Published Dec 30, 2020In its prime, Black Mirror was an insightful, frequently prescient skewering of the technology-obsessed modern world — so, in theory, creator Charlie Brooker should be the perfect person to tackle 2020 in all of its tragic absurdity. But even though the year isn't even over yet, the Brooker-created Death to 2020 somehow already feels too late, as it retells the still-fresh events of the past 12 months while piggybacking onto jokes already beaten to death a million times over on Twitter.
Presented as a parodic mockumentary, Death to 2020 aims to match the cynical tone of the past year with irony and snark. An all-star cast offers up a familiar array of stereotypes: Hugh Grant is a stuffy historian with outdated views, Kumail Nanjiani is a selfish tech billionaire, Joe Keery is a faux-woke millennial, and Cristin Milioti is a QAnon-loving "Karen."
These caricatures fall flat for the same reason that so much Trump-era comedy has felt toothless: real life is already so absurd that comedy struggles to do it justice. In a time when people are dying and fascism is a genuine threat, limp one-liners about Trump's skin colour, Biden's age or Boris Johnson's hair simply aren't funny anymore. The movie poster depicts a dumpster fire — a joke so quaint that it quite literally belongs on Etsy. And why we need a recurring Queen Elizabeth II parody right now is anyone's guess.
Of the Hollywood actors, only Samuel L. Jackson (as a reporter from the so-called New Yorkerly Times) and Leslie Jones (as a behavioural therapist) manage to land a couple of quasi-decent punchlines, mostly because they play things relatively straight and inject some actual venom into Death to 2020. The discussion of this summer's Black Lives Matter movement barely even attempts to be funny, and it's better for it. Elsewhere, Diane Morgan's depiction of a dim-witted "average citizen" is funniest when she's complaining about her love life and barely addressing 2020 at all.
The closest Death to 2020 gets to genuinely insightful parody is with Lisa Kudrow's depiction of a shamelessly lying Trump spokesperson; her belligerent assertion that "conservative voices are being silenced" perfectly captures the delusional victim complex of a Trump zealot.
Mostly, though, Death to 2020 settles for lowest hanging comedic fruit, never going beyond lazy jokes about Plandemic and #BLM black boxes that bring nothing new to the discussion.
Maybe the real problem is that we don't need this type of detached irony right now. Death to 2020 isn't quite as grating as, say, Gal Gadot's celebrity singalong of "Imagine," but it still feels annoyingly smug. We don't want celebrities lobbing us softball jokes about Karens and millennial influencers — we want some actual anger and insightful observations, otherwise 2021 isn't going to look much different than 2020. (Netflix)