2020’s Most Disappointing Movies And TV

In a disappointing year, these films and shows stood out.

We surely don’t need to tell you that 2020 was a year full of disappointment. And not just in the countless movies and shows that were cancelled or delayed due to the pandemic–even among the entertainment that did come out, a lot of it was just plain not as good as we’d hoped it would be.

And that’s really the essence of disappointment. We aren’t saying these were the worst movies and shows of 2020–just the ones that totally failed to live up to our expectations. You might even find something on this list that you quite enjoyed, and in that case, well, me asking you not to yell at us about it in the comments probably won’t stop you, so you know what? Go right ahead.

It won’t change the fact that we had high hopes for these movies and shows, and in the end, we found them disappointing. After you’re done feeling disappointed too, check out some of our other end-of-2020 galleries:

Lovecraft Country

HBO’s Lovecraft Country was an unfortunate case of simply trying to do too much with all the best intentions. Rather than updating the source material, the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, it tried to simultaneously rigidly adhere to the episodic, vignette-style storytelling passed down by the book and knit things together with a cohesive, overarching plot. The end result was a messy, confusing ball of yarn where nothing ever managed to click.

New Mutants

To be fair, no one really expected much from the incredibly delayed New Mutants, so calling it a “disappointment” may be a bit harsh–but similar to Tenet, this movie was hit hard by the studio’s staunch refusal to provide an accessible home release during the pandemic. Depending on where you’re located, you may have been able to see the movie at a drive-in or in a “socially distant” theater, but chances are you had to wait a few months until it was available to watch at home, and by then, any chance of having a New Mutants conversation that would actually engage anyone was pretty much 0.

Mulan

Disney’s Mulan does get some points for skipping the ill-fated theatrical release gambit and going straight to Disney+, but unfortunately even the accessibility and the overall nostalgia for the animated classic couldn’t redeem this one. In addition to behind-the-scenes controversies about production, live-action Mulan ruthlessly stripped the familiar story of its charm and fun, deleting every musical number and adding muddled messages about family, responsibility, and duty. This movie was anything but worth fighting for.

Space Force

The thing about Space Force is it should have been amazing. Steve Carell teaming up once again with The Office creator Greg Daniels for a Netflix comedy poking fun at the ridiculous political climate we’re living in sounds like a wonderful idea. What’s more, it arrived in a year where Daniels delivered one of TV’s best new comedies in Amazon Prime’s Upload. Unfortunately, practically nothing about Space Force was entertaining. The comedy felt forced–outside of occasional moments provided by John Malkovich–the characters were underdeveloped, and there was nobody to actually root for. Unlike Carell’s portrayal of Michael Scott, his turn as General Mark R. Naird was uninteresting. It didn’t help that Carell used a bizarre and unnatural sounding accent for the entire season.

Utopia

Utopia had all the ingredients for success: It was adapted from a cult hit British show by Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author Gillian Flynn, it has a stellar cast including John Cusack, Jessica Rothe, and Rainn Wilson, and it oozes style. But for a show about a comic book that seems to predict global disasters, the series demonstrated a startling amount of disdain for its potentially nerdy audience. To top it off, the epic one-two-three punch of a mass shooting played for laughs, a brutal torture scene, and a cruel but pointless main character death all within the first two episodes provided viewers with the perfect excuse to stop watching the show entirely.

Avenue 5

The prospect of Veep creator Armando Iannucci applying his formidable talents to a sci-fi comedy starring Hugh Laurie made Avenue 5 one of early 2020’s most anticipated shows. But while it definitely wasn’t the year’s worst space-themed sitcom (hello Space Force), the odd, uneven mix of dark humor and character drama simply didn’t work. HBO has renewed the series for Season 2, so hopefully Iannucci and his team get it right next time.

Ratched

Ratched is a show that, on the surface, seems like a really interesting idea. A One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel that focuses on the origins of Nurse Ratched, with American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy at the helm and Sarah Paulson playing the lead. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, pretty much all of it. From plot holes to flat out uninteresting characters and plots, Ratched doesn’t work like some of Murphy’s better projects–the aforementioned AHS and American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ, for instance. Paired with his other project in 2020, Hollywood, and it’s a less than stellar start for his creations under the Netflix banner.

The Craft: Legacy

The Craft (1996) is one of the most beloved witch movies of its era–and for great reason. It’s hard to get better than the achingly ’90s aesthetic of the whole thing, on top of the iconic performances by scream queens like Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk. Unfortunately, its successor, The Craft: Legacy, failed to hit the mark in any way, and instead of delivering a new take on a quotable cult classic, ground itself to a forgettable halt with cringe-worthy, dated dialogue and a frustratingly on-the-nose plot that never lived up to its name.

Freaky

Serial killer Freaky Friday should be the greatest movie all the time. What’s more, the people swapping bodies are Vince Vaughn and Katheryn Newton, which means Vaughn spends much of the movie acting like a teenage girl chasing a brutal murderer. And yes, Freaky let us down–specifically because of Vaughn’s portrayal of Millie, the teen girl in question. There’s no nuance to what he’s doing, nor does it reflect–in any way–the version of Millie Newton plays at the beginning of the film. Instead, it’s as if he’s simply parodying teen girl stereotypes. That could have worked had the movie not introduced Millie as an awkward and downtrodden teen girl who didn’t fit in.

Quibi

Yeah, an entire streaming service made the list. Quibi said it was going to change the way we watch content in 2020. What it failed to question, though, was whether we actually wanted that. We didn’t and in the end Quibi’s bite-sized shows, which lasted 7-10 minutes and could only be watched on your phone–landed with a resounding thud. You lasted less than eight months, Quibi. And, honestly, that was too long.

The many “COVID endings” of 2020 shows

When a storm is coming, it’s easy to plug your ears and pretend everything will be okay. All of television production did exactly that in the early months of 2020, and our shows suffered for it. Rather than being put on hold, countless shows ended with hastily-produced episodes that left much to be desired. Shows from veterans like Grey’s Anatomy to freshman series like CW’s Nancy Drew ended on shoddy cliffhangers or simply just stopped. We’re glad they put safety over audiences’ satisfaction, and we blame the pandemic, not the shows themselves. But it was still a disappointing year for many series.

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