Not having a TV license means that we missed out on Staged when it first aired, but one of the benefits of our flight to Cumbria has been gaining access to iPlayer again. Luckily, the parents didn't mind rewatching the first season to catch us up for season two, and I can see why. Staged is a great, quirky, original concept and with short episodes paired with a novel storytelling structure, I think it'll be eminently rewatchable for years to come. Of course, those without first-hand experience of lockdown living will likely miss a lot of the subtlety to the telling, but right now it lands extremely well.
Indeed, the "Zoom call" structure for a TV show is a surprisingly simple format and the cast and crew behind Staged clearly had a lot of fun using the medium to maximum comedic effect. Of course, having Michael Sheen and David Tennant as your main cast helps quite a bit, but the writing is equally excellent throughout (no matter how much was/wasn't improvised 😁). The various other cast members are good fun, particularly their respective spouses, and help punctuate proceedings with excellent moments of comedy or clarity, as necