Great Britain

Opinion: We'll look back on this time and wince at the TV that Covid produced

ABOUT three minutes into watching the ‘Virtual Baftas’ I found myself thinking, not for the first time lately, that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

For obvious reasons, the ceremony wasn’t the usual format of actual stars on an actual red carpet. Instead, a casually dressed Richard Ayoade, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else than at the virtual Baftas, stood in an empty studio iresenting a series of video link-ups to the nominees and winners. It was so awkward my toes have yet to uncurl.

I pity those poor winners, because this really wasn’t the year to bag a Bafta. Instead of having their big moment on a glamorous stage, looking fabulous in designer clobber and delivering heartfelt speeches to an adoring A-list audience, they had to sit in their back bedrooms trying to look overwhelmed and gracious - to no applause.

To be fair, some of the celebs presenting awards actually turned up, appearing awkwardly beside Richard, but with nobody to present anything to, the entire show was one long “I’m sorry they can’t be here tonight” let-down and it all seemed a bit pointless. They could at least have chucked in some canned applause.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones socially distancing at the Baftas. Pic: PA

At least those who were there in person had made an effort to dress up, (although you can always tell when famous people have done their own hair), which is more than could be said for Michael Sheen and David Tennant, who slouched in their kitchens looking like they’d just put the bins out. They appeared to be playing ‘heightened’ versions of themselves from their lockdown drama Staged, which was self-indulgent even for the Baftas, but I think acclaimed mini-series Chernobyl, the night’s big winner, deserved a bit more fanfare than Sheen muttering from somewhere inside his scruffy hoodie.

Some might say that a streamlined Bafta show, without over-running speeches, made for a better programme. I just found it dull. The same can be said for much of the telly made during lockdown. From the dreary Talking Heads re-makes to chat shows with no atmosphere - celebrities feed off a live audience and are never as entertaining at home in their comfies - I fear we will look back and wince at the TV that Covid produced.

And now we have socially distanced soaps. It can’t be easy, filming under tight restrictions, and continuing drama has to reflect the real world, to an extent, but it was probably too early for the “first socially distanced stunt” that Coronation Street attempted last week. What should’ve been a tense chase with a dramatic climax on a moving car bonnet ended up looking like someone falling onto a crash mat in a school play. It was never going to be as slick as previous soap stunts but, yet again, I found myself thinking: ‘Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should...’ Stick to social distancing in the Rover’s for now.

l ONE show that has bucked the lockdown trend is Channel 4’s Escape to the Chateau, with the wonderful Dick and Angel Strawbridge helping viewers tackle DIY dilemmas. I’m a bit in love with Dick and Angel and their Mayenne chateau. Dick can turn his hand to any practical task, from building a chicken shed to the intricate engineering of a vacuum elevator, and Angel’s creative skills and exquisite taste are to die for. She’s so fabulous she should walk on rose petals. Their new show, which they filmed themselves in lockdown, is a masterclass in good gimmick-free telly. Keeping it real, in a virtual world.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Dick and Angel Strawbridge and their children at their French chateau. Pic: PA

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