Charlie Brooker's Death to 2020 branded "disappointing" as reviews land

Dan Seddon
·4-min read

From Digital Spy

It sounds like Netflix mockumentary Death to 2020 may not have been the hilarious Christmas present we were hoping for after all.

Starring a ridiculously impressive ensemble – Hugh Grant, Samuel L Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Joe Keery, Tracey Ullman, Diane Morgan, Samson Kayo and narration from Laurence Fishburne – Death to 2020 covers a miserable year through the lens of Black Mirror duo Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.

As the first flurry of reviews sprinkle the internet, however, it's quite clear that Death to 2020 hasn't been well received by critics.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The Telegraph, describing the special as a "disappointing rehash" in the headline of its two-star review, said:

"You expect greatness from Brooker, but the jokes here are as predictable as the targets of the jokes, only occasionally rising above the quality of this year's dreadful Spitting Image reboot. At least that had funny puppets.

"The problem is that most of the jokes – and observations – here, we've all already made, lazily, on social media, time and time again. Death to 2020 tramps over ground we are at best wearily familiar with, at worst utterly sick of."

The Independent added:

"It's hard to know what's happened here. Clearly there's money behind Death to 2020, given its provenance and the calibre of the contributors. Between Black Mirror and the Wipes – to say nothing of Brooker's previous career as a critic of acid brilliance – its creators are too good at TV not to know that this is substandard.

"Is it a kind of televisual cash-in-hand plastering job for their bosses at Netflix, who wanted a piece of the Wipe action? Was there meddling from above about its tone and direction? Was there not enough time to apply the usual quality control?

"Whatever the answer, Death to 2020 is a mess and you'll be glad when it's over. In that sense, at least, it's appropriate to its subject."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Related: Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker reveals why he initially said no to new BBC Antiviral Wipe

Despite awarding the Netflix special three-and-a-half stars, Metro said:

"Death to 2020 ultimately feels like an overly extended SNL sketch, with nowhere near as many laugh out loud moments we hoped for, or as many 'oh, damn' moments we get from Black Mirror.

"It's not bad, but it is what it is. It's a recap with some characters going 'can you believe that?' And seeing as we've all lived through it this year, that's not quite enough."

The Hollywood Reporter went on:

"It's astonishing how lazy everything is, from the predictable insulting of various high-profile figures ("Presidential and experimental pig-man Donald Trump," "Prehistoric concierge Joe Biden") to various familiar moments that surely have been chewed over, digested and pooped out countless times already.

"Like have you ever seen anybody angrily mocking Trump for that time he sorta kinda suggested drinking bleach might cure the coronavirus? You have? Then get ready for more of that!"

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Related: Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker explains how Death to 2020 special is "very different" from other projects

The Evening Standard said:

"Mostly it made you realise just how much you didn't want to remember. Yes, it's important to be reminded just how terrible the footage of George Floyd's last minutes is. And some of this year has seemed like such a weird dream, and we're all so sick of it, that perhaps we should just check in to remind ourselves why we're still at sodding home, and need to stay there.

"But honestly, 45 minutes of this would have been quite enough. Like the year it reflected on, Death to 2020 outstayed its welcome."

Meanwhile, finding something to celebrate, The AV Club wrote:

"Some of the character bits work better than others. Having Jackson serve as a reliable voice of sanity is a smart touch, and Fishburne's narration delivers straight reporting and one-liners in the same confident, straight-forward tone, making some jokes land better than they might have otherwise.

"Ullman's Queen feels like the sort of thing she could do in her sleep, but then, that's true of just about everyone, and there's something comforting in knowing where almost all of this is going before it happens. And there are moments here or there that lean into an idea enough to push it into the necessary levels of absurdity."

Death to 2020 is now streaming on Netflix.

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