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New Year's Eve From an Empty Times Square Is a Darkly Perfect Way to End 2020

ABC, NBC, CNN, and FOX are planning to send the year out with performances, but few onlookers.
  • Times Square will be a lot less rockin' this New Year's Eve. (CNN)
    Times Square will be a lot less rockin' this New Year's Eve. (CNN)

    With the pandemic still raging, and the winter surge in cases making it especially unwise to allow large numbers of people to gather in close proximity to one another other, the wise decision was made to hold this year's New Year's Eve festivities in a Times Square without revelers. This is the responsible thing to do and was so inevitable that no one besides the most delusional COVID deniers would think to dispute it. That doesn't mean, however, that television's New Year's Eve celebrations won't go on. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that television will go on, finding any and all ways to keep us entertained, even if it means filming remotely, socially distanced, and with masks at the ready.

    In a way, TV networks celebrating New Year's Eve from an empty Times Square is the perfect way to send off 2020. It's dark, it's depressing, it calls to mind lives lost, businesses shuttered, and the cultural epicenter of the world hollowed out. 2020 was a bastard of a year, and it deserves to be buried alone, in an unmarked grave, without a soul on hand to mourn it.

    The most traditional of TV's New Year's Eve celebrations, ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, will go forward with its five hours of programming. The annual special, made famous by Dick Clark, has been hosted by Ryan Seacrest since 2006. This year, he'll be joined by co-host Lucy Hale, most recently of the canceled-too-soon CW series Katy Keene. The special will be headlined by Jennifer Lopez, who burned a hole through the center of the field at this past Super Bowl in one of the last great pre-pandemic cultural moments, and will also feature performances by Billy Porter (who won a Tony Award for his role in Broadway's Kinky Boots) and Cyndi Lauper (who wrote the music for Broadway's Kinky Boots).

    Elsewhere, CNN's New Year's Eve festivities will be hosted once again by BFFs Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper. While CNN in its press release encourages its viewers to "watch from the safety of their own homes," the broadcast will feature performances and appearances from the likes of John Mayer, Snoop Dogg, Patti Labelle, Jimmy Buffett, Tiger King's Carole Baskin, Josh Groban, Leslie Jordan, Dulce Sloan, Desus & Mero, Kylie Minogue, Aloe Blacc, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Jon Bon Jovi.

    On NBC, The Voice host Carson Daly will be joined by newly minted Peacock star Amber Ruffin as well as Stephen "tWitch" Boss for their own NYE festivities. Their show will include performances by Gwen Stefani, AJR, Busta Rhymes featuring Anderson .Paak, Chloe x Halle, Jason Derulo, Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha featuring Doja Cat, Blake Shelton and Sting featuring Shirazeeand, and pulling double duty between here and CNN, Kylie Minogue and the Goo Goo Dolls again.

    Over on FOX, Ken Jeong will host alongside Joel McHale. FOX's New Year's Eve Toast & Roast will seemingly give 2020 a kick in the ass on its way out the door, joined by a slate of as-yet-unannounced performers and guests. Which, again, seems quite appropriate to the year 2020, which was full of uncertainty and plans left To Be Determined. Can't end fast enough.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest, New Year's Eve with Carson Daly, Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, Carson Daly, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Joel McHale, Ken Jeong, Ryan Seacrest