The best and worst pop culture moments of 2020



The past year felt like it lasted 20.

And while much of it was terrible, it’s good to remember that there were some bright spots.

True, we never got the new James Bond movie or Marvel’s “Black Widow,” or to walk outside our apartments, but there were still many memorable moments in pop culture and entertainment.

Here now are the year’s highs — and a few lows.

Best abdication

Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan

Harry and Meghan officially bolted the royal family in March. The move forced the couple to give up their Royal Highness titles and any opportunity for their private lives to be savagely laid bare in future seasons of “The Crown.” (Although the same can’t be said for Harry’s great-uncle King Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936.)

Best get-together

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett

In February, HBO Max announced that a long-awaited “Friends” reunion was coming. And you said Matthew Perry wouldn’t work again.

Worst forecast of audience’s comfort with enclosed spaces

John David Washington in "Tenet."
John David Washington in “Tenet.”
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett

After several postponements, Christopher Nolan’s trippy “Tenet” became the first would-be blockbuster to open in theaters since the lockdown. It made just $20 million over its September opening weekend — less than last year’s “Downton Abbey.”

Best use of water

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in the “WAP” music video.
Atlantic Records

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion unleashed the dirtiest musical acronym since “OPP” with their August hit “WAP.” Apple Music said the song finished the year as the “most-read lyrics.” Not sure if that’s because people didn’t know what WAP stood for — or because they did.

Worst idea for a new perfume

Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson
Getty Images

Robert Pattinson confused fans with a weird personal admission in February. “Lots of people tell me I smell like a crayon,” he told Allure magazine. Beats an erasable marker.

Best reality in a reality show

Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic

During a pandemic and arguably the most divisive election in modern history, only one thing proved powerful enough to bring America together: a 57-year-old pistol-toting, gay country music-singing tiger trainer with a mullet. Netflix’s “Tiger King” and Joe Exotic were the only thing besides COVID anyone was talking about in the spring.

Best breakthrough

Yeo-jeong Jo in "Parasite."
Yeo-jeong Jo in “Parasite.”
Courtesy of NEON CJ Entertainment

At February’s Oscars, South Korean film “Parasite” became the first non-English-language film ever to win Best Picture. Maybe there’s hope for other non-English speakers — like mumbly Tom Hardy.

Best use of cranberry juice

Nathan Apodaca aka "Dogg Face" Vibin to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams".
Nathan Apodaca aka “Dogg Face” Vibin to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”.

After Idaho resident Nathan Apodaca’s truck broke down in September, he decided to skateboard to work. The TikTok video he shot, in which he rolls while chugging Ocean Spray and lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” became a viral sensation and inspired more than 100,000 tributes and parodies.

Best revenge

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Getty Images

Movie producer and professional bully Harvey Weinstein was sentenced in March to 23 years in prison for sexually abusing multiple women. In October, his lawyer pleaded with an appellate court that Weinstein’s “chances of surviving in prison are rather low.” Say it ain’t so?

Worst scatological mystery

Amber Heard
Amber Heard
Getty Images

Johnny Depp lost his court bid in November to hold a British newspaper liable for calling him a “wife beater.” But one standout aspect of the case may never be resolved: Who pooped in his bed? Depp blamed ex-wife Amber Heard. She blamed the dog. We blame them both for making us think about this.

Best use of downtime

“Folklore” album (“In the Trees” vinyl and digital deluxe edition), $26 at
“Folklore” album (“In the Trees” vinyl and digital deluxe edition), $26 at
Taylor Swift

While you were busy during lockdown bingeing Netflix and inhaling snacks, Taylor Swift was hard at work recording music. In July, the superstar dropped new album “Folklore” without any warning. It’s since sold more than a million copies, and she celebrated by putting out “Evermore,” a full-length follow-up, this month. You could have at least learned to bake sourdough.

Worst use of downtime

gal gadot

In March, “Wonder Woman 1984” star Gal Gadot gathered some of her celeb friends, including Mark Ruffalo and Natalie Portman, to sing a smugly self-satisfied version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on Instagram. Imagine there’s no Hollywood.

Worst use of celluloid

Actors Glenn Close and Amy Adams in a scene from "Hillbilly Elegy" on Netflix.
Actors Glenn Close and Amy Adams in a scene from “Hillbilly Elegy” on Netflix.

If you thought that in a season when virtually no new movies were released that audiences and critics would be grateful for anything new, you clearly didn’t read the reviews for November’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” RIP.

Best “Lights” show

The Weeknd
The Weeknd performs at Edge at Hudson Yards for the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.
Getty Images for MTV

The Weeknd nabbed the trophy for the year’s most popular song on Spotify, as “Blinding Lights” racked up more than 1.6 billion streams. Maybe now he can afford that missing E in his name.

Best run

Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) get hitched in "Modern Family."
Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) get hitched in “Modern Family.”
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

After 11 seasons, ABC’s “Modern Family” signed off in April. The popular series was credited with revitalizing the family sitcom and for bravely portraying diverse family units, including two gay dads and a husband many, many decades too old for his hot Colombian wife.

Best gift to the publishing industry

The Room Where It Happened
“The Room Where It Happened.”

The year’s nonfiction list was dominated by Trump tell-alls, including his niece Mary L. Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough,” John Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened” and Bob Woodward’s “Rage.” Which begs the question — will the next chapters be written by a court stenographer?

Worst farewell

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther.”
Marvel Studios/Disney via AP

The August death of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman came as a shock for almost everyone, because he’d decided to keep his colon cancer a secret and continue working. Wakanda forever!

Worst way to live la dolce vita

Dominic West and his wife Catherine FitzgeraldDominic West and his wife Catherine Fitzgerald
Dominic West and his wife Catherine Fitzgerald
News Licensing / MEGA

In October, the very married actor Dominic West was captured by paps all around Rome getting cozy with co-star Lily James. West and his wife later insisted they were “very much still together” — as in, her fist still remains together with his face.

Best memoir mike drop

"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek in 2018.
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek in 2018
Getty Images

What is … unexpected? As revelations in celebrity autobiographies go, it’s hard to beat the late Alex Trebek’s admission from his July book, “The Answer Is …,” that he once accidentally ate four or five pot brownies at a party. He says he couldn’t make it home until Monday.

Best use of a pole

Jennifer LopezJennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez
Getty Images

A 50-year-old Jennifer Lopez, joined by Shakira, took the stage at February’s Super Bowl halftime show and let loose with a display of pole dancing, twerking and belly undulating. The FCC fielded more than 1,300 complaints from outraged viewers. She’s still got it!


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