Fire walk with me: All the things I watched in 2020

My superpower is never being bored. I have tons of hobbies: I’m a heavy reader, I like riding my bike, cooking, listening to podcasts, but I probably spend the most time watching series (660 episodes of 62 different ones). Last year this added up to 645 hours of content, that is 27 whole days. By looking at this number, I was half proud – half ashamed, but let me tell you, it was a damn fine year! Sorry in advance for the not too subtle Twin Peaks remarks, but I had 3 resolutions for 2021. Reading the Dune, baking a babka, and watching the Twin Peaks saga in which I’m elbowed deep in.

Prepare to be disappointed: I haven’t scraped the data but logged everything I watched each day to a spreadsheet. At the end of the year, I double-checked the Rotten Tomato and IMDB scores if they changed. I was anxious all the time that I might have forgotten to make a note of something that would ruin my whole project, but I managed to follow through. This was one of my hardest ideas to execute, and I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t do it again. If I’d get paid for the hours I spent building the dataset, drinks would be on me. I still have PTSD when I’m watching something and realizing this should have been logged.

Have a look at the final version I published to Tableau Public, and read on to find out about the details.

Final version

Design inspiration

I knew for a year that the time will come when I need to make sense of this data, but I tried not to think about it until the end of 2020. Around mid-December, I started to panic because I had no original ideas. Everything that came to my mind was something that has already been done before. On the last day of my Christmas holiday, I was scrolling through Dribble and found a chili bottle design that set my mind on fire. Within 10 minutes, I had the sketch ready in my notebook, and then I stared at the ceiling for hours. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people, who can’t sleep when something is on their minds, but it was just too late, so I had to wait for the morning to dig deeper into this.

Chili sauce bottle design by Johnny Q.

I figured it would be great to make a radial bar chart around the hand where the bars look like matches. These represent the days of the year, and the bars are as long as the time I spent binging. I marked the best days with a little fire, and some people asked me what best days mean. This is a subjective list of my greatest movie moments: Knives out, finishing Fleabag / Entourage / Dark, binge-watching Euphoria, the third season finale of Sons of Anarchy, and the second of Succession.

Using layers

I wrote about using layers in one of my older posts, and no surprise that I used layers here as well to enhance the visual elements. My work is a mess, but I used 2 images on top of each other and duplicated all charts with 0% opacity to place them over their colored selves. So the floating order is the following: image 1, colored charts, image 2, transparent charts. 

My Illustrator artboards

The first image is easy-peasy. You draw what you like, put it into Tableau, and place the viz elements on the canvas. The second is a bit trickier. You have to export the image of your Tableau dashboard and put it on a new layer in Illustrator so that you can hide it when finished drawing over it. When you export your second image, make sure you select the transparent png option so that the charts below could be seen when added back to Tableau.

Layering instructions in Tableau

Series and film suggestions

Watching 5+ hours of content and/or streaming ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ in one day is a great indicator of a hangover. I skipped a couple of days in the summer when having a cold beer in my hand sitting by the Danube with my friends was an even better option, but lockdown – no lockdown: my performance was quite even. I mainly engaged in series, but I had an advent calendar in December that contained 24 movies for every day, so it was a strong finish for 2020. Let me suggest a couple that I loved the most.

Fleabag

This show is so real, it jumps off the screen. It’s everything a woman wants and doesn’t want to be. I loved how Fleabag can do anything without remorse, but at the same time, I felt sorry for her because you know something is not okay. It’s witty, original, and brutally honest. Also, I have to note she looks gorgeous in that backless jumpsuit that ran out of stock since everybody wanted to look like her last year. Phoebe Waller-Bridge said there won’t be a 3rd season, but she’d continue the character’s story at a later point in her life (around her 50s). I love when people can say no to continuing a series at their peak because this is all they had to say. I’ve never thought a priest can be sexy (but later in 2020 I saw Jude Law becoming a pope, so I guess this set the theme), but the sexy priest of Season 2 was sexy.

Euphoria

I watched the first episode of Euphoria in the summer of 2019, and it just hit too close to home, so I couldn’t continue. I was having severe anxiety issues and panic attacks, so I figured this is just not the right timing for me. I picked it up again a year later, and I watched the remaining 7 episodes in 20 hours. Zendaya is fantastic as Rue – no wonder she got the Emmy for playing this role. I can’t imagine how hard it can be for a teenager these days but based on what I saw here, I’m happy with the 00s. The first Euphoria special has just come out, and as a fan of single-setting movies, this was an instant crush. Can’t wait for Jules’s version and the second season to drop.

Dark

This was one of my most mind-blowing experiences in 2020. I don’t know how many times films can play the Schrodinger’s cat card, but I’d probably fall for it every time. It was had to get used to German at first, but my no 1. rule is to watch everything in its original language. I still recall es tut mir leid or wieder und wieder daily. I made a viz of the first 2 seasons of the show, breaking down the relationships between the characters and I also wrote a blog post about it. However, if you’d like to see the most beautiful visualization of your entire life, go check out the official Dark site (full of spoilers, so only click if you’ve seen it).

Succession

This is a series where you hate all the characters but love the show. It’s not easy to binge, because it’s just simply cruel. Those who know me would not be surprised that I’m a Culkin fan, so I’d watch Kieran play even if it was bad, but this happens to be good. One of my friends suggested I should continue with the second season of Fargo because he’s in it. Let me tell you, he dies in the first episode. Who needs enemies when you have friends like this? But to be honest, Fargo is great if you let go of this Culkin-trap. Turning back to the original Succession topic: Season 2 ends with such a big bang, that I’ve rarely seen in TV… and this year only in Sons of Anarchy.

Sons of Anarchy

This is something I’ve not finished yet, and it’s not only because if I’d watch shirtless Charlie Hunnam every day for the rest of my life and that would be a life well-spent. I’m currently on Season 5 and I’m enjoying every bit of it, but it can be overwhelming sometimes. There are days when I’m watching 7 episodes in a row, and then I won’t click on it for a month. Don’t let this discourage you, this is a 10/10 show, but I can only make a comprehensive summary if I finish the whole series.

Entourage

This is tons of fun! Four down-to-Earth guys conquer Hollywood at the beginning of the 00s, and watching it in 2020 was just as good as it would’ve been in 2004. Jeremy Piven is the most badass motherf*cker in television history, and I fell madly in love with Ari – even though he didn’t have a beard. I’ve just discovered that Kevin Dillon and Doug Ellin launched a podcast called Victory, where they discuss the show episode by episode and they have guests from the crew from time to time. For a true Entourage fan, this is a must check!

Films

For me, films vs series are the same as short stories vs novels: I like the latter better. However, I’ve seen some pretty great movies in 2020, so here are my ultimate favorites: Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, La Belle Époque, The Gentlemen, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Honey Boy, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Devil All The Time, Citizen Kane, Comrade Drakulics, Good Time, Cold War, The Guilty, Jagten, Enemy, Blue Jay, Coherence, The King of Staten Island, Wolfwalkers.

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