TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3

Episode 3 of Unprecedented proves a bleak and brutal one-two of hard-hitting Covid drama

“I don’t see what good it does to worry, sitting around panicking”

Due to the (presumably intentional) programming, Part 1 and Part 2 of Unprecedented – Headlong and Century Films’ creative response to Coronavirus – found a sense of balance in their collections of short plays, tragicomic probably being the watchword. Episode 3 however goes all in on the tragedy, making it a pretty bleak half hour.

First up is Duncan Macmillan’s Grounded, directed by Jeremy Herrin, which takes aim at the generation gap and how that has dictated people’s response to the crisis. Katherine Parkinson’s event planner is wracked with job worries and concerns over her ability to home-school. But what really drives her over the edge is the casualness with which her retired parents are taking the whole affair, screaming into the ether as they amble on as if life hasn’t changed but at all. Alison Steadman and Michael Elwyn are excellent as the slightly daffy, devoted couple belatedly coming round to the seriousness of it all.

Then Prasanna Puwanarajah’s hard-hitting Fear Fatigue crashes into you like a sledgehammer. Skilfully directed by Brian Hill, it takes the form of a verbatim piece, made up of fictionalised characters speaking the words of anonymous NHS workers in the days leading up to the anticipated first wave of the pandemic. It is brutal and brilliant in the same breath, hard to watch but impossible to tear your eyes away from as it manifests something far deeper than anything evoked by the weekly clap. It might be twice the length of most of the other Unprecedented shorts but it more than proves its worth.

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