The unexpected catharsis of watching COVID-19 TV episodes


In April 2020, when it grew to become abundantly clear that the menace posed by COVID-19 wasn't going away any time quickly I bear in mind pondering to myself, "God, I hope tv exhibits do not deal with this virus."

Within the early months of the pandemic, individuals have been stress-watching Contagion, imagining how beloved characters from exhibits like The Office would handle COVID-19, and asking writers like Tina Fey and Mike Schur how their coronavirus episode scripts would look. That was all effectively and good, as a result of though there are parallels between Contagion and our coronavirus actuality, the film is finally a fictional account of a lethal outbreak. And whereas pandemic episodes of 30 Rock, Misplaced, Friday Evening Lights, and different off-air TV favorites have been being contemplated, I used to be assured that they'd by no means make their approach to screens.

What I actually feared was the return of on-air tv exhibits, which had two selections: Ignore the pandemic fully, or discover a approach to handle it of their fictional worlds.

Was I inquisitive about seeing coronavirus TV episodes, films, and documentary specials? Perhaps in the future. However the considered watching COVID-19 scenes play out on display screen whereas we're all nonetheless residing by way of the virus, quarantining in our houses, fearing for our lives, and shedding family members had enormous "too quickly" vibes. 

Tv has been some of the comforting distraction for me in quarantine — an escape to the Earlier than Instances when individuals may stay mask-free, attend massive gatherings, and have as a lot in-person human contact as they needed. So I did not need my favourite exhibits to crush my nostalgic fantasies by mirroring our present-day actuality. Quick-forward to fall 2020 when new and returning TV exhibits began to premiere and This Is Us, Black-ish, South Park, and extra all launched COVID-19-related episodes.

I will be the primary to confess I had critical doubts about COVID-19 enjoying out on TV, however each coronavirus episode I've seen has left me feeling unexpectedly grateful for the viewing expertise.

Dramas like This Is Us tackling the coronavirus

After I realized the Season 5 premiere of This Is Us, "Forty: Half One," would deal with the coronavirus "head on" I straight-up winced. This Is Us is as dramatic as shows come nowadays, so I used to be genuinely scared to see what elaborate, doubtlessly tacky Jack-flashback scenes Dan Fogelman and crew had in retailer. What the present gave viewers, nevertheless, was a considerate, true-to-life image of a household navigating a pandemic.

After I first noticed Kevin on display screen in a masks throughout the October premiere I scoffed. "That is ridiculous," I stated out loud, solely to search out myself sobbing uncontrollably on my sofa lower than 10 minutes later.

The present touched on mask-wearing, social distancing, Zoom fatigue, air hugs, the issue of celebrating milestones in a pandemic, exhaustive hand sanitizing, PPE shortages, George Floyd's homicide, protests towards racism and police brutality, furloughs, digital remedy appointments, and news-watching overload earlier than the title display screen even appeared. 

It was a drastically sped-up, incomplete image of 2020, nevertheless it hit extremely close-to-home and served as a profitable reminder of the various challenges we would collectively confronted. Crying over the condensed supercut of our 12 months not solely helped me launch pent up feelings; it additionally jogged my memory how resilient we're.

Comedies like Superstore discovering laughter within the face of tragedy

Earlier than watching Superstore's Season 6 premiere, "Important," that very same feeling of apprehension came to visit me. I like the present and it is by no means let me down earlier than, however I could not assist however surprise, "What in the event that they miss the mark? How may one presumably discover a single shred of comedy in such a darkish time? And in the event that they do succeed, who're we to even snort proper now?"

The Superstore writers did extra than simply succeed with their coronavirus episode, they shined a lightweight on the sacrifices of important grocery retailer staff whereas concurrently providing followers some much-needed levity. 

Amy, Jonah, Glenn, and the remainder of the Cloud 9 crew discovered themselves in utter chaos when the pandemic began to unfold. The chilly open completely addressed the insanity of March 2020: discovering out sports activities seasons have been on maintain, listening to case numbers have been on the rise throughout the US, and studying that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had the virus. Because the episode went on, writers touched on every part from 20-second hand washing and early confusion about how COVID-19 spreads to lack of PPE for grocery store staff.

"Important" painted an image of humanity at a low level — hoarding bottled water, bathroom paper, and cleansing merchandise; disrespecting each other and taking important staff with no consideration; and pulling a "Karen" to throw an anti-masker scene in public — nevertheless it additionally confirmed how individuals went above and past to make the very best of a shitty scenario and maintain their family members secure.

It is an episode with a whole lot of coronary heart that referred to as out some very actual, very ridiculous habits displayed by people within the early months of the pandemic. However "Important" managed to strike a outstanding steadiness between igniting empathy for important staff and inspiring laughter at extraordinarily relatable coronavirus conundrums. It made followers really feel prefer it was OK to expertise pleasure within the midst of complete despair — if just for 20 minutes.

The Resident bringing medical present experience to the desk

Medical exhibits like The Resident are clearly in a novel spot in relation to pandemic episodes.

In a Season 3 episode (which filmed earlier than the coronavirus hit the US) The Resident crew labored to comprise a superbug referred to as Candida auris that was wildly spreading all through Chastain Park Memorial Hospital. The concern and destruction introduced on by the superbug was actual, relatable, and palpable by way of the display screen, and for the reason that episode aired in April 2020 it struck an actual COVID-19 nerve amongst viewers. The writers and actors introduced that very same seriousness and meticulous consideration to element when creating the Season 4 premiere, "A Marriage ceremony, A Funeral," which aired on Jan. 21, 2021.

In contrast to most coronavirus episodes, "A Marriage ceremony, A Funeral" happened sooner or later at a secure, mask-free marriage ceremony. By means of flashbacks, the episode informed the story of Chastain's medical doctors struggling to work on the frontlines of the coronavirus, together with uncooked, heartbreaking tales of loss. Nonetheless, it additionally painted an image of hope and confirmed a lightweight on the finish of this seemingly pitch black tunnel.

When watching the premiere I violently sobbed on the fictional portrayal of a COVID-struck emergency room, the sight of different individuals coping with sick family members, and the picture of healthcare staff risking their lives on the job, as a result of I knew these experiences weren't fictional in any respect. However I additionally cried tears of pleasure when watching the fictional future that The Resident painted — one the place we're capable of begin our restoration course of, have fun joyous moments, and attempt to stay life to the fullest once more.

With coronavirus episodes, it is hit and miss

Coronavirus episodes aren't going to be for everybody.

I can personally vouch for these three, however there are a number of others I haven't watched, and I can solely assume some will miss the mark, really feel too quickly or too triggering, and should depart you extra discouraged than you have been once you sat down to observe.

For me, reflecting on our coronavirus journey — ache and all — has been useful. Crying feels good proper now, and I typically discover it simpler to cry when watching others expertise traumatic occasions than when experiencing them myself. 

Internalizing the secondhand concern and frustration of tv characters I've come to know and love over time additionally helped me get outdoors of my very own private COVID-19 bubble. The episodes have been all emotional in their very own methods, however they every reminded my that nobody is alone on this journey and empathizing with others is important.


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