What the Variety Staff Is Thankful for in Entertainment in 2020

What the Variety Staff Is Thankful for in Entertainment in 2020

Disneyland shut down, production has been halted worldwide and “Succession” Season 2 is extremely delayed. But even in this dumpster fire of a year, the Variety staff manages to find ways to be grateful. Below, read what the writers, editors and reporters at Variety are thankful for in entertainment this Thanksgiving.

Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman” 
Courtesy of Focus Features

For sweatpants and cashmere, celery juice, “Promising Young Woman” and my coworkers. My weapons in defeating 2020 — Matt Donnelly, senior film writer

I’m thankful that Clare, the Bachelorette, was bold and honest enough to deClare her feelings for Dale before taking us through an entire season of phony relationships! — Sheila Howard, editorial coordinator

I am thankful for “Hamilton” on Disney Plus restoring my will to live at the mid-point of this brutal year. — Cynthia Littleton, co-editor-in-chief of Variety

I’m thankful for Giuseppe Capotondi’s film version of Charles Willeford’s neo-noir novel “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” starring Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland. Having worked with Willeford a million years ago, it’s great to see the lasting power of his books. Smart, elegant neo-noir films are precious and rare and even though “Heresy” may be the only one in recent memory, that makes me even more thankful that it exists and is now accessible to crime film fans all over the world! — Steven Gaydos, EVP, global content

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“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City”
Chad Kirkland/Bravo

Just as I was losing all hope in this year, Bravo released the already-canon “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” Between Mary’s 12 odor gland surgeries and Brooks Marks’ leave of absence from college to film alongside his mother, we truly have so much to be thankful for. And, of course, Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” — Meg Zukin, senior social media editor

I’m thankful for “Survivor” for getting me through quarantine. I would say I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to finally start watching it, but I can, because I’m not ordinarily a fan of reality television. But “Survivor” (as probably everyone aside me has known for the past 20 years) is no ordinary reality TV show. The grueling, suspenseful challenges! The genius gameplay! The reliable chaos of tribal council! It’s one of the only shows that’s been able to distract my anxious brain during the pandemic. For that — and for introducing me to Parvati Shallow, Cirie Fields and Ozzy Lusth — I am grateful. — Rebecca Rubin, film reporter

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HBO

I’ve oft discussed how this summer whoever was running the Black Pop Culture calendar was really killing the game. Black creators dominated 2020 with must-tweet moments that kept us all entertained, especially in the early days of quarantine. We grooved with DNice until the wee hours of the morning with Club Quarantine regulars like Michelle Obama, Halle Berry and Missy Elliott. (NKOTB’s Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy were also there pretty much every night.) Most Sunday nights viewers had to Sophie’s Choice between watching “Insecure” or “The Last Dance” live, and we narrowly avoided disaster when Teddy Riley and Babyface’s Verzuz battle was fortuitously rescheduled from Sunday to Monday April 20 — a date that will live in Instagram infamy. Dissecting the brilliance of Black women creators, Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” and Misha Green’s “Lovecraft Country,” plus the Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon face-offs over race and womanhood in “Little Fires Everywhere” (not to mention Jodie Turner Smith’s fire commentary on husband Joshua Jackson’s performance). And then you have Beyonce — who started out quarantine by promoting the live watch-along for her “Homecoming” special, then dropping the “Savage” remix with Megan Thee Stallion and releasing her epic “Black Is King” film on Disney plus. — Angelique Jackson, film & media reporter

You can’t get through a year like 2020 without being thankful for health, family and new leadership. Right behind that gratitude is a hearty thanks for an outstanding new venture at Variety, with an impending move to the “City of Stars” coming in 2021. But in all seriousness, mac and cheese will always rival most good things that come pretty much any calendar year. — Clayton Davis, awards editor

In a time of tremendous anxiety, from the pandemic to the ongoing social injustices and election drama, nothing lowered blood pressure and created smiles this year more than all of the dog content. Some of the most fun (and most surprising) were HBO Max’s “Haute Dog,” a dog-grooming competition series; Disney Plus’ “Pick of the Litter,” a docuseries about raising and training guide dogs; CBS All Access’ “That Animal Rescue Show,” which followed rescue organizations and their personnel in Austin, Texas, reaching beyond pooches to also include bats and pigs, and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Pack,” which paired a human and their canine companion on a travel adventure. These shows are the ultimate in feel-good, escapist entertainment and, as times became more trying, my patience and attention span for prestige television wore thin, and all I wanted was to zone out with something uplifting and, quite frankly, adorable. — Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

