Let’s face it – at the moment, everything sucks. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and everything is really frightening. People are falling ill and some are losing their lives, while others are in a constant state of panic and vulnerability due to pre-existing conditions.
There’s worries about how the health sector will cope. People are facing losing their jobs and income. New guidelines mean that many of us are self-isolating away from family and friends at a time when we need them the most. We must avoid social spaces when all we want is a pint with our pals. It is a bummer of epic proportions, no matter how sunny your usual disposition. I myself am really feeling it. Everything just seems a bit ‘end of days’ when you look at a single screen.
Except for one screen. I’m a huge couch potato, and there is nothing I would rather do than stay in with a takeaway and a glass of wine and watch Netflix until I physically can’t keep my eyes open. And in these bizarre times, I’ve realised more than ever just how important television is.
We’re all being told to practise social distancing, and while pubs are technically still open at the time of writing in this country (although shut in many others, including Ireland), we are advised to steer clear and stay at home. Others face a long spell at home after being diagnosed with coronavirus, or three months at home, possibly alone, if you’re elderly or have a pre-existing condition. And on a lesser scale, others used to a sociable office are now working from home, with desk chats replaced by instant messages.
This isolation is crucial and necessary, but can lead to you going a bit stir crazy, major boredom, and severe loneliness. And at times like this, the telly – whether that’s your actual box or your laptop screen – is not only a source of entertainment and something to while away the hours, but a companion or a saviour. The thought of being in my flat for all my waking hours (when I haven’t chosen to due to sheer laziness) makes me feel like the walls are closing in, but with the telly on, that all changes. While the world feels like it’s all going wrong, I can distract myself with a binge watch. (Me and my housemate re-started RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine, and I cannot recommend watching Charlie Hides stand still during a lip sync enough for a welcome distraction from our own personal hell.)
Netflix offers an almost too-vast selection of television, and while you may complain on the average weeknight that you’ve already watched every true crime documentary on the platform, this is when Netflix will really come into its own. You will realise all you need right now is to watch four series of The Great British Bake Off (the Mary Berry years) back to back. You will depend on Moira Rose’s pronunciation of ‘baby’ on Schitt’s Creek to get you through day five of quarantine. You’ll suddenly get a desire to binge Peep Show in its entirety, or rewatch Love Is Blind to mine for memes, or restart Breaking Bad from the beginning because at least somebody had it worse.
And for a blissful moment, you will forget everything that is happening, and you’ll just be watching television on a normal night in. While we all must stay informed, watching the news at the moment is a bit like having flame throwers aimed at you from every angle, but thankfully, once you’ve ingested what you need to know, there’s Louis Theroux on the other channel making a chocolate chip cookie shaped like a pizza, or The Great Pottery Throw Down contestants battling to produce the best jug.
I know it may seem that when news is snowballing like this, we should be glued to news apps, but to get through this, we need to embrace the light entertainment to stop the dread taking over our lives. We need the new series of Race Across The World, we need Pointless, we need reruns of Taskmaster on Dave.
And I know full well that when Disney+ finally drops, I will have signed up in seconds because I desperately need Doug and Lizzie McGuire to put a smile on my face. It’s a difficult time for the TV industry. Production on live chat shows and scripted TV is being halted left, right and centre, and the industry built on actor and celeb availability and freelancers seems very shaky. But this is something we cannot give up. Television is as necessary at the moment, in my opinion, as stockpiling pasta, and it will help keep spirits up at a time that seems impossible.
If anything, this situation makes it crystal clear that the decision to get rid of the over-75 license fee exemption is appalling. For many of these people, this isolation is a common occurrence, and this proposal may rob them of the company they need to enjoy life. Imagine if over the next few weeks, someone disabled your Netflix account and cut your TV connection? Yes, everything is uncertain. Yes, we’re all scared. But that is ok, and we’re all in the same boat. We can’t do anything to change the crisis (besides self-isolating and hand-washing, which I’m sure you’re all doing, right?). But what we can do is grab a biscuit and a cup of tea, turn on the telly, have a giggle and momentarily return to normal.