The third in TFR’s Lockdown Recap series, capturing our quarantine viewing habits and the changing nature of cinema.
Many of us binge-watched shows that got us through gloomy days at home. In these three pieces, we asked our contributors to revisit their favourites.
Written by Mia Sherry
It was the very beginning of lockdown when I was sitting with my family at a mandatory “family movie night” (Corona you heartless wench), and Woody Harrelson popped on screen. I can’t remember what on earth it was we were watching, or why he was in it, or even if he was any good because seconds after his jovial small-town boy at Bible camp smile showed up, my mother made some crack about his character in Cheers. My ears perked up. “Cheers?” I asked, innocent. Oh yeah, my parents explained to me, great show. That’s where our Woody got his start. And with that, dear reader, it began.
It began my infatuation with the Cheers pub, owned by one Sam Malone (played by the rakishly good looking Ted Danson), populated with a cast of zany but lovable characters set in the leafy downtown of Boston’s metropolis. What was it exactly that drew me to Cheers? I can’t quite say- it wasn’t just Woody Harrelson, nor was it my parent’s glowing review. Rather, I think what drew me into it, and what kept me watching for eleven seasons, was the glorious feeling of having accomplished something; as most sitcom fans will know, Cheers essentially set the record for what we now consider “a sitcom”. The workplace setting, the recurring jokes and quips, the will-they-won’t-they storylines; I’d seen it all before, in The Office, in Friends, in How I Met Your Mother and the like. It was comfortably nostalgic, and yet, I still got self-rewarded brownie points because in the midst of a pandemic, I had dared to venture into something new. Covid-19 changed things in so many ways, but for me, it also served as a timely reminder of what it is that I love so much: my friends, my family and my health for one, but also for the timeless gift that any kind of motion picture can portray. Cheers, with its sweet if heart wrenching love triangles, its classic yet still hilarious humour and above all, its stunning character portraits, was like being wrapped in a blanket with an Austen novel in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. It was veritable chicken soup for the soul; exactly what the doctor ordered.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Written by Niamh Muldowney
It seems like a lifetime since the beginning of lockdown when Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode, 2020) and its bizarre cast of characters leapt into our lives. With college closing and the world seemingly crumbling, I was desperately in need of a distraction. On the advice of a friend, I began to watch this documentary series, very much not expecting to finish it in one sitting! I watched in awe and horror as the story unfolded, shocked at every new twist that was somehow more unbelievable than the last. I texted my friend with updates of what was happening. Around episode two, I remarked that “it’s like watching a train crash in slow motion – it’s dreadful but I can’t look away,” to which he responded, “it starts getting real fast soon,” and he was absolutely correct.
The series isn’t without its faults. For the majority of its runtime, it walks the thin line between exploration and exploitation, but there are moments when that line is crossed. It was at those times that I sincerely questioned the ethics of showing some of the footage that they did. In a strange way, however, Tiger King was the perfect series for when it was released. At a time when we were gripped with uncertainty, through Tiger King we could embrace the unexpected and become comfortable with not knowing what was around the corner.
Parks and Recreation
Written by Grace Kenny
Parks and Recreation (Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, 2009-2015) is the perfect companion for anyone struggling with loneliness and uncertainty. I was two weeks into lockdown when I realised that my life was quickly becoming akin to a scene in ‘The Comeback Kid,’ during which the first line of ‘Stand’ by R.E.M plays over Ben Wyatt’s (Adam Scott) failed claymation project, ‘Requiem for a Tuesday.’ Like Ben’s frame of mind in this episode, something had to change. So, I returned to binge-watching seven seasons of the fictional Pawnee Parks and Recreation department’s triumphs and setbacks. This was my personal remedy to the chaos and isolation of lockdown. From the outset, the series’ protagonist, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), embodies optimism that sets the uplifting tone of each episode, elevating the mood of the show’s characters, as well as myself, the viewer. Every episode took me away from the void that was lockdown. Anytime I became sad at the thought of not seeing my friends, I turned to Leslie and Ann Perkin’s (Rashida Jones) invincible friendship in the episodes ‘The Fight’ and ‘Ann and Chris.’ During melodramatic moments of believing that nothing would ever be the same again, the Parks and Recreation department’s comical yet uplifting resilience in ‘Win, Draw, or Lose’ provided reassurance. The episode ‘Campaign Ad’ fulfilled my need for a lighthearted watch after reading a few too many terrifying news articles. Ultimately, binge-watching the upbeat world of Parks and Recreation became my daily escape from lockdown to a happy, soothing, fictional place.