How great TV is adding structure back to our lives in lockdown 3.0

Lockdown TV: how great shows are adding structure back to our lives right now

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You better believe the Covid-19 pandemic is changing how and why we watch TV.

Netflix and Disney+ might be pumping out show after show after brilliant, brilliant show, but there’s a lot to be said for regularly scheduled TV right now.

The first lockdown was… well, it was something of a novelty, so we sunk our time into baking, and crafting, and gobbling up Tiger King episodes. The second sped by in a whirl thanks to our excitement over Boris Johnson’s misguided promises of a normal Christmas.

But the third? The third has hit us hard. I guess it’s due to the fact that it’s harder to see a way out this time. We’re more aware of what’s going on, which makes us feel frightened. The novelty, too, has worn off, so we’re bored and listless. And, because this lockdown has come in the bleak midwinter, it’s far too cold and miserable to have any real fun outdoors.

It would be easy, then, for our days to seep together into a monotonous soup. And, for a while, it did (for me, at least; the only difference between my Mondays and Saturdays was whether I was sat in front of my laptop or not).

But then I settled back into the world of old-school TV. And, just like that, my week was neatly structured into seven days again.

Anna Friel as Marcella in season 3
The third season of Marcella is currently airing on ITV,

Friday nights are dominated by Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, and Sundays are all about BBC One’s The Serpent. Marcella is back in my life on a Tuesday, and – in place of our weekly cinema trip – my boyfriend and I have turned Wednesday into ‘movie night’.

Occasionally, very occasionally, I even take myself back in time to Saturday evenings in a world before Covid-19. And I do it by streaming old episodes of Blind Date, Gladiators, Changing Rooms, and Ready Steady Cook. Because apparently, that’s the kind of person I am.

Before you all rush to call me a massive loser, it’s worth noting that I am not alone in my endeavour to mould my meaningless blob of a lockdown life into shape via my TV schedule.

“Sometimes on a very lonely Saturday night I feel the need to watch some trashy TV,” says Charlotte, “like The Voice or Strictly Come Dancing. It makes it clear that it’s a weekend because it makes it feel ever so slightly different from all the other nights of the week when I just stream stuff on Netflix.”

She adds: “There’s something about watching TV in real time. I guess it inspires some sort of connection with other people, because you know they’re watching it at the same time as you.

“I guess it’s the virtual equivalent of the watercooler moment – or, at least, the thing that happens the night before the watercooler moment.”

It's A Sin on Channel 4
It's A Sin airs on Friday nights via Channel 4.

Hollie, meanwhile, says: “In the first lockdown, I binged Normal People and Tiger King in a bid to forget what was happening around me. This time I feel a bit more in control and I want to keep some structure.

“When I May Destroy You was released during the summer, it was two episodes at a time, and it felt so nice to dedicate a specific evening to them and take the time to appreciate and reflect on the episodes. So that’s what I’ve been doing with The Great and It’s A Sin: I treat myself to just one episode a night.”

She adds: “Not only does this make them feel more like a treat, but it also helps me remain productive in other areas of my life. I can dedicate an hour to reading, to cooking meals, running, tidying, and calling friends.

“If I just binged I wouldn’t have time or bother to do any of that!”

Daniella, meanwhile, has fallen back into the habit of watching the soaps of an evening.

“I’ve stopped watching EastEnders because it’s pretty bleak, but I do love a spot of Corrie for a bit of lighthearted drama,” she admits.

Becca adds: “Emmerdale is my new favourite thing.”

And another friend, who prefers to go unnamed, says simply: “Winterwatch. That’s my Friday jam right there! I pour myself a glass of red, plonk myself on the couch, and settle down for a frosty trip around the UK. I love it.”

Of course, it’s not just evening TV that helps with all of this; many who are working from home right now also use daytime television shows to keep their days from becoming mushy round the edges.

“I watch Good Morning Britain to find out what’s happening in the world,” says Jill. “And I tune into the news while I eat my lunch to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world and any coronavirus vaccine updates, even though I’m not supposed to be watching TV!”

Rowan says: “I’ve been watching Gospel Singer Of The Year on Sunday lunchtimes because it’s so gentle and the music is so uplifting.”

And Ella admits: “This Morning and Loose Women and Lorraine are always on in the background while I’m working. It makes me feel as if I’ve got people around me – and I like logging onto Twitter to join in the social media chat, too. It makes everything feel so nice and normal.”

Essentially, we’re living through unprecedented times and TV is providing a source of comfort and commonality with those around us, both in our households and beyond.

More importantly, though, it’s helping us create structure within our new indoorsy lives. So, if you’re feeling a little blue about the glut of indistinguishable days ahead of you, why not sit down and write your very own ‘TV guide’ of sorts?

Don’t worry, it doesn’t even have to be terrestrial TV. Because, with a little Wandavision on Fridays, a sprinkle of Snowpiercer on Sundays, and a dash of The OC on Wednesdays, you may find that your week starts to look a little more like an actual normal week again.

And that, in the age of Covid-19 and 1,000 lockdowns, is no small thing. 

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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