As usual, Steven Soderbergh’s annual list of everything he watched and read is a fascinating journey through the interests of one of the great modern filmmakers. But what’s striking about these lists isn’t Soderbergh’s excellent and eclectic taste in pop culture (on July 11, he followed a viewing of Performance with Palm Springs), but his extremely normal interests. Soderbergh’s Seen, Read diaries are enlightening because of outliers like Dirty Dancing and episodes of 48 Hours, which are humanizing in this sort of very ordinary way—not like Jennifer Lawrence performing a version of normal that involves a pretty lady talking about her farts on TV, but like a real, typical person who occasionally enjoys watching crappy reality TV like the rest of us. For you, this might be 90 Day Fiancé. For Soderbergh, it’s Below Deck, which he watched a whole bunch in 2020.
If you want to know all the prestigious shit Soderbergh watched and read last year, you can pick through the list yourself. The real joy is in discovering that Soderbergh hopped on every damn TV bandwagon with the rest of us in 2020, as evidenced by the inclusion of shows like Tiger King, Unsolved Mysteries, McMillions, and The Vow. Yes, he watched extremely good TV like I May Destroy You and Search Party and How To With John Wilson, but he’s also a Dateline fan, and the fact that he read the latest Tana French novel indicates that he definitely has a favorite Dateline host and it is probably Keith Morrison, which is the only correct choice. These are the fun things to think about, instead of, like, his thoughts on Jacques Tati or whatever.
There are two exceptionally notable entries on the list. November 26, when Soderbergh watched an unspecified episode of Seinfeld—apparently the only episode of Seinfeld he watched last year. And August 28, when Soderbergh watched Glitter, the much-maligned Mariah Carey film from 2001. Intriguingly, the filmmaker does not appear to have read Carey’s autobiography, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, which was released one month later. (He did, however, read Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa, lending further credence to the theory that adult men have more in common with teen girls than they’d like to admit.) Another interesting part of this list is the inclusion of not one, but two comedy specials featuring prominent male comedians accused of sexual misconduct/abuse. They will remain nameless, but it’s nice to know that Soderbergh also has problematic faves.