A New York Times TV critic complained that too many of today’s sitcoms do not include COVID-19 in their plotlines.
Some of the most popular shows on TV or streaming services have not written in the pandemic, or have included it only to eventually write it out of their scripts. Why, for instance, aren’t Carrie Bradshaw and company wearing masks while dining in crowded restaurants in the “Sex and the City” reboot “Just Like That,” the New York Times’s James Poniewozik asked in a recent piece.
“And just like that … Covid is over. At least it is in this show’s Manhattan, as well as in a cohort of other series that try, wishfully, to press the epidemiological fast-forward button,” Poniewozik wrote in his Friday piece.
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He referenced several other shows that he suggested “wished” away the pandemic, such as “This Is Us.” The hit NBC drama incorporated the pandemic in its fifth season, but appeared to abandon it in last week’s season six premiere. Last year’s pilot for NBC’s “Mr. Mayor,” Poniewozik added, “yada-yadas the pandemic away.”
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Poniewozik expanded on his protest in an MSNBC interview Monday morning.
“It’s kind of an unsettling phenomenon where shows are sort of taking the standpoint of, ‘okay in the world of our show, the pandemic did happen, it existed and was a real thing. But now it’s over. It somehow got fixed, yada-yada, yada, and the rest of you are sort of out on your own,'” the TV critic said on “Morning Joe.”
Poniewozik singled out another show, “Grey’s Anatomy,” for leaning in on a pandemic storyline last season, only to pivot to telling its audience they are “now in a post-pandemic reality.” The ABC medical drama, he suggested, was essentially telling its viewers, “good luck to the rest of you.”
The writer acknowledged that viewers want to escape emotionally into a story and simply be entertained, but said in the past that shows like “All in the Family” in the 1970s did not shy away from issues that impacted its collective audience.
“It was totally about America’s problems and the things that upset people and the arguments that they had at home, and with their neighbors,” Poniewozik argued. “And it delved into it in an entertaining and emotionally affecting way.”
He concluded that fictional TV and the pandemic don’t have to be “mutually exclusive.”
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The emergence and spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has resulted in the resurrection of some closures, lockdowns and mandates across the country. Some major cities have also experienced hours-long lines for tests.