If like us and most of the UK, you’ve spent the last month of lockdown staring at various screens, you’ll have noticed that the majority of quaran-television seems to fall into two categories.
The harsh and horrifying window into reality that news programmes and breakfast television now provide; or pre-recorded comedies, dramas and soaps which seem too far-fetched in the current climate (there’s no way the Queen Vic would still be open, nor would Walford’s residents be arguing in the street less than six feet apart from each other).
However, there are a few exceptions – thanks to the power of Zoom, HD phone cameras and production crews working tirelessly from home.
Here are a handful of the best entertainment programmes that are continuing to film throughout the coronavirus pandemic (spoiler alert: most of them are talk shows).
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Last Week Tonight is now in its seventh season, with the British comedian picking apart politics from behind a desk to a live audience (in normal circumstances), with the occasional celebrity guest dropping by to lampoon various lawmakers (again – in normal circumstances).
John Oliver’s mix of silly satire and piercing political commentary doesn’t change too much when filmed from home – although the lack of audience laughter initially takes a few minutes to get used to.
Oliver’s weekly takes on global politics, popular culture and neglected scandals have now become almost exclusively coronavirus-focused. This may sound tiring for those of you suffering from current affairs-based fatigue but his tongue-in-cheek take-downs of Trump and witty dissection of fake news do provide some Covid 19 catharsis.
How to watch: Mondays at 10.05pm on Sky Comedy in UK, Sundays at 11.15pm on HBO in US.
Saturday Night Live
Of all the television formats that shouldn’t work during a global societal shutdown, you would expect sketch comedy to rank high up on that list. Saturday Night Live defied expectations in that regard with its At-Home edition.
For those unfamiliar with the American sketch show, SNL usually drafts in a celebrity guest to host the show each week and star in a variety of sketches alongside its cast of aspiring comedic actors as well as a musical guest. A staple of US Saturday night viewing, the show has been running since 1975 and launched the careers of Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Bill Hader and Julia Louis-Dreyfus among other A-listers.
Although on a regular basis the show’s skits are 50:50 hit-and-miss, SNL’s cast and crew have been recently delivering stand-out satirical content despite the difficulty of working from home. The last two lockdown shows have featured a newly-recovered Tom Hanks, Paul Rudd, Adam Sandler, Miley Cyrus and Brad Pitt, who portrayed Dr Anthony Fauci – Trump’s health adviser – during the last episode’s cold open sketch.
Laughs seem to be few and far between at the moment, but if you fancy an hour of star-studded parody and ridiculousness – give SNL a go.
How to watch: Available on demand on Sky Comedy in UK and NBC in the US. Sketches can be watched on the SNL YouTube channel.
The Graham Norton Show
Graham Norton‘s Friday night chat show is still airing on BBC One despite the lockdown, with famous faces appearing exclusively via webcam.
As odd it is to see the show’s purple and orange set without the celebrity-filled sofa, Graham’s standard witty charm makes up for the unusually cramped camera set-up.
A slew of star-studded guests have appeared on the show from their homes, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Chris Hemsworth, Richard E. Grant, and Michael Sheen – a highlight being the reprisal of his Chris Tarrant impression from ITV’s Quiz.
How to watch: Fridays at 9pm on BBC One.
Have I Got News For You
BBC One’s Have I Got News For You is also getting the webcam treatment, with team captains Ian Hislop, Paul Merton and the panel show’s three guests appearing from their front rooms.
Victoria Coren Mitchell, Alexander Armstrong and Stephen Mangan have hosted the past few episodes from home, joined by Henning Wehn, Phil Wang, journalist Emma Barnett and Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden.
With a great deal of the episodes made up of video clips, newspaper clippings and occasionally TikTok footage, the only major change to HIGNFY is the lack of a studio audience. Therefore, fans of the show’s mixture of politics and comedy wont be disappointed with its lockdown edition.
How to watch: Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC One.
Gemma Collins: Diva on Lockdown
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The GC is back to keep us entertained in quarantine with a look at her lockdown life.
With fixed rig cameras all over her house, Diva in Lockdown gives viewers an insight into how TOWIE personality Gemma Collins is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Although the series has not yet aired on ITVBe, it looks hilarious judging by released teaser clips.
If re-watching Gemma Collin’s best bits on Big Brother never fails to cheer you up, Diva in Lockdown will probably have the same effect.
How to watch: Diva in Lockdown is coming soon to ITVBe and ITV Hub.
The Late Late Show with James Corden
Although the Americanised version of James Corden we’ve seen circa 2015 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, you can’t deny that his quarantine celebrity guests have made for excellent entertainment.
From Hugh Jackman messing about with his breadmaker to Will Ferrell performing his repertoire of hand-washing songs, Corden is managing to bring out the silly side of celebs despite the dire circumstances. A personal favourite has been the iconic Stanley Tucci’s martini masterclass, taught from his London home.
We’ve also been treated to a variety of intimate performances from Dua Lipa, BTS, Billie Eilish, John Legend and Andrea Bocelli thanks to The Late Late Show’s #HomeFest – an evening of music from home for charity.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 11.50pm on Sky Comedy in UK, 12.35am on CBS in US.