The viewing that got me through 2020
Before Covid, our entertainment diet was rich in psychological thrillers, police procedurals, whodunits and Scandi noirs. But with our world hurtling towards pandemic hell in a handbasket, I hungered instead to see how the story might look if we engaged a team of hopeful writers.
It would have been mid-April in Lockdown when I realised my tastes in what I wanted to watch and read had changed. My husband, remote in hand, was suggesting we dive into a Netflix series he’d read about, briefly describing the premise, reeling off names of actors and where we’d seen them before. From the other end of the couch I had just the one question, delivered in a flat voice. “Does a lady get raped? Then no.”
I know how we got here. I’d drawn a line in the sand years ago about men-hating-women posing as entertainment in offerings like Criminal Minds but, before Covid, our entertainment diet was still rich in psychological thrillers, police procedurals, whodunits and Scandi noirs. In a parallel universe I imagine myself a forensic psychologist and have liked nothing better than to feel one step ahead of the play, untangling complex relationships and therefore motives for whoever the culprit might be. Tales of good versus evil, preferably with flawed heroes and villains with redeeming features and flashes of charm. Nothing too neat, maybe a moral or ethical conundrum. Think Broadchurch, The Tunnel, The Bridge, Shetland, Wallander, Save Me… and, oh, Marcella (which was possibly the last straw).
With our actual world hurtling towards pandemic hell in a handbasket, no return ticket, I’d lost my appetite for watching how the world is (Jeffrey Epstein’s story in Filthy Rich? No thank you) and hungered instead to see how the world’s story might look if we engaged a team of positive, hopeful writers.
Perhaps, too, in those months of social isolation, I just wanted to see people touch each other, kiss each other on the cheek, go out for a meal and a drink, and have ordinary problems - human drama as the point of the story rather than as a side dish while we all worked out who had done some dreadful thing.
So at first, “Does a lady get raped?” was a specific question, but it became the general filter for Yuck Things I Do Not Want To Put In My Eyes for the rest of 2020.
"It’s as though I’ve suffered a share of collective trauma and must be comforted by the best of Things That Are Familiar. Renee’s These Two Hands and Linda Burgess’s Someone’s Wife (yes, I was late to the party on both) have delighted, reminded and reassured."
Instead, I found people who looked and sounded a bit like the people on our couch: Tim Minchin’s breathtakingly powerful Upright; Pamela Adlon’s hilarious, sharp and moving Better Things; the relentlessly positive yet somehow saccharine-free joy of Ted Lasso.
I also found people who looked nothing like us: the whole bunch of Roses in Schitt’s Creek (outrageously privileged people ultimately being kind to each other); and then Succession (outrageously privileged people being awful to each other) and The Crown (same).
There are books, too, that have remained on my bedside table, award-winning and beautifully written, but still the wrong thing before sleep in the time of Covid. It’s as though I’ve suffered a share of collective trauma and must be comforted by the best of Things That Are Familiar. Renee’s These Two Hands and Linda Burgess’s Someone’s Wife (yes, I was late to the party on both) have delighted, reminded and reassured.
Sometimes I’ve wanted to be read to rather than read, and so queued up podcasts to be daytime soundtracks or bedtime stories. Dolly Parton’s America did the best job of delivering hope, sitting as Dolly does in that tiny intersecting space in the Venn diagram of people who do and don’t vote for Someone Like Trump.
No appetite yet for a return to my old diet. When he’s had the couch to himself of an evening, my husband has been enjoying The Alienist, a visually sumptuous portrayal of the very beginnings of criminal psychology set in 19th century New York. I can see from episode one that an alternate version of me would be fascinated but, in this current version of reality, I’ll hang tight for season two of Ted Lasso.
About the author
Michele A'Court is writer and comedian. She writes books, columns and features; and performs in comedy clubs in New Zealand and overseas.