Television’s undoing of social distancing

Joke Hermes en Annette Hill
Soort object
At this critical moment in time, April 2020, when we are living with the cataclysmic event of Covid-19, television – a medium declared almost dead at the beginning of this millennium – has become a vital resource for solace, daydreaming, social ritual, knowledge and storytelling. In conditions of lockdown, we turn towards television, not away from it (Ellis, 2020; Negra, 2020). We are checking news on national channels, and tuning to live broadcasting for campaigns to help the health services and communities in need, such as with the globally broadcast One World: Together At Home special. We are curling up on the sofa to engage with gripping drama, like Ozark streaming on Netflix, re-watching favourite series from the beginning, such as Buffy or Breaking Bad, and taking part in television quiz shows like Pointless, even watching repeats, to recreate a pub quiz atmosphere in the living room. On a darker note, we are also overloaded with corona news; the ritual evening news bulletin can be a source of anxiety and a cause of sleeplessness. Television infrastructure can break down, from broken satellite dishes to lost remote controls, which are tricky to fix when technicians are not so readily available to help; and television can be an economic burden. The cost of streaming Breaking Bad can push the limits of monthly contracts and data packages. Television both lightens and darkens the mood of domestic spaces and social relations in lockdown culture.