Please, I am begging you, stop writing COVID-19 into your TV shows
There is genuinely nothing I want to watch less than Carrie Bradshaw matching a face mask to her Manolo Blahniks.
And yet Sarah Jessica Parker promised that HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” revival, the 10-episode “And Just Like That...” that will begin filming in New York in the late spring, will “obviously” address the COVID-19 pandemic that gutted her beloved city.
“That’s the city (these characters) live in,” she told Vanity Fair last week. “And how has that changed relationships once friends disappear? I have great faith that the writers are going to examine it all.”
And so Carrie, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) — but not Samantha (Kim Cattrall, who has bigger problems with the franchise than COVID-19) — will do socially distanced brunch and Zoom happy hours, or maybe just talk about how they’re each other’s bubble because men are still unreliable and untrustworthy.
I get it. I really do. The pandemic has affected our every waking moment. It’s wrecked chaos for schools, businesses, sports, entertainment. It’s slimed its way into every crevice of society. It’s killed more than 440,000 people in the United States so far and shows no sign of slowing. It’s inescapable and unavoidable. There’s no way to overemphasis how deadly this virus is and how seriously we should take it.
It’s not just Carrie, though. I don’t want to watch COVID-19 on TV.
I don’t want to watch Meredith Grey sweat through fever dreams about Derek and George. I don’t want to watch the employees of Cloud 9 fight customers over the last rolls of toilet paper. I don’t want to watch Olivia Benson pull her mask down to interview complete strangers.
Almost no shows have handled the pandemic properly. So please, for all of us, stop trying.
I’ve asked a lot of showrunners over the past nine months a nicer, more polite version of the same question: Why on Earth are you making us watch a fictionalized version of our daily horror? There’s always an answer. Art reflects reality. It’s too important to ignore. If we can convince one person to wear a mask because Rob Lowe is doing it on “9-1-1: Lone Star,” we’ve made a difference.
Honorable, if not a little delusional.
The impulse to reflect back to us the chaotic, screwed-up world we’re living in makes sense, especially when it’s a figure as overbearing as COVID-19. How do you think about anything else when every step outside your front door could kill you just by breathing? It’s “ripped from the headlines” on steroids (but not the ones recommended by the CDC).
Some of the best shows of 2020 started the most important conversations we had all year: sexual assault, race relations, addiction. But almost a year in, no one has come up with anything interesting to say about social distancing.
To be fair, nothing looks normal on TV. A year of rewatches left me anxious at every turn, shots of crowded concerts and random hookups with strangers that were perfectly commonplace until we became scared of touching other human beings.
The pandemic has changed the very fabric of our society. But I’d love to turn the TV on and not be reminded of that for a few hours every night.