I think everyone can agree that this was a mess of a year. Cancelled plans of all forms, loneliness, and general frustration at the subset of people who refused to care about others made it a challenge in multiple ways. But even in the worst of times, there is always joy to be found. Sometimes that came in the form of Skype chats with friends, sometimes in the satisfaction of making or creating something that made you proud, and sometimes it was in YouTube binges. So to conclude the year, I thought I would share some of the things that made me the happiest or most fulfilled this year and offer up a whole lot of YouTube links to explore and enjoy.
SortedFood I talked at length last year about how much I love this channel but this year I appreciated them even more. Like everyone else, they had to pivot and change their plans in March but through it all, they improvised and found a way to continue offering the same terrific content they always have on top of bonus features like a couple solid months of Instagram Lives that functioned as a way to hang out and watch them in a more casual setting. They made the first few months of lockdown easier by giving me a structure and something to look forward to daily and I am extremely grateful for it. They are dedicated to helping people fall in love with cooking and food in general, all while making us smile. Their passion is evident in everything they do and I can’t wait to see what they do in 2021.
Recommended videos: 2 Chefs Cook an Easter Feast, Ultimate Fusion Battle, one of their Pick the Premium series, a Restaurant Meal Kit review, a test of Vegan Fish and Chips, How to Roast a Chicken, and a Pretentious Ingredients Taste Test.
Mythical Kitchen This offshoot of Good Mythical Morning highlights the incredible talent and chaos of their cooking team and is ridiculous in the best possible way. It most often takes something prepackaged or fast food based and re-imagines it in some way and takes that process very seriously without ever veering into pretension or the need to act like they’re above the base food they’re working with. Everything on the show is done to their best ability but with a sense of playfulness and fun that is found in everything they do. It’s more than a little chaotic because Josh brings that out in people and Nicole and Trevor act both as perfect foils and facilitators of that chaos. It’s a source of silliness with a side of genuinely very good looking food and my 2020 would have been worse without it.
Recommended videos: Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza recipe, Recreating Taco Bell’s Discontinued Volcano Taco, Food Fights: Hamburger Helper Hacks, Fancy Fast Food: Burger King Breakfast Sandwich, I Crashed Guy Fieri’s Party and It Changed My Life (which absolutely sounds like clickbait and it is not, it’s a really good story).
The Takeout If YouTube videos aren’t your thing and you’d rather just read an article, but still want the same sense of fun and genuine love of all things food, The Takeout is the website for you. From interesting deep dives into a local food or food celebration, to fast food taste tests, fantasy food drafts, general food news, and a whole of delicious sounding recipes that I will one day try, it’s a website for people who love food and want to talk about it with others. Its comment sections are usually wonderful and made up of people sharing food stories and recipes. It is a daily read for me with excellent staff members and guest writers that I highly recommend if it’s something you’re at all interested in.
Recommended posts: Hardee’s BFC Angus Thickburger review (or really, any of Allison Robicelli’s taste tests), the Hibernation Holiday series, Miso Butter Spaghetti Carbonara, Peanut Butter Milk, Fantasy Food Draft: Best Ballpark Food, When Finding the Tastes of Home Requires A Roadtrip, The Worst Meals I’ve Cooked This Year (So Far), Ice Cream For Dinner Night
Dancing With the Stars I can’t even think of the last season of DWTS that I fully watched, but it’s been several years at this point. But when you put AJ McLean and Justina Machado on the same season, especially when there was little else to watch, it was going to become must-watch TV for me. I knew I was going to love those two but I hadn’t expected to also fall in love with so many of the other competitors. Nev’s dancing was a standout from the beginning but I also loved watching Kaitlyn and Johnny grow in confidence and ability every week. I loved how much fun Nelly seemed like he was having, even when doing things that pushed him far out of his comfort zone. It was good to be able to invest in these people and their performances for a few weeks and have something reliable to look forward to on Monday nights (and good things to listen to later in the week with the podcast AJ and Cheryl started with one of AJ’s friends). I loved getting to indulge the Backstreet Boys fangirl in me that will never leave and seeing Justina absolutely shine and have an incredible time. It was joy and connection at a time when we all needed it and best of all, I got to share it with Katie, which makes everything better.
