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Netflix's 'Death to 2020' Skewers "Trainwreck" Year in Mockumentary Trailer
Netflix, along with Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, gave viewers an idea of what to expect from Death to 2020 on Monday morning.
When announcing the end-of-year comedy event from the Emmy-winning Black Mirror creators, the streaming giant had billed Death to 2020 as a "landmark documentary-style special" and provided only some details about the TV event, which boasts a star-studded cast. On Monday, Netflix revealed that Death to 2020 — which is not part of the Black Mirror franchise — will release on Dec. 27 and will be narrated by Laurence Fishburne. And the trailer, which also dropped, introduces viewers to the 2020-familiar faces who will be "interviewed" for the mock documentary that will look back on this historic year.
Samuel L. Jackson will play a reporter; Hugh Grant, a history professor; Kumail Nanjiani, CEO of a tech company; Tracey Ullman, Queen Elizabeth II; Samson Kayo, a scientist; Lisa Kudrow, a "non-official" conservative spokesperson; Diane Morgan, an average citizen; Leslie Jones, a behavioral psychologist; Cristin Milioti, a soccer mom; and Joe Keery, a gig economy millennial.
All of the characters appear in the trailer, which teases "unprecedented" access to experts, politicos, monarchs and average citizens to make "the definitive story of the most historic year in history." Jones' character sums up: "I'd say it was a trainwreck and a shitshow, but that would be unfair to trains and shit."
Described by Netflix as "the cathartic comedy event you’ll never forget about the year you really, really don’t want to remember," Death to 2020 tells the story of the dreadful year that was — and perhaps still is? — by weaving together a chorus of narration from some of the world’s most (fictitious) renowned voices with real-life archival footage spanning the past 12 months.
Brooker, as creator and writer, and Jones, as executive producer, are the minds behind Black Mirror, Netflix's Emmy-winning dystopian anthology series that, year after year, provides viewers with a prescient and often dark take on the state of the world. Brooker, with his Wipe series on the BBC, is also known for his topical comedy in the U.K., which is where Black Mirror originated before coming to Netflix in 2015.
"Those who only know me through Black Mirror may not realize that when not writing speculative sci-fi about people frowning at smartphones, I’ve spent years making comedy shows in the UK — including many topical comedy specials," says Brooker in a statement on Monday. "So to me, Death to 2020 feels like the collision of several different strands. (Do strands 'collide'? No. Apologies). But the approach for this is quite different to most of the topical comedy I’ve done in the past. For one thing I'm not on screen presenting it — a relief for anyone watching in 4K — and it's more character-based. In the loneliest year on record, I got to work (remotely) with writers and team members from my previous comedies, as well as many sickeningly talented people who were new to me."
As for the topics that are covered in the special, Jones adds, "This year has been unusual in many regards, but what's unified this year is the main stories we focus on — huge global stories, stories that affect the whole world. So we knew what the structure of the show was going to be, with quite a few surprises along the way!'"
Brooker and Jones have a production deal with Netflix, as the streaming giant is an investor in their Broke and Bones banner, and the duo have provided consistent holiday season content for the streamer with new offerings of Black Mirror, including last year's interactive TV movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Death to 2020, while taking on an unprecedented year defined by the global coronavirus pandemic, does so in the familiar documentary format often seen in Netflix programming. Brooker and Jones — who tend to be tight-lipped about their projects and are known for epic Easter eggs — are still in production on the special. The pair also invoked Netflix in the Emmy-winning Bandersnatch.
"Death to 2020 features fictional characters discussing real events in a bombastic mockumentary, but quite a bit sillier than that makes it sound. It felt like an apt format for Netflix, which is known for high-end documentaries, but also like a good opportunity to create a different kind of comedy special that deals with the year head-on while also showcasing some brilliant performers. I don’t love the word 'satire' but there’s some of that here, alongside some angry jokes, and some goofy jokes," says Brooker of the format and tone of Death to 2020.
Adding, "And hopefully viewers will find at least one joke to their liking — because let’s face it, in 2020, any laugh you can emit, no matter how fleeting, is a small but precious victory."
Death to 2020 is created and executive produced by Brooker and Jones, and produced by Alison Marlow. Al Campbell and Alice Mathias direct the special, which Brooker wrote with Tom Baker, Kemah Bob, Ken Bordell, Munya Chawawa, Constance Cheng, Alan Connor, Erika Ehler, Charlie George, Eli Goldstone, Mollie Goodfellow, Jason Hazeley, Angelo Irving, Kae Kurd, Ali Marlow, Thanyia Moore, Joel Morris and Michael Odewale.
Watch the trailer, below.