Last week, I, like many people, was mad on social media.
The cause of it was several factors, all involving the Kardashians. First, Kim tweeted out how she was able to bring all of her friends to a private island where, as she tweeted, “We could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.”
The second was Kendall Jenner, who invited a cavalcade of friends and fellow superstars like The Weeknd and Justin Bieber for an unmasked Halloween/birthday celebration.
Both were celebrated and posted all over social media, the same place six months ago where they were telling us to all wear masks and social distance. In that time, they’ve been able to get rapid COVID tests that allow them to feel safe in doing these “normal” types of thing (though rapid tests have proven to be faulty). Meanwhile, many of us still have to stay away from our vulnerable relatives to avoid getting them sick.
This is all to say that as much as some people want to pretend that a global pandemic is either over or not that big of a deal, even with record numbers being reached in the U.S., it’s not going away this winter. And as television shows slowly start rolling back out, they’re facing whether they want to incorporate it in their storylines or live in a different, pandemic-less timeline.
Medical dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Good Doctor” will understandably bring the coronavirus into fictional emergency rooms, while sitcoms like “Superstore” and “The Conners,” both of which have mined jokes from the harsh realities of modern life, also have vowed to take it on.
But not every show sees itself as needing to rip its stories straight from the headlines. Renewed for two more seasons, the Apple TV+ hit sitcom “Ted Lasso” saw viewers latch on to its lighthearted, optimistic spirit. In order to keep that going, its creators have said the show will not have any COVID storylines.
“If [COVID-19] is still a day-to-day issue when a second season would come out … people are going to want escapist entertainment. … Half-empty stadiums with Zoom crowds? It’s too weird to even be writing.” showrunner Bill Lawrence told The Hollywood Reporter.
What remains to be seen is how audiences will take to it. The last time shows were forced to face down a national issue was 9/11, when dramas like “The West Wing” and “Third Watch” had episodes centered around the event that came out within a month or two of the tragedy. Tens of millions of viewers tuned in. But this was also a different time before DVRs, streaming services and a new show being released on what feels like a daily basis.
With a pandemic raging, do people really want to be reminded of the grim reality they’re facing or escape to a worry-free place like “Schitt’s Creek,” “Parks and Recreation’s” fictional Pawnee, Indiana, or a competition like “The Bachelor,” “The Voice” or “The Masked Singer”?
While I trust a show like “Superstore” to navigate the issue in a clever way, I don’t know if I need to be reminded of it, especially when it already takes up much of my mental bandwidth. I’m happy if they provide some type of levity for people needing it. But me? I’ll stick to escapist TV for right now.