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The best (and worst) pandemic moments from 2021 TV

2020 might have been the 12 months that coronavirus floor Hollywood to a halt. However 2021 marked the trade’s triumphant return to type. With leisure’s post-pandemic resurgence got here alternatives — and obstacles — associated to the world-stopping occasion and the way we speak about it.

Over the previous two years, how and why COVID-19 is portrayed on display has grown an increasing number of attention-grabbing. Some flagrantly fictional worlds have bent to accommodate the actual disaster, whereas their extra life like counterparts sidestepped the matter altogether. So how was the pandemic addressed on TV this 12 months?

Listed in no specific order, listed below are 12 note-worthy Covid moments from 2021 tv.

1. Best: Superstore

A scene involving a face mask from 'Superstore'.

‘Superstore’ did it proper.
Credit score: NBC

Early within the days of quarantine, I drafted this tweet: “Exhibits which might be allowed to cowl COVID: 1. Superstore, 2. Finish of checklist.” It’s a tweet I stand by totally after NBC’s present about staff at a big-box retailer addressed how important employees fared the pandemic throughout its closing season. Over the course of some episodes, Cloud 9’s staff face the identical challenges all of us witnessed in the course of the spring of 2020 — from low masks provides to prospects hoarding sanitizer and bathroom paper — however they themselves are indispensable for People weathering these instances.

Superstore handled the pandemic the way in which it handled any social or political difficulty throughout its run: with important thought, empathy, and pitch-perfect comedic timing. The present by no means took its characters “again to regular,” displaying the lasting results of the pandemic on so many lives and jobs all over the world. It was onerous to observe, however as all the time, Superstore gave us a weekly dose of consolation. — Proma Khosla, Leisure Reporter

The way to watch: Superstore is streaming on Peacock and Hulu.

2. Worst: The Morning Present

Jennifer Aniston in 'The Morning Show' Season 2.

Not a lot.
Credit score: AppleTV+

The Morning Present had made some capital-C Selections because it premiered in 2019, however probably the most baffling of all is the choice to handle coronavirus in Season 2. Apple’s star-studded drama managed to construct disturbingly towards the onset of COVID-19 in the US whereas concurrently changing into extra self-absorbed than ever. In a world disaster that decimated so many lives and life, The Morning Present determined that the attitude we want is that of wealthy TV producers and a disgraced sexual predator. We would have liked to observe Jennifer Aniston, of all folks, sweat out her COVID fever in a luxurious penthouse in Manhattan, all whereas evaluating her circumstances and the lethal virus to an imagined concern of being canceled. The season is tactless, tone deaf, irresponsible, and customarily unhinged — however we’ll go together with this superlative as an alternative. — P.Ok.

The way to watch: The Morning Present is streaming on AppleTV+.

3. Most Literal: Gray’s Anatomy

Meredith Grey in 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 18.

It was brutal, but it surely was correct.
Credit score: ABC

The fictional Gray Sloan Memorial Hospital had sufferers with COVID-19 this 12 months. That meant Gray’s Anatomy needed to render an much more exactly correct portrait of its medical setting for viewers dwelling by way of the worldwide well being disaster they had been watching on display. With fastidious consideration to element and the smarts to say the science of unfold out loud and sometimes, this beloved office dramedy did a service to the second by capturing it effectively. There’s nonetheless the subjectivity of liking a present that is so soapy. (Meredith’s personal battle with Covid, performed out partly on an imaginary seashore frequented by ghosts, was an…attention-grabbing selection.) However total, Gray’s Season 17 was an vital little bit of illustration in a TV panorama racing to maintain up with the instances. — Alison Foreman, Leisure Reporter

The way to watch: Gray’s Anatomy Seasons 1-17 are streaming on Netflix; Season 18 is on Hulu.

4. Worst Whiplash: Brooklyn 9-9

A scene from 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Season 8

Blink and you may miss it.
Credit score: NBC

Brooklyn 9-9 may have been one of many best pandemic portrayals on TV, however an abridged closing season meant prioritizing character resolutions and the flawed police system somewhat than coronavirus. Season 8 opens with Jake, Rosa, and Charles masked and social distancing within the precinct — and that’s it. After the chilly open it cuts to spring 2021, the place officers of the nine-nine are gathered unmasked in a bar and Holt mentions that “all first responders have been vaccinated.” Again to enterprise as typical! We may simply have performed Season 8 in a magical actuality the place COVID by no means occurred. Who doesn’t love some escapism? — P.Ok.

