Directors: Jack Clough and Josh Ruben
Starring: Hugh Grant, Tracey Ullman, Joe Keery, Stockard Channing, Diane Morgan, Laurence Fishburne, Lucy Liu, Samson Kayo, William Jackson Harper, Cristin Milioti, and Nick Mohammed
Netflix’s recap of 2020 from Charlie Brooker, Death to 2020, was a surprisingly good and funny look at the year we had all experienced. It was a divisive and unprecedented year. Netflix has done the same to this year with Death to 2021. This time around Charlie Brooker has taken a step back, with Ben Caudell leading the writing oft the satirical mocumentary recapping the last year or so.
Like last years’ show, it’s a mix of real footage from news stories throughout the year and fake talking head bits that are parodying the most stupid and extreme of people. There are some returning actors from last year, and some newcomers. It’s mostly focused on America but does have some time for the rest of the world, notably the Tokyo Olympics.
Death to 2021 is a real mixed bag. There are some very funny moments and the characters are funny, especially Hugh Grant as the obnoxious and snobby historian, who can’t differentiate between fiction and reality, past or present. The show is at its best when you can’t quite tell if it’s genuinely recapping the year or completely making it up. There are more than a couple of moments that are completely believable, yet fake and some that feel like dystopian fiction but are completely real.
The biggest let down is that the jokes are clearly one-sided, which will most likely anger a lot of people, especially those who aren’t left leaning. Unlike 2020, where it felt like everyone was fair game, this is almost completely one sided. It’s still funny to point out the ridiculous of the anti-vaxxers or Trump supporters, but it could have gone both ways. There are extremes on both sides, and it would have been better to see that rather than being so completely biased that it feels like it’s been written to get angry reactions.
What Death to 2021 is doing has also been done before, and with better results. If you’ve watched comedy news shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver throughout the year, then you’ve probably seen some of the jokes made before (maybe stolen or maybe just obvious in the first place). Anyone who’s seen the news over the last year has probably made one or two of the jokes. It’s not really bringing anything new to the table and always goes for the lowest hanging fruit available.
Death to 2021 is enjoyable while it’s on, while not doing anything special. It does feel like diminished returns compared to Death to 2020, but maybe that’s because a lot of it feels the same. 2021 hasn’t been that different to 2020, maybe once the pandemic is becoming a foggy memory Netflix can revisit a satirical look at the world, maybe taking jabs at all side next time around.
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