Looking ahead: In 2020, we look to Mars, fake meat and the allure of wishful thinking

Katy Perry at the 2019 Met Gala. What could be ahead this year, in fashion and in everything else? Obviously, almost anything.
Katy Perry at the 2019 Met Gala. What could be ahead this year, in fashion and in everything else? Obviously, almost anything.
(Getty Images)

What to expect from the coming year? Continuing conflict, sure. But also more superheroes. More fake meat. A dazzling new stadium that rivals some of the bigger palaces in Pacific Palisades, though certainly not all of them. (I mean, come on.)

And we’ll be hearing more about Laotian food.

In L.A., we don’t just look to the future; we gulp it whole.

Such a wonderful time to be alive. Some developments seem to be slam dunks — such as the stadium, such as summer superheroes. Others might be wishful thinking, such as a Lakers-Clippers rivalry that lives up to all the hype come spring.

As Edith Wharton warned: “Perhaps — perhaps — but all things are perhaps, and either way there lies a doubt, you know.”


Perhaps she was right.

This year, good news was overshadowed by a government shutdown, impeachment debates, mass shootings and cheating scandals.

Dec. 19, 2019

Look, never underestimate the value of wishful thinking. It is an American birthright. It’s what led us to the moon and now to Mars. It is at the core of our value systems, and the very advantage we have over the various Visigoths who seek to undo us as a nation.

In the near future, we won’t just touch screens; the screens will touch us. And cars will do more of the driving and robots will deliver pizzas and sort your junk mail that arrives in increasingly large loads — on pallets, like sod.

Indeed, in 2020, anything is possible. We’re a nation of dreamers and schemers and misfits and visionaries.

Most of them live in California, which is why you can’t get a table at Bestia, or a parking space near the pier.

But I digress. For it’s the future we’re talking about here. And from all indications, much of it won’t be as rotten as it sometimes feels in the moment.

Actually, much of it will be just fine.

A shiny new landmark

Marvel at the monuments we build.

That $5-billion Inglewood stadium opens July 25-26 with performances by Taylor Swift, whom you know you like a little, even if you don’t admit it to friends. God and history will eventually judge her.


Here on the western seaboard, we don’t just erect stadiums worthy of French kings. We build dynasties. L.A. now threatens to take over the NBA, and we’ll find out in spring if the designer players the Lakers and Clippers acquired will pay off.

So far, indications are very good.

In baseball, there are usually two seasons: hope and despair. It is a haunted sport, and L.A. is infatuated with the game, because this town is built on a bedrock of beer cups and crushed dreams. The Dodgers dream of rings — note that the Pantone color of the year is very close to Dodger blue; the Angels just hope to get relevant, under new manager Joe Maddon, who won a World Series for the Chicago Cubs.

If you can do that, you can do anything.

In July we’ll send off some of L.A.’s finest athletic specimens to Tokyo, where the Summer Olympics will dominate our evenings for more than two weeks. Think you’re fit? You won’t after watching the gymnasts and the sprinters. So perhaps you’ll decide to get fitter.

Perhaps you won’t.

Look, L.A. is always on the run, at least when it’s not stalled in bumper-to-butt traffic. Fortunately, in 2020 new advances in technology will make long road trips in electric cars more and more feasible. From California to Washington, the so-called electric highway will offer fast-charging stations every 25 to 50 miles along Interstate 5.

Of course, you can also explore the world via L.A.’s global food scene. In the new year, The Times’ food staff suggests we’ll be hearing more about Laotian food, and West Adams will be one of L.A.’s hot new dining neighborhoods.

Interest in vegan cuisine is expected to grow, even among non-vegans. Fancy fake meat will become more mainstream — in restaurants, fast-food chains and on your backyard grill.


Microscopes and Mars missions

Yummy distractions abound in 2020, and so does some mind-blowing science.

Researchers are expecting to make giant strides in earlier detection of some fearsome and elusive cancers. The buzzword: “biomarkers,” found in bits of protein or DNA that will flag some cancers in their earliest stages, when treatment can be most effective.