The way to watch: Brooklyn 9-9 is streaming on Peacock and Hulu.

5. Greatest Shock: The Different Two

A scene from HBO Max's 'The Other Two'

This stinger is painfully humorous.
Credit score: HBO

The Different Two’s second season ends with a lethal sneak assault of a pandemic joke. After years of auditions and unfulfilling internet hosting gigs, Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver) lands an element in a characteristic movie. The finale’s finish tag reveals that the film begins filming on March 13, 2020, aka the day the whole lot shut down. Poor Cary — simply if you suppose he is achieved his desires, a pandemic rolls alongside to place the whole lot in flux. In response to showrunners Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, the COVID joke was a last-minute addition to the season, all of which had been written previous to the pandemic. Whereas Season 3 is not going to be a COVID-focused season, Kelly and Schneider famous that The Different Two satirizes present enterprise a lot that not addressing the pandemic, which has modified how the leisure trade operates, would shift the present away from actuality. — Belen Edwards, Leisure Fellow

The way to watch: The Different Two is streaming on HBO Max.

6. Most Rage-filled: You

Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti in a scene from 'You' Season 3.

Get your dang vaccines!!
Credit score: Netflix

You can have performed an anti-vaxxer subplot with or with no pandemic. However contextualizing a fictional measles outbreak by explicitly commenting on actual present occasions let the psychological thriller drive its prescient level all the way in which dwelling. In Season 3 episode 3, when child Henry mysteriously contracts measles, his mother Love (Victoria Pedretti) goes on the warpath to learn how he acquired it. Finally, it is revealed a neighborhood couple knowingly put her little one in danger as a consequence of disprovable pseudoscience. So, Love beats one in every of them over the pinnacle with a rolling pin and stashes his unconscious physique in her basement. Watching all that go down is an undoubted responsible pleasure. However so is the present. — A.F.

The way to watch: You is streaming on Netflix.

7. Most Relatable: Love Life

William Jackson Harper in 'Love Life' Season 2

This one would possibly really offer you hope.
Credit score: HBO Max

Relatively than having Covid loom massive over the wonderful second season of Love Life, the workforce behind the HBO Max dramedy as an alternative centered all the pandemic’s destabilizing horror onto the sturdy, poignant penultimate episode of the William Jackson Harper-starring collection. Going down over the course of the pandemic, Marcus goes by way of the phases all of us went by way of in 2020 —apprehension, horror, and melancholy aplenty. Tackling the Black Lives Matter protests and the draining exhaustion of coping with overwhelmingly clueless white co-workers was an added dose of much-needed actuality. Fortunately, all was not hopeless as Marcus started to take a tough take a look at himself and take concrete steps for a greater, more healthy post-pandemic future — an aspirational transfer for us all. — Erin Strecker, Leisure Editor

The way to watch: Love Life is streaming on HBO Max.

8. Most All-Round Spectacular: Shameless

A face mask-heavy scene from 'Shameless' Season 11.

It is simply so stupidly spectacular what they pulled off.
Credit score: Shameless

There’s loads in Shameless’ sensible eleventh season that represents its spectacular method to the pandemic effectively: artistic use of face masks in performing and blocking; of-the-moment dialogue that one way or the other by no means feels dated; and many extra that is concurrently insightful, entertaining, and efficient. However maybe greater than something that is really within the present, how Shameless’ closing season was made stays a staggering feat of TV excellence. Creator John Wells steadfast commitment to adapting manufacturing of his beloved Showtimes collection (the longest within the community’s historical past), whereas serving to its topical moments match broader themes of the present helped its finale really feel each recent and becoming. Whatever the circumstances, the Gallaghers had been capable of get the send-off they deserved. That felt good in a 12 months so robust. — A.F.

The way to watch: Shameless is streaming on Showtime.

