Impact On The Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on many businesses, and industries such as TV and film suffered a severe halt in production.
Since the pandemic, TV shows have been our comfort blankets and have offered a bit of escapism from the COVID-19 chaos. It’s where storylines are boundless and can be as unrealistic and as far-fetched as they can, to ensure viewers receive a thrilling experience. However, some TV shows have decided to incorporate the pandemic into their storylines, making the characters aware of COVID-19. I can safely say I am NOT a fan of this in the slightest. It goes against the whole philosophy of fiction shows.
During the initial lockdown in 2020, people took to the internet to find comfort in fictional TV shows, with a staggering 12 million new customers signing up to services including Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Adults spent nearly six and a half hours a day watching TV and online video, with 1 hour 11 minutes per day spent watching streaming services. (OFCOM, published on BBC News Online)
Do you think all these viewers were looking to be reminded of the ongoing nightmare that is the pandemic or were they all looking to get away from it all?
Filming of British television soaps, such as Coronation Street and EastEnders, was postponed due to the pandemic, and when they returned to our screens, the storylines incorporated COVID-19. Despite being against the inclusion of COVID-19 into TV plots, I do think it was necessary with soaps as these shows reflect real life (although very exaggeratingly at times) meaning it was comforting for loyal spectators to watch their favourite characters experience the same pandemic and turmoil that they currently go through.
The Netflix series ‘You’ is a prime example of a show that has included the pandemic into the storylines, with characters experiencing the same pandemic as we did. There is something very unsettling about Joe Goldberg, the serial psychopath protagonist, being aware of COVID-19; it’s rather off-putting. Having said that, another way of looking at it is that there is comfort in knowing that characters to who you have an attachment have also ‘experienced’ the pandemic and is an eye-opener of how wide the virus had an impact across the globe.
An interesting feature I noticed in the plot of season 3 of ‘You’ was the measles storyline. This could have been purposely incorporated into the storyline to mask COVID-19. I think they cleverly illustrated a plot where parents were mortified to find out that their neighbours were anti-vaxxers, which led to their son contracting measles. This could be a way that the producer included the controversial debate between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers into its storyline.
Sex And The City
Sex And The City, the hit series of the late 90s early noughties, recently announced that their upcoming spin-off ‘And Just Like That’ will incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a frustrating announcement to hear. Sex and the City is one of my favourite shows, not only do I love the lifestyle the protagonists live and fantasise about having my very own rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan whilst sipping Cosmos like they’re going out of date, but it’s also a comfort show of mine. I find the storylines throughout the series, each hilarious, classy, emotional, heart-breaking plotline a comfort that despite their luxurious lifestyle, they too go through bad times. Especially since the pandemic began, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them and leaving all troubles behind; however, if the new series brings in COVID-19, it bursts the bubble of escapism and brings me back to reality.
Despite my preference to not mention the pandemic in TV shows, a prominent drama that was necessary to produce as it gave a strong message about the current situation in the UK, was ‘Help’. The BBC one-off drama, aired in September, starring scouse celebs Jodie Comer and Steven Graham, was a relevant, tear-jerking episode that illustrated the realistic experience of the pandemic in the UK. It was an eye-opener and a brutal insight into how the health care services, primarily the portrayal of care home staff and residents, suffered terribly throughout the initial COVID outbreak. It was hard to watch, and I will confidently say it was the only relevant and necessary TV item to include the pandemic as it was created to give the public an insight into how it truly was.
The drama’s writer, Jack Thorne, explained that the story was essential to broadcast to the public as he emphasised the importance of illustrating the government’s incompetence during the initial outbreak. He believed that ‘Help’ would seek justice and support to the key workers of the pandemic.
A Final Note
The COVID-19 pandemic saw production come to a hiatus, with the industry and the rest of the population in an unprecedented lockdown. Desperate binge-watchers who were numb with boredom, including me, were agitated and looking for something new to watch, yet nothing had been released. When production was finally able to start up again, our TVs flooded with new series, documentaries, and films being released.
As there is currently no end in sight for the pandemic, I fear more TV shows will incorporate COVID-19 into their storylines to seek a more accurate reality to their characters and the plot; however, I sincerely hope that they do not- I would thoroughly prefer watching an unrealistic, far-fetched drama that takes you away from the ongoing worries and uncertainties of the pandemic we live through.