As a formerly lonely drive-in theater regular of several decades’ standing, I’m thankful that the rest of the world has suddenly remembered that these al fresco exhibitions still. No longer am I met with the question, “Wait, there’s a place I can drive to… in the L.A. area?” Everyone I know knows, now, and they’ve probably been at this point in the pandemic, having already Netflix-and-chilled themselves into a frozen catatonia at home. Never could I have imagined the day that the American Cinematheque and Beyond Festival would be holding weekly revival screenings or an entire week-long film festival at an ozoner. And of course, I’m sorry, not thankful, that it took these circumstances to make the rediscovery happen. But it was the drive-in that allowed those of us with a craving for the big screen and communal (or at least semi-communal) viewing to get our fix without holding out for the big, Faucian fix. The sad irony is that the L.A. area’s DI of choice, the four-screen Mission Tiki in Montclair, has gotten its big revival at a time when it sits on land that has been sold for redevelopment and will probably run out of borrowed time some time in the next year or two. That’ll still leaves the Vineland, Paramount, a couple in Riverside, and all the new pop-ups that may still retain their popularity even well after they’re the sole excuse to leave the house, for those of us in SoCal, as well as the hundreds of starlit sanctuaries on an edge of town (hopefully) near you. Quarantining will soon become a distant memory, but I don’t believe for a Thanksgiving second the drive-in will. Chris Willman, editor, features

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Nintendo

I’m grateful for the fact that the gaming industry has not only adapted to unpredicted times, but put out some of its most exciting content to ensure we’re plenty entertained months into lockdown. When quarantine rocked my routine, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” gave me a reason to wake up by 8 a.m. every morning and check Nook’s shop. When I was getting itchy with wanderlust, “Ghost of Tsushima” threw me into one of the most vibrant, beautiful video game worlds I’ve ever been able to explore. When I needed a colorful, goofy distraction, “Fall Guys” let me fumble around its ridiculous stages. Not to mention, Sony and Microsoft still managed to pull off two next-generation consoles launches – and trust me, if you have a new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, you’re totally fine to stay inside for a while. — Alex Stedman, senior news editor

I’m thankful for all the freelancers in the film and TV industries who put one foot in front of the other and kept going every single day without knowing what was next, or whether they’d have jobs or careers to come back to. — Manori Ravindran, international editor

Purists can holler all they want about the dark room and the shared experience, but we should all be super-thankful for the explosion of streaming in the age of COVID. — Peter Caranicas, managing editor, features

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Bong Joon Ho with the awards for best director for “Parasite” and for best international feature film for “Parasite” at the Oscars.
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutt

I’m excited that American audiences have (finally) been opening up to more non-English TV/film and music. It was a refreshing year to watch Korean creatives like Bong Joon Ho and BTS receive their long-awaited recognition from American awards shows. Here’s to hoping that these experiences will be normalized. — Janet Lee, editorial intern

I am thankful for the family and friends who have helped me stay sane through this madhouse of a year. Joe Otterson, senior TV reporter

I’m thankful for entertainment as comfort food and an emotional crutch during the pandemic. Although New York City is very much still alive, I found myself latching on to art that reminded me of the normally busy sidewalks. “How to With John Wilson” hit me in the heart, profiling the loveable weirdos that make the city so dynamic. Great new albums all year long from the Griselda Records collective made me nostalgic for boom bap blaring from car windows on sunny days. And I’ve listened to the podcast “We Hate Movies” for so many years that each new episode felt like I was hitting up a bar with my buddies, talking shit about our neighborhood and pop culture. — William Earl, editor of Variety.com

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“Somebody Feed Phil”
Courtesy of Netflix

This year, I’m thankful for the amazing quarantine discovery of “Somebody Feed Phil.” I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life – and it’s not a comedy, but a food/travel show. From Singapore to San Francisco, Phil eats a ton of food all over the world and makes it wildly entertaining. In my humble opinion, Phil Rosenthal is a gift to this earth, and I’m not sure how anyone could dislike this show. At the very least, watch it just to see Phil’s dad make a so-bad-it’s-good joke at the end of each episode. Phil, if you’re reading this… take me on a food tour of L.A., please? — Ellise Shafer, associate web editor

I’m thankful for the endless creativity of people in entertainment, how they’ve been able to pivot in crazy times and come up with cool and fun ideas to still have virtual premieres and events via drive-ins or Zoom Q&As. And super grateful for the way everyone involved has gone along with making the best of a tough situation. And there are some upsides to doing events from home, like never having to change out of one’s pajamas. — Jenelle Riley, associate features editor

