It is hard to imagine now, but we all used to be hopelessly addicted to 2017. After all, prequel 2016 had set things up nicely: killing off a few characters, juicing the sense of a new populist age dawning. What chance would there be for our serotonin systems against a year that opened with Donald J Trump being gifted control of the free world?
Not even the episode of Quantum Leap where Scott Bakula finds himself inhabiting the body of Bobo the astrochimp held out such rich and immediate potential. Would the Persian Gulf burn? Would the Korean peninsula go up in an eerie green glow? Would Trump set fire to his own tie? The traps were loaded, the stakes were huge. There was plenty of conflict, and just enough kook to fill out the exposition sections of the script.
And, initially, it was all that and more. Global terror touched down in various awful new hellscapes. Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer came and went. Anthony Scaramucci evaporated after 10 days. There was the WannaCry malware attack. The Conservatives declared a snap general election that stoved their own heads in and elevated Jeremy Corbyn to the status of folk hero. A member of the Le Pen family proved convincing to a third of French voters, Geert Wilders to nearly a fifth of the Dutch.
Gradually, it became apparent that year 2017 was being driven by some kind of crazed Michael Bay figure who just didn’t know when to stop. Any time there’s a pause in the action, just slather on another explosion, another warning that the machines are coming to take our jobs, a couple of hurricanes and the POTUS climbing into bed with the far right like it’s The Man in the High Castle. Oh yeah, and then use famously ratchet Ryan Seacrest reality show I Wanna Marry “Harry” as the model for a world in which a British Prince really is swept off his feet by a commoner from the US.
Where to go from there? Pretty soon, 2017 had gone full self-referential – and that’s nearly always fatal. The Blowing Up Hollywood episode was the point at which it all became just plain unbelievable. Every five minutes, you’d update the news to notice, passingly, that Jeffrey Tambor, or Kevin Spacey, or Dustin Hoffman, had been felled for ever. Eventually, the “Oooh” of your mouth simply froze into a shock-fatigued “Oh”.