Recommended videos: AJ McLean’s Cha Cha (featuring a special appearance by BSB), Justina Machado’s Foxtrot, Nev Schulman’s Paso Doble, Kaitlyn Bristow’s Argentine Tango, Justina Machado’s Cha Cha, Johnny Weir’s Contemporary, and Derek Hough and Hailey Erbert’s Paso Doble
The Baby-Sitters Club I don’t feel like I’ve talked enough about how great this show is. These books were my absolutely favorite growing up. I think I have read every book that was out at the time in the main series as well as all the spin off series and have a lot of fond memories attached to it. This adaptation was even better than I could have imagined. It had plenty of nostalgia for viewers like me (the font choices for the episode titles are flawless) but it updated details for a modern audience and made smart choices to make the show more inclusive. It is a precious celebration of teen friendships, with an incredibly charming cast, and I hope it gives some kids now the same thing the book series gave me. In addition to the actual show, make sure you also watch The Claudia Kishi Club with Japanese-American creators talking about how much it meant for them to grow up with Claudia at a time when they didn’t see much of themselves reflected in their media.
BTS This was a stellar year for these boys. They were a balm for so many in the midst of the pandemic and I loved watching them fill my friends with happiness even before I started really listening to them or watching their videos a few weeks ago. They are undoubtedly the hottest band in the world at the moment and while a lot of it stems from their undeniable talent, it also stems from what they want to give to the world. It is all about their connection with their fans. They want to bring people comfort and happiness and people took that lifeline and clung to it this year, even if they didn’t speak Korean. They are beautifully sincere and give their all to everything they do and inspire that positive energy in ARMY (the name of their fanbase) around the world.
Recommended videos: Life Goes On (Official Video – turn subtitles on for a translation), 2020 MMA Performance, NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Life Goes On and Dynamite on James Cordon, ON in Grand Central Station for the Tonight Show, Dynamite Music Video Reaction
Mickey Guyton Sometimes new music finds you when you’re not expecting it. I grew up on country music but don’t listen to much any more that isn’t the songs I grew up on. However, I live with people who do and who like to watch award shows. So while I’m eating lunch, I heard Mickey Guyton sing her song What Are You Gonna Tell Her? at the ACMs and was absolutely blown away. First of all, her voice is absolutely stunning. Second, this song made me cry. It’s sobering and sad but in a cathartic way and its what country music can be at its best. So I went and listened to her most recent EP and cried again at Black Like Me. It’s the sort of socially conscious music that comes from a place of deep emotion and has lyrics that will haunt you in the best way. They’re country in style and imagery (especially Black Like Me, which has so many country touchstones but reinterpreted through the lens of her experiences as a Black woman) and yet they’re lyrics that traditional stations and the industry are going to hesitate at, even as they get praised by others, which means she will not get nearly the amount of love that her vocal talent deserves. I don’t normally listen to a lot of new music so to find someone so willing to share her truth, especially in a genre that may or may not want to hear it, moved me beyond words and filled my soul even if the content is heavy to listen to. I cannot wait to see what her future holds and will be looking forward to new music from her.
Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Confession time. With the exception of a couple songs, I had not listened to this album until after I watched the musical on Disney+ in July. Between worries about disliking something that literally all of my friends loved and the knowledge that I wasn’t going to get to actually see the show for years, I just skipped it all together. All my worries were unfounded, I also loved it and got to watch it way earlier than expected. But I don’t regret my choices because hearing Wait for It for the first time while also getting the visual of Leslie Odom, Jr. singing the hell out of the song and experiencing Satisfied with the dance and lighting and everything else that makes it a MOMENT was completely worth it. They’ve been on repeat too many times to count since then and honestly, me getting into things way after the fact is entirely on brand anyway.
Hustlers I watched this movie in the Before Times , pre-COVID so it doesn’t entirely feel like something I consumed this year but when you get a chance to talk about this movie, you should take it. It was everything I wanted it to be after being excited about it from the first trailer and especially after hearing such glowing reviews. Jennifer Lopez is a force of nature in it, not just in her dancing, but also in the feeling she brought to the role. Ramona’s relationship with Destiny (and to a lesser extent, the rest of her girls) is a highlight of the movie and what keeps it grounded through all the high and lows. The color palette is bright and vibrant, the costuming is fantastic, and it is all around a movie that understands how to tell a story in small details and scene choices. It’s smartly made and performed all around and I have now joined the list of people who will be forever annoyed that Lopez didn’t get an Oscar nomination for it.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga I have never seen the actual Eurovision but I was looking for something fun to watch one night and this caught my eye and I was immediately hooked. I love a good underdog competition story and anything that involves performing in some way so it was one of those things that nicely catered to my specific interests. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are surprisingly charming together and there is a sweetness to McAdams performance in particular that makes you root for her happiness. Plus, Dan Stevens looks particularly attractive in this movie. It is every bit the spectacle you want it to be in the actual competition scenes and it is glorious. I am glad I took advantage of a rare movie-watching mood and tried this one, it was exactly what I needed in the moment.
Recommended videos: Song-Along (aka the most joyous scene in the world), My Home Town performance, Jaja Ding Dong
That wraps up 2020! I wish you all a happier 2021 and hope you find things in your media to deeply connect with!