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Taylor Swift poses for one of her “Folklore” covers
Beth Garrabrant

I’m grateful for the surprise Taylor Swift album drop, and I’m even more grateful for her upcoming re-recordings. Hearing “Love Story” with modern production qualities will be transcendent. — Eli Countryman, editorial intern

This year has truly made us all focus on what we are really thankful for, hasn’t it? First and foremost, I am thankful for my family’s health and safety. I’m also thankful for a job that has kept me busy during quarantine, while having the privilege to inform and entertain our readers and our viewers — sometimes, we take our daily lives for granted, but being a journalist is truly something to be grateful for, especially during these times. — Elizabeth Wagmeister, senior correspondent

This year, obviously, has been horrendous — and most of all, I’m thankful for my and my family’s health, and my employment. If I ever took those things for granted, I certainly don’t know, and never will again. But for the purposes on this list, I’m thankful for the shows I binged during the early stay-at-home orders, which both passed the hours and made me think. Yes, there was “Tiger King,” and yes, ultimately that felt disgusting to watch. But we also watched “Hillary” (and wondered what things would have been during the pandemic like had Hillary Clinton won), “Watchmen” (which is about history, but also has foretold the present), and “Years and Years” (practically torture in how prescient it is — not sure I recommend it! Trump starts a war on his way out of his presidency). We also caught up on “Better Call Saul,” and watched three other shows in a row in which people have committed crimes, and fear getting caught: the great “Dead to Me,” the layered “Barry” and the justifiably canceled “Run.” I think displacing our anxiety that way was actually pretty effective! But also? “Below Deck” is a great show, and there are tons of seasons of it — nature is healing! — Kate Aurthur, editor-at-large

I’m thankful that “Call My Agent” exists to show “Emily in Paris” how a real French office works, and that at some point the fourth season will be available in the U.S. I’m also thankful that Criterion released “The Complete Films of Agnes Varda” collection over the summer just when we needed it most, complete with her groundbreaking documentaries like “Black Panthers” and “Murs Murs.” — Pat Saperstein, deputy editor

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The Crown S4. Picture shows: Queen Elizabeth II (OLIVIA COLMAN). Filming Location: Rothiemurchus, Scotland
Des Willie/Netflix

With going to movie theaters out of the question. thankful to be dazzled by the acting genius of Olivia Colman in “The Crown,” “Broadchurch” and “The Night Manager.” I’m even looking forward to her dealing with the mental decline of her on-screen dad Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.” Dave McNary, film writer

I am thankful for “Veneno,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Jingle Jangle,” “The Undoing,” “Unorthodox,” Maya Rudolph, Ricky Martin, my husband’s TikTok (@fabiantiktoks30sclub), Laura Dern & Baby Yoda, Sarah Paulson, “Big Mouth,” “Canada’s Drag Race” winner Priyanka, my ring light, Barbra Streisand, Naomi Campbell on “Making the Cut,” “Alguien Tiene Que Morir” and as always, Dolly Parton. — Marc Malkin, senior culture & events editor

I’m thankful for the videos of people busting out into spontaneous celebrations after the election was called for Biden, but none was more cathartic than this tweet of Demi Adejuyigbe dancing to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on the roof of a car in Los Angeles. David Viramontes, social media coordinator

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Schitt’s Creek
Pop

I’m thankful for “Schitt’s Creek” and its glorious capability of providing much-needed escapism. I’m also indebted to Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and their outfits in “The Queen’s Gambit.” — Natalie Oganesyan, editorial intern

I’m most thankful that Trump did not ban TikTok this year, because I was not prepared to find something else to occupy my attention for approximately 10 hours per day. I also want to give a huge shoutout to all the TV shows and movies that distracted me from the absolute hellscape that 2020 has been, like “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Normal People,” “Palm Springs,” “The Last Dance,” “The Boys” and, yes, “Tiger King,” the ultimate quarantine phenomenon. Also a huge thank you to “Parks and Recreation” guest star Joe Biden for winning the 2020 election. — Jordan Moreau, online news editor.

Pop-culturally speaking, I’m thankful this year for anything that brought me comfort and joy, including the reassuring competence on display in my re-watch of “The West Wing”; the sassy delights of Season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”; the exhilarating fun of “The Old Guard”; and, most recently, the engrossing splendor of “The Queen’s Gambit.” They sustained me through this horror show of a year, reminding me of our shared intelligence, grit, and compassion at a time when it feels like there’s so little of it in the world. — Adam B. Vary, senior entertainment writer

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