Hey there, streamers! As a new year approaches, I thought it only right to do this blog that features my best of streaming picks for 2020.
When it comes to top streaming picks, don’t go to Stuart Sweet. His “movie of the year” is Palm Springs on Hulu. He literally raves about that show, which features two coastal elitists caught in a time loop. Meanwhile, I’m watching more interesting programming on HBO Max and Netflix. For the sake of brevity, I’m giving you my top pic for each category: original series, original mini-series, and original movie. That’s a good way to highlight the best things to stream in 2020. Let’s jump into it, then.
Original Series: Black Spot (Netflix)
This French-Belgian production put an interesting spin on what’s come to be known as the “urban paranormal” genre. First of all, it’s not urban. The show is set in a small town in the mountainous region of France near the Belgian border. Black Spot’s deep and highly nuanced plotlines all come together to make this one uniquely compelling show. Here are some of the elements at play in this modern paranormal thriller:
- A variety of related characters each haunted by events in their past.
- A quaint mountain town in rural France populated by some very interesting people.
- Plenty of romance between the central characters.
- A local crime lord who’s creating an ecological disaster within the town.
- A mysterious forest ruled over by an ancient Celtic deity.
I like foreign films, actors I’ve never seen before, and even like subtitles. What I don’t like is unfinished business. Black Spot runs for two seasons on Netflix and ends on a gigantic cliffhanger. If what I’m reading on Reddit is true, the show has been canceled. Just like HBO’s Carnivale – another paranormal TV series that ended prematurely after just two seasons – we’ll never know all of the forest’s secrets in Black Spot. But maybe that’s the point?
Original Mini-Series: The Undoing (HBO)
HBO really knocked it out of the park with this banger. The Undoing is what happens when a solid plot, stellar cast, lush settings, and dramatic pacing all come together to make a great show. It tells the tale of Grace Fraser, a successful NYC psychologist whose husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) is accused of murdering his mistress, Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis). As the show’s title suggests, the real culprit is undone by a series of their own actions that leave no doubt as to who killed Elena.
Frankly, I wish the streaming service providers would make more mini-series like The Undoing. Frankly, I wish they would just make more limited series shows. Many of today’s original series either run too long on a stretched premise, or they get canceled ahead of schedule and leave things unfinished. In six, gripping episodes, The Undoing tells the perfect tale that entertains the viewer and leaves them feeling satisfied that the story has been fully told.
The Undoing wasn’t the only thing I streamed on HBO Max this year. Here are some other honorable mentions:
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
- I May Destroy You
- The Perfect Weapon
- Wonder Woman 1984
Original Movie: The Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)
Okay, I might get some pushback on this one because this movie did have a limited theatrical release. Since I’m not going to the movies these days, and it quickly became available on Netflix, I see it as a Netflix movie. Look, I’m not big on holiday movies, but my kids wanted to see the original The Christmas Chronicles. Mrs. Buckler and I were ecstatic to learn that a sequel was now available on one of the streaming services we subscribe to.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is everything you’d want out of a feel-good holiday movie. It features a return of the original cast, including Kurt Russell as Santa. This time around, Goldie Hawn fittingly stars as Mrs. Claus. The on-screen chemistry of Russell and Hawn plus the familiar yet friendly formula of a happy holiday movie all come together to make this one a hit in a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of way.
Streaming in 2021?
Something just occurred to me. I’ve written an entire blog post about streaming without mentioning Stranger Things until now. I think this is more than a coincidence. It’s likely a sign of the times. My prediction for streaming in 2021 will be very similar to what I experience this year. My favorite original series and shows will be those programs that I don’t know are coming yet. With that in mind, I tip my remote control to all of you and look forward to a happy new year of streaming. I hope you have one too!