9. Most Fantastical: Mythic Quest

A video chat scene from 'Mythic Quest'.

‘Mythic Quest’ by no means does not ship.
Credit score: AppleTV+

Mythic Quest knocked their 2020 pandemic particular episode out of the park with a poignant reflection on loneliness, boredom, and their characters’ bizarrely endearing rapport. Then, proper earlier than their Season 2 aired, Mythic Quest launched “Everlight,” one other bonus episode that bridged the hole between the Covid-19 pandemic and the occasions of the upcoming season. Mythic Quest has all the time been good about what makes fantasy gaming enjoyable, however “Everlight” took that understanding to a different stage with a plot that begins with Mythic Quest staff live-action roleplaying an end-of-pandemic celebration that transforms right into a magical fantasy sequence the place gentle all the time conquers the darkness. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Leisure Reporter

The way to watch: Mythic Quest is streaming on AppleTV+.

10. Most Handwave-y (tied): Gossip Lady, And Simply Like That, and The Intercourse Lives of School Women

Scenes from Gossip Girl, And Just Like That, and Sex Lives of College Girls

You already know, that is nice!
Credit score: Mashable composite; HBO Max

On the finish of the day, tv is a type of leisure. Not everybody must get into the gritty particulars of on a regular basis life, particularly if these particulars are a generally skilled organic catastrophe that many would somewhat escape. That is all to say that being handwave-y concerning the pandemic is just not a nasty factor; somewhat it’s an indication that sure exhibits are dedicated to their obligation of being enjoyable although they happen within the “actual” world. Each And Simply Like That and the Gossip Lady reboot happen in a post-pandemic New York Metropolis the place everybody has already handled Covid. They’ll point out masks, quarantining, and never seeing their buddies for some time, then enter a crowded room or get on a subway platform unmasked and unashamed. As for The Intercourse Lives of School Women, there’s one fast point out of somebody getting Covid up to now, after which they dispense with any pandemicalia and transfer on to higher issues. — A.N.

The way to watch: Gossip Lady is streaming on HBO Max.

The way to watch: And Simply Like That’s streaming on HBO Max.

The way to watch: Intercourse Lives of School Women is streaming on HBO Max.

11. The Carpe Diem Award for Pandemic-Period Filming Alternatives: The White Lotus

A scene on the beach from 'The White Lotus'.

Truthfully, we’re simply completely satisfied for you.
Credit score: HBO

The White Lotus is a particular case the place the characters don’t take care of the pandemic in-universe, however the present itself solely exists due to Covid-19. After manufacturing delays left HBO with fewer exhibits than that they had slots for, creator Mike White whipped up The White Lotus as a pandemic-friendly collection that might begin taking pictures instantly. The fictional White Lotus Lodge is admittedly the 4 Seasons Resort in Maui, which lay empty in the course of the pandemic and was simply remodeled into a very completely different venue. Most of the scenes happen outdoor or between small teams of characters who not often work together past their rapid plotlines, which is a exceptional feat of writing contemplating the variety of characters to juggle and the homicide thriller that builds over the course of the season. Mike White made scrumptious, if bitter lemonade out of restrictive lemons, and so he earns the particular Carpe Diem Award for Pandemic-Period Filming Alternatives. — A.N.

The way to watch: The White Lotus is streaming on HBO Max.

12. The Cassandra Award For Bleakest Prophecy: Pricey White Folks

Cassandra in 'Dear White People' Season 4.

Yeah, that is grim
Credit score: Netflix

Season 4 of Pricey White Folks opens in a not-so-distant future, with Lionel (DeRon Horton) and Sam (Logan Browning) in extraordinarily cool masks. They reside in a world tormented by…effectively, plagues — a world the place three instances of one thing referred to as “Irish flu” result in obligatory preemptive lockdowns. “God I want bio-lock was the made-up future-y factor it seems like as an alternative of the day by day actuality underneath which we now reside,” Lionel groans. As disquieting as it’s, the toughest half is perhaps that Pricey White Folks’s actuality has a lot better management of viral illnesses than ours does. And so they have orgasms in capsule type. — P.Ok.

The way to watch: Pricey White Folks is streaming on Netflix.

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