Dazzling scientific strides won’t be confined to this planet. The search for life on our sister world heats up in 2020, with the Mars rover set to leave Cape Canaveral (mid-July through early August is the launch window).

Is the cosmos half full or half empty?

Who really knows, but Mars will be a busy place next year: The European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos will launch their own rover as part of their joint ExoMars mission. The vehicles will be joined by Hope, a United Arab Emirates spacecraft that will study the Martian atmosphere from orbit.

Back on Earth, delivery robots will pop up more and more. Amazon, FedEx and Postmates are among the companies developing fleets of semi-autonomous rolling robots capable of delivering packages, a loaf of bread or takeout meals in dense urban environments.

Sure, they’re still buggy. But reliable sidewalk robots could go a long way toward reducing the carbon emissions and congestion generated by the on-demand boom.

Maverick is back

Have we ever needed heroes more than right now?

Well, the 25th Bond film, “No Time to Die,” opens in April, with Daniel Craig in his final dance as 007. Marvel’s “Black Widow” starts the summer season on May 1, with Scarlett Johansson playing the scowling former KGB assassin.

As usual, retreads will rule the year, but some may prove irresistible. In “Top Gun Maverick,” Tom Cruise tutors a new generation of swaggering fighter pilots (June 26).

But will they listen to a has-been? Probably not. OK, Boomer.

TV will continue to be far more original, with even more fronts in the streaming wars. When they roll out in spring, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi will join Apple TV+, Disney+ and the streaming “old guard” in an increasingly competitive space.


In an election year, TV viewers will be hard-pressed to escape politics — past and present, literal and allegorical. Among the titles slated to roll out in 2020 are Epix’s docuseries “Slow Burn,” about Watergate; the final season of “Homeland,” in which Claire Danes may have been turned by the Russians; and Hulu docuseries “Hillary,” about the life of the former presidential candidate.

In the world of music, Ken Ehrlich wraps up his distinguished career as Grammy producer at Staples on Jan. 26. Expect the biggest names in the past 40 years to show up for the awards show, including (we’re guessing) Elton John, who happens to have a concert at the Forum six days later (Feb. 1).

In other concert action: Green Day and Weezer are at Dodger Stadium July 25; ‘Senorita’ Camila Cabello sings at Staples Aug. 7.

Anybody got a guess as to what goes on inside Alicia Keys’ amazing head? Her new memoir, “More Myself: A Journey,” is sure to offer a glimpse.

Theater of the absurd

For audacity, not even Elton can top New York’s Met Gala, where shock and awe will prevail once again. Attendees’ big fashion choices increasingly make the Oscars red carpet look like bingo night at the home. The date: May 4.

On the culture front, free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art officially kicks off Jan. 11, subsidized by a $10-million gift that will cover five years, maybe more.

The year 2020 will also see some random milestones: The NFL will celebrate 100 years of existence, as will Band-Aids.

It’s also the anniversary of the first commercial radio station; the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote; and the centennial of Prohibition, which lasted through the Roaring ’20s and beyond — a total of 13 years.


On July 7, be sure to light a candle for Ringo Starr, who turns 80, as does Raquel Welch, on Sept. 5.

Gosh, they grow up fast.

Three icons of music and mirth turn 70 next year: Peter Frampton on April 22, Jay Leno on April 28 and Bill Murray on Sept. 21.

In November, Billie Eilish, now 18 (Dec. 18), will finally get to vote.

And finally ...

So much to celebrate, so little time. What are you waiting for, an invite? A text from Ringo? A sign from God?

Well, this is all you need, your free-wheeling invitation to a bigger year than last, maybe even a better one. Bottom line: 2021 will be breathing on our breakfast before we know it.

Said Einstein: “I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough.”

But what did he know about time?

Jeff Bercovici, Matthew Brennan, Andrea Chang, Karen Kaplan, Alice Short and David Wharton contributed to this report.