There's Already a Disturbing Amount of Pandemic Content in the Works

From a ridiculous-looking Michael Bay movie to a melodrama called 'Lock Down,' which is basically just 'Crash' for the coronavirus.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Still from Songbird courtesy of STXFilms

At a time when more than 150,000 Americans are contracting COVID-19 every day, making it near-impossible to read, talk, or think about anything other than this goddamn virus, the great minds of Hollywood have decided that what we could all really use right now is… a bunch of pandemic content. A handful of specials, TV shows, and movies about life during COVID-19 have already come out: There's Netflix's Social Distance, in which celebrities film themselves hanging out at home on their webcams and cell phones; HBO's Coastal Elites, featuring five actors reading monologues about living in quarantine; ITV's Isolation Stories, a series of 15-minute dramatic shorts set in lockdown; and Freeform's Love in the Time of Corona, a rom-com that’s about as inspiring and innovative as its title


As USA Today TV critic Kelly Lawler recently wrote, watching some hastily thrown together project about a pandemic we're still living through feels "too sad, too angering, too exhausting, too soon." At the same time, it's kind of unsettling to watch scenes from the before times, in which people make out with strangers, don’t wear masks, and have no idea who Anthony Fauci is. Regardless of how you feel, there’s a bunch of pandemic-themed TV and film coming down the pike. Here’s what to look forward to (or avoid, depending on your needs).

A zombie movie, of course: Covid-2021

In director Bob Cook's zany reimagining of a pandemic that's killed more than 250,000 people in the US alone, COVID-19 arrives on Earth after space-junk carrying the virus falls from the sky. From there, it makes its way into sugar beets, which are used as an ingredient in some kind of mass-produced baked good, like a Twinkie. "Soon," according to the Wall Street Journal, "zombie-like people are feasting on blood." A film that's sure to be a pinnacle of taste and sensitivity. 

Judd Apatow's Pandemic Comedy

The filmmaker behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up is making a meta comedy for Netflix, in which a bunch of actors stuck in a hotel together during the pandemic have to finish shooting a movie. That's pretty much all we have on the plot, but it's safe to assume everyone involved is going to smoke a shitton of weed at some point. According to Deadline, Netflix is trying to get it made as quickly as possible, and—per some anonymous "insiders"—"the amount of juicy parts could lead to an all-star ensemble that could rival Knives Out or The Disaster Artist." Will that include Seth Rogen? Almost certainly.

Another zombie (ish) movie: Songbird

Two words tell you all you need to know about this thriller: Michael Bay. In the producer's latest, set sometime in the future, COVID-19 has evolved into a new, terrifying strain called COVID-23, which attacks the brain in a way that turns people into zombies or something? As a result, the world is a place of harsh lockdowns and fascistic contact tracing, where military troops patrol the streets, health department employees break into your home in hazmat suits if you have a fever, and the penalty for refusing to cooperate with them is being shot on sight. 


The movie comes out on December 11, at which point you can pay $20 to stream it on demand. After that, it'll land on an as-yet unnamed streaming service, Variety reports.

A dramatic portrayal of what we're already living through: The Second Wave

This series, from the creators of The Good Fight, envisions what would happen if a second wave of COVID-19 hit New York City. The problem is that that's already happening. You might think it's a little insensitive to make a show that fictionalizes a very real, very scary situation and exploits people's fears about that thing for money, but Robert and Michelle King, the co-creators, do not! They've already lined up a cast for the series: Audra McDonald plays Rachel, a doctor struggling with the difficulty of seeing clients via Zoom, and Taylor Schilling plays her neighbor Lily, a Wall Street consultant of some kind. Per the show's summary on IMDB, "When an unexpected, deadly second wave of the virus arrives, we follow these two women as they face unprecedented times while still juggling their careers, their loved ones—and possibly…the end of the world?"

Crash, but make it COVID: Lock Down

Director Peter Howitt's Lock Down begins on the first day of quarantine in Santa Monica, and follows seven different characters as, over the next two months, their lives unexpectedly weave together. Basically, it's Crash for the coronavirus. It's being directed by Peter Howitt, who gave us Johnny English, that spy movie from 2003 you forgot ever existed, starring the guy who plays Mr. Bean. Here's what Howitt had to say about Lock Down, per Deadline:

I wanted to tell a very human story that takes place all across Los Angeles, from the Palisades to Van Nuys to Boyle Heights, and examine how this lock down affects many different people such as a tech CEO on the verge of a divorce; a bartender and waitress suddenly out of work; an undocumented Mexican delivery man dealing with a crisis at home; a seventy-year old woman in fear of getting infected; and a teenager who just lost out on graduation and her prom. Tonally, it moves from the absurdly funny to the dramatic and tragic, which is what most interests me, and that’s why I am excited to direct this film.


A meta comedy about actors trying to land roles during the pandemic: Staged

Perhaps the least distasteful piece of content being made about the coronavirus, Staged is a simple, stripped-down BBC comedy in which Michael Sheen and David Tennant, playing goofier versions of themselves, try to keep working as actors when there's not really anything for them to do. The first season, which is already available on Hulu, saw them rehearsing via Zoom for a play that got canceled in London. Staged recently got picked up for a second season, Deadline reports, which will follow the two actors as they try to make it in "virtual Hollywood" with the help of a bumbling American agent, played by Ben Schwartz from Parks and Rec

While that's pretty much every COVID-themed project that's been announced so far, about 1,000 more of these things are inevitably going to get made. Brace yourselves for more zombie plotlines, more cringeworthy melodramas, and, probably, more Michael Bay. 

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