Updated on 23 April 2020: For a while, it seemed as if we were running out of TV. So many shows, after all, have been forced to suspend filming due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and – while that’s not a problem at the moment – we’ve all been just a tad concerned about what we’re going to watch after we’ve worked our way through Netflix.
Thankfully, that seems to be changing. We’ve got Gangs Of London coming to Sky Atlantic, in a bid to fill the Peaky Blinders-shaped hole in our lives. Killing Eve has been brought forward from its initial summer slot, thanks to the kind folks over at the BBC. Black Mirror’s Charlie Brooker, too, has announced plans for an extra-special lockdown episode. And, of course, both Netflix and Amazon Prime have been keeping their platforms well stocked with new TV and film content.
Produced by Oscar-nominated writer Jeff Pope, Isolation Stories will attempt to depict what families are going through after weeks of isolation.
As such, the four episodes will feature moments that are “funny, sad, heartwarming and poignant”, according to ITV.
Here’s what you need to know about each episode…
Isolation Stories: Mel
When it’s on: Monday 4 May at 9pm
What it’s about: Alone, heavily pregnant, and fed up with life, Mel (Sheridan Smith) faces having to go through birth without the married father of her child – who has chosen to stay with his wife and family – and without her own family, who have given her the cold shoulder.
She might be the only person in the country who doesn’t mind isolation. At least everyone else will understand what it’s like to be miserable…
Isolation Stories: Ron & Russell
When it’s on: Tuesday 5 May at 9pm
What it’s about: Ron (Robert Glenister) is ill with the virus and is confused about where he is and what’s happening to him. One of his sons, Russell (Tom Glenister), is trapped and isolating with him.
Their relationship is already strained and old wounds are reopened as they are forced to spend all their time together. Russell becomes increasingly frantic as he tries to help Ron through the illness.
Isolation Stories: Mike & Rochelle
When it’s on: Wednesday 6 May at 9pm
What it’s about: The worst fears of paranoid, self-absorbed hypochondriac Mike (Darren Boyd) have come true. There is an unstoppable virus that affects us all, and you can catch it just by breathing!
He insists on an online session with his psychiatrist Rochelle (Angela Griffin) who must try and talk him down from the precipice. But who really is the patient, and who is the shrink?
Isolation Stories: Karen
When it’s on: Thursday 7 May at 9pm
What it’s about: A grandad (David Threlfall) resolves to bring his broken family together by… well, by being a grandad. Able to pass by his son-in-law’s house on the way to the grocery store, he stops off outside their window to lark about and make his grandkids smile. But his son-in-law (Eddie Marsan), still suffering after his wife Karen left him, doesn’t welcome these daily visits.
As reported on 22 April: To get all those emotions across, of course, you need a stellar cast of actors in place. And, thankfully, ITV has come up trumps: Sheridan Smith, David Threlfall, Angela Griffin, Robert Glenister, and Eddie Marsan.
However, as each installment of the show will be made under lockdown conditions, these won’t be the only actors partaking in the drama…
You guessed it: their real-life families will be filming the scenes right alongside them… with a little steerage from the directors working remotely, of course.
Speaking about the project, executive producer Jeff Pope said: “Like everybody else I have been isolating at home, and in my case watching my wife suffering badly with the virus. I wanted to do something to catch the mood. I knew it would be very difficult to try and shoot dramas in these circumstances, but I felt the public would understand if things were a little rough and ready, if we at least had a go.”
Tom Dunbar, who is producing Isolation Stories alongside Pope, added: “Exceptional circumstances require us to think in a brand new way about creating drama. Our priorities are the safety of all involved in the production and finding a way to work within all the restrictions to create something relevant and resonant.”
Each episode of ITV’s Isolation Stories is inspired by true stories from around the country, and will be just 15 minutes long, making them ideal for fitting in around your (ahem) other TV and digital commitments.
And ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, who has commissioned the series to air in the next few weeks, has said: “It’s amazing that Jeff has managed to make these short films so quickly, to reflect the times we are living in. These are moving and funny tales of isolation with an incredibly talented team on and off-screen. They are stories told from isolation to an audience in isolation.
“It’s not often drama can be made this quickly so huge thanks to everyone involved in making this happen and I hope they bring some joy to the audience, in what we know are difficult times.”
We’ can’t wait. And, while we don’t have an exact release date just yet, sit tight: we’ll be sure to bring you more details, as and when we get them.
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.