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Lockdown telly is like a choose your own adventure

The unreal air of lockdown has been reflected in the scattershot nature of our telly habits. Lucy Sweet welcomes the less-conventional approach to programming

Unless we’re doing the dance of social distancing (which nobody really knows the steps for) or braving the supermarket (like a visit to a storm drain with a psychotic clown), we’re all living in a passive state that makes your average turnip look dynamic and exciting.

And as our brains shrink and our arses slowly expand, it stands to reason that we’re going to demand a little more interactivity from our TV shows. We need action! Stimulation! Anything to escape the suffocating, deathly torpor for five minutes.

I’ve just finished watching the interactive version of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, which I recommend, not so much because it was brilliant, but because even having the illusion of personal choice was enough to cheer me up no end. I got to press a button and I made stuff happen. Can you imagine? It beats looking out of the window to see what my second favourite woodpigeon is up to.

It’s like a chimp has taken charge of a cupboard at the BBC and is throwing programmes into a big tape machine

Perhaps our need for activity is why lockdown programming is starting to resemble public service TV from the Seventies. Art shows with Grayson Perry, cooking with Jamie, late-night life drawing, Monty Don planting his seedlings. The emergency cobbled-togetherness of these shows isn’t exactly reassuring, but needs must, and personally I’m all for it. Big dramas are all very well, but will Marianne and Connell from Normal People tell you how to draw a horse or make a pissladiere out of a packet of puff pastry and three cherry tomatoes? No they will not. I’m personally hoping for other strands of entertainment in the near future that will offer more opportunities to get involved. French knitting, root retouching, dry stone walling, creating your own irrigation and drainage systems, pedicures, sudoku, car maintenance – the list is endless. If we do this right, we’ll be equipped to rebuild society AND be great at making mosaics out of eggshells.

Thank god the BBC red button was saved, too, as it’s proving to be perfect for a pandemic. Not only does it fit with the acute panic of the times, the stuff you can watch on it suits the surreal, scattered energy of your average quarantine day. Want to watch Rod Stewart Live at Hyde Park at 6.57am? Hell yeah! Open the wine! How about a medical programme called Pain, Pus and Poison at 3pm? Er, no, but thank you anyway! It’s like a chimp has taken charge of a cupboard at the BBC and is throwing programmes into a big tape machine made out of cornflake packets and toilet roll tubes. Anyway, if you want to choose your own adventure in 2020 you have three options: a) go for a walk b) go out for essentials or c) turn on the telly and embrace the craziness. These options may be limited, but one thing’s for sure – you’ve got lots of time to decide.

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