12 lockdown TV picks

The lockdown has meant the production of many television shows has been delayed or undergone radical upheaval.

Broadcasters have created new formats to meet these unique challenges, along with special editions of existing shows, enabling them to continue in these extraordinary times.

One-off documentaries have also shone a light on the most extreme day-to-day circumstances faced by the most vulnerable in society.

Here are just some examples of these programmes on commercial TV and/or available on demand.

1. Reasons to Be Cheerful with Matt Lucas - Channel 4

When the world returns to some sort of normality, viewers will see Matt Lucas join Noel Fielding to present The Great British Bake Off.

But until then the star is giving people plenty of reasons to be cheerful with his eponymous self-isolation entertainment show - not a phrase we’d ever thought we’d use - on Channel 4.

Written by Harry Hill - who also features as one of countless celebrity guests, from Keith Lemon to Basil Brush - the show features comedy sketches and contributions from viewers at home. The perfect lockdown pick-me-up.

2. The Late, Late Show with James Corden (From His Garage) - Sky Comedy

If there’s a defining image of how the pandemic has affected TV production - and how programme-makers have risen to the challenge - it’s surely James Corden broadcasting his late night talk show alone in his garage.

‘I can categorically say this is the first time I have ever done work in my garage,’ said the star, introducing the first ‘homefest’ edition of his CBS show.

There’s lots of the regular stuff missing - including the studio audience, of course - but he still has the biggest stars in the world chatting and performing via video link. And ever the consummate entertainer, Corden pulls it off with aplomb.

But that first show back in the studio - whenever it happens - is going to be quite something.

3. Grow Your Own At Home - ITV

Alan Titchmarsh’s new ITV show is all about helping viewers grow their own fruit and vegetables for themselves.

And this being lockdown, the presenter is doing everything himself at Titchmarsh Towers while his wife, Alison, holds the camera.

The pandemic has reminded everyone of the importance of being a bit more self-sufficient, but most of all it’s just great to get out in the open air, no matter how big (or small) your garden. Titchmarsh is the perfect guide.


4. Old, Alone and Stuck at Home - Channel 4

This Channel 4 documentary is difficult but essential viewing, taking us into the homes of elderly and vulnerable people for whom self-isolation is likely to continue for many months to come.

Narrated by Imelda Staunton, Old, Alone and Stuck at Home gives us a glimpse into the lives of people for whom lockdown is the hardest, including a man with Alzheimer’s and a woman with terminal cancer.

‘Everyone’s situation is, in its own way, agony,’ said Saga, previewing the documentary which airs on Wednesday [20 May]. ‘That said, they are all, also, extraordinarily resilient. This is not an easy watch, but it is an important one.’


5. Isolation Stories - ITV

Isolation Stories was unique both in its subject matter and the strict lockdown conditions under which it was made.

Jeff Pope’s star-studded anthology told four different stories of people living in isolation, from heavily pregnant Sheridan Smith to the strained relationship between a father and son played by Robert and Tom Glenister.

Made with the actors (and their families) doing much of the production heavy lifting, the resulting stories were, said the Guardian, ‘as impressive as they are ambitious’.

6. Redknapp’s Home Fixture - Sky One

There’s very little live sport around for obvious reasons so Sky helped viewers missing their football fix with Redknapp’s Home Fixture.

Fronted by father and son Harry and Jamie Redknapp, alongside Bafta-winning comic Tom Davis, the trio are joined every week by celebrity guests via video link from their homes.

And anyone who saw Redknapp Sr win ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! will know that Harry is never short of an anecdote or seven.


7. Grayson’s Art Club - Channel 4

Both a fascinating insight into how the Turner Prize-winning artist works and an inspiration for us all to try something new, Grayson’s Art Club is the perfect lockdown watch.

Hosted from his studio, Grayson Perry creates new artworks and talks to celebrity guests and other famous artists from their homes via video link. 

With a mission to ‘unleash our collective creativity during lockdown,’ viewers also get the chance to share some of the artworks they have made during the pandemic. ‘I hope we can make something uplifting in response to the crisis,’ said Perry. He succeeded.

8. How To Leave Your Abusive Partner Safely in Lockdown - Channel 5

There was much praise on social media for this Channel 5 documentary, How To Leave Your Abusive Partner in Lockdown.

With more than 2 million people suffering domestic abuse in the UK, victims have become isolated with their abusers, 24/7.

The Channel 5 documentary went into the specifics of how lockdown is affecting abuse and offered important and practical advice on the issue.

9. The Last Leg: Locked Down Under - Channel 4

It will take more than a global pandemic to stop Channel 4’s Last Leg.

The Friday night comedy staple is usually filmed live in front of a studio audience. It’s still live, except it’s coming down the line from the homes of Adam Hills, Josh Widdecombe and Alex Brooker.

But not only are they in different postcodes, they’re on opposite sides of the planet, Widdecombe and Brooker in London and Huddersfield respectively, and Hills live from Melbourne. Just what we need at the end of a long week.

10. 90 Day Fiance: Self-Quarantined - TLC

90 Day Fiance has become a cultural phenomenon since it first aired in 2014.

The reality show follows American citizens who fall in love with someone from another country and bring them to the US under a K1 visa, giving them 90 days to marry before they are deported.

The latest of many spin-offs is 90 Day Fiance: Self-Quarantined, which follows the fortunes of couples who have previously appeared on the series and are now self-isolating together. And this being the lockdown, they do all the filming themselves.

11. Euro 96 - ITV4 

Football’s coming home - again - on ITV4 which is playing out all 31 games from Euro 96, in full.

It’s a nostalgic treat for football fans of a certain age and a fabulous glimpse into another era for viewers too young to remember.

More than a fortnight of games, beginning with England’s none-too-impressive 1-1 draw with Switzerland ends with the final on 29 May. Can Terry Venables’ young team go all the way? (No spoilers!)

12. Portrait Artist of the Week - Sky Arts

One of Sky Arts’ most popular shows, Portrait Artist of the Year, was transformed into a weekly interactive ‘paint along’ to keep viewers entertained (and active) during the pandemic.

Fronted by Portrait Artist of the Year presenter Joan Bakewell, Portrait Artist of the Week invited viewers to paint a famous sitter as they posed for them in their homes, live on Facebook.

Nearly 2,000 people submitted portraits of the first sitter, dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, with each paint along recapped in a 30-minute programme on Sky Arts.

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