For the non-key workers among us, as trips outside are limited to daily exercise and infrequent shopping for essential items only (and yes, I judged myself when I put a six-pack of McCoy’s and a bag of Twirl Bites in the basket), a make-do-and-mend ethos is already creeping into our daily lives. At least it is in my flat, where I suspect we are only one inspirational YouTube tutorial away from learning how to crochet vegetable scraps into reusable cloths.
That same DIY spirit is spreading across the entertainment world faster than rich people are finding private tests for Covid-19. Those who work in the creative industries are having to figure out how to keep the spirit of their work alive, in lieu of having an actual stable source of income from it.
Many TV productions have been suspended or delayed, especially the ones you were most looking forward to, which means we are likely to run out of new shows to gobble up in quarantine, leaving us with nothing but an endless loop of the news and This Morning, as our eyes are propped open with matchsticks. However, Jodie Whittaker rolled up her sleeves and produced what surely counts as a mini, DIY episode of Doctor Who. From the safety of what appears to have been a wardrobe, Whittaker, as the Doctor, delivered a beautiful little speech aimed at reassuring children, but which may have managed to reassure a few older viewers, too.
“Basically, I think somebody, somewhere, might be a little bit worried,” she began, urging kids to talk, tell jokes and be kind to each other, while remembering that darkness never prevails. In trying to soothe her younger viewers, Whittaker reversed the show’s decades-long dedication to scaring the bejesus out of them. Plus, the fact that she’s got her costume at home, is, well, lovely.
This is the kind of content we need from famous people. In a video interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Courteney Cox revealed that the filming of the much-hyped Friends reunion has been postponed. To pass the time, however, she has been binge-watching… Friends.
“I just started season one,” she said, explaining that she was always asked about it but remembered very little. Her verdict? “It’s really good!” In the same video, she showed Kimmel her kitchen cupboard, in which everything was organised by jar. Suddenly, it became a mini, DIY episode of Friends. That cupboard could not have been any more Monica.
Lena Dunham: what the Dickens is she doing now?
Lena Dunham is doing a Dickens and publishing a novel in instalments through Vogue.com, posting a chapter of her romance Verified Strangersevery day. Much as Black Mirror did at the end of 2018, when “ooh, this is a bit Black Mirror” was something you might have said every couple of weeks, rather than hourly. Verified Strangers has an element of audience participation: at the end of certain chapters, readers can say what they would like the lead character to do next.
“Find out what Ally does when it rains men (and one woman) and vote on where you want this story to go, in a modern choose-your-own-adventure romance novel, written exclusively for quarantined singletons and the people who love them,” Dunham explained. As someone who needs a deadline to get anything done – having “it’s 9am” shouted at me means that I will at least try to get out of my pyjamas – I admire her knocking out an entire chapter every 24 hours.
A similar kind of “urgency-publishing” can be found on The Chronicles of Now, where writers such as Roxane Gay and Carmen Maria Machado produce short stories based on a recent headline. “We hope these short stories prompt readers to pause and deeply consider a single resonant news story,” runs the blurb, which promises to be an antidote to the fleeting nature of rolling news. These days, time doesn’t feel as if it’s playing by the rules, and I like the idea of confronting it, head on.
Lauren Laverne: all the best kitchen disco
One of the least surprising consequences of so many people being holed up at home, aside from the creeping realisation that an afternoon bath is an option, and wondering if the magpies outside would like the names you’ve given them, is that TV and radio ratings are up. Global, which owns LBC and Capital, said online listening to its stations had risen by 15%, while the BBC’s radio streaming was up 18%. That might be partly because it’s hard to listen to that pavement-pounding playlist when you’re trotting around the living room, but partly it’s because radio is made for times like this.
Of course good old radio is flourishing. It is intimate and personal, in a way that few other mediums can be. I have stopped listening to the news first thing, and have switched to 6 Music and Lauren Laverne’s morning show. Laverne has been taking a kitchen disco approach to starting the day, and it has provided solace and distraction. Last week, a moment of hush fell over the flat for a segment on dog psychology, and dancing broke out over breakfast to New Order. Small joys, and most welcome.