Enlarge /. A collage of our favorite series and streams this weird year.
Aurich Lawson / Getty Images / respective shows
Over the course of 2020, it has become more difficult to see our living rooms as an escape. Ars Technica has long been a home-based company, but even we no longer think about falling on the couch after a long day at work for the best relaxation.
Even more time in the house, alone or with the family, has led us to various TV, movie and streaming options. Sometimes we still use television to break down at the end of the day. In other cases, we sneak streams and videos into our work day, especially when juggling a full house from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Hence, this is a different "Favorite Ars Binges" list than we have created in the past, and we invite you to share the series and streams that have proven comfortable or cozy during your own weird 2020.
Less COVID, more choux
All I wanted this year are delightful British bakers pissed off at damp floors, lousy laminations and whether their sponges are "shabby". I love baking and have seen the Great British Baking Show for a long time. But revisiting all the old episodes and trying my favorite cheeks – even the tense judgments – was my safe haven before that hellish year, along with my special work news that was marked by doom and despair. I would love to live a double life in this baking tent, enjoying the bucolic English environment and soaking up every detail of the baking precision.
Oh, we should prepare for "significant disruptions to our lives," says Nancy Messonnier of CDC. "Wow, the puff on this choux pastry is so good … I should be making eclairs this weekend." Geez, New York hospitals are getting overwhelmed – I should look up Nadiya's marshmallow fondant recipe. Trump pulls the US out of the World Health Organization? During a raging pandemic ?! Oooo, it's the Baked Alaska #bingate scandal episode! The US deaths just topped 200,000. Mary Berry's Charlotte Royale really looks like a giant brain. There have been over 170,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases today. Can we all agree that Kim Joy's choux space turtles in a melting chocolate galaxy sphere are the best damn dessert ever? – Beth Mole, health reporter
Pretty ridiculous so much
How ridiculous an anvil drops on a block of ice
I have a guilty treat on YouTube – longtime variety / stunt channel How Ridiculous. The show's three main characters – Scott Gaunson, Brett Stanford, and Derek Herron – began doing pretty elaborate trick shots, bottle flips and other basic stunts in their backyards in 2009 as Lark. The station's popularity skyrocketed after the trio added "dropping heavy things from great heights" to their repertoire, as I discovered a few years ago.
This isn't high profile content – but that's a big part of its appeal. It's just three goofballs having a ton of fun using silly concepts like "bowling ball versus anvil" where one thing is dropped onto another from an extreme height. That's OK for me. Where else will you see someone drop a 660-pound stainless steel Hulk fist from a 45-meter tower onto a refrigerator?
HR has worked with other YouTube personalities quite a lot. In a crossover, the boys were allowed to fire the main weapon of an M4A2E8 "Easy 8" Sherman tank through ten refrigerators – which, spoiler alert, was not good for the refrigerators. They've also got various YouTube blacksmiths and engineers to build things for them, everything from a trampoline strong enough to bounce a car to a ten foot long forged steel sword.
You're bound to learn things by watching the channel – especially how surprisingly durable both Go-Pro cameras and cheap rubber dinosaur toys really are – but not because the show itself is particularly educational. It's pure, silly fun, and that's fine. – Jim Salter, technology reporter
No heroes on board
Another one from me (Jim Salter) if you will let me:
Avenue 5, now streamed on HBO, is a black and humorous frenzy starring Hugh Laurie (House, MD) in a science fiction setting. Avenue 5 is one of a series of giant planetary cruise ships operated by the world's dumbest capitalist who happens to be on board when things go very wrong.
The show itself isn't exactly science fiction at all – it's a pretty dark parody of human weaknesses, something like what you'd get if you paraphrased Atlas Shrugged along the lines of A Confederacy of Dunces. There are no heroes aboard Avenue 5, which somehow works in its favor. You might think a never-ending crescendo of bumblebees, failure, and pettiness might be tricky as the majestic ship limps its way through the solar system.
Avenue 5's greatest strength, however, is the way it cleverly builds on its own running jokes. The ship and its situation get more ridiculous with each episode as the characters' bad choices pile up. His only real flaw is his sheer intransigence on his own subject of human error. —J.S.