered an excellent service, speaking publicly about his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer whereas setting an exquisite instance by embracing life. Sadly, the disease claimed Trebek’s life on Nov. 8, resulting in an outpouring of tears and tributes. Followers will see his final episodes the week of Jan. 4, a clue to the right query: What’s a contented but bittersweet method to begin 2021?  

‘Supernatural’ says goodbye after 15 (!) seasons

Few prime-time reveals final a decade and a half – you’ll be able to rely “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Regulation & Order: SVU” and “NCIS” on one hand – however the long term of CW’s “Supernatural” is a very paranormal feat. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padadecki performed demon-fighting brothers since 2005 (the primary season aired on predecessor WB, earlier than CW even existed). The collection had a particular reference to its social media-savvy followers, together with USA TODAY movie critic Brian Truitt, who wrote that the collection allowed him to “escape my very own purgatory and head right into a demon-filled world with two dudes who carried on, it doesn’t matter what.”

Vacation films turn out to be extra inclusive  

As vacation TV specials (and retailers for them) mushroomed, from Mariah Carey to Carrie Underwood, from Rugrats to Snoopy to Minions, the made-for-TV Christmas film, a programming staple on Lifetime, Hallmark (and recently, Netflix) started featuring more diverse characters, together with LGBTQ {couples}, after facing pressure to symbolize. “It feels prefer it’s progress,” mentioned homosexual actor Jonathan Bennett, who starred as half of a same-sex couple in Hallmark’s “The Christmas Home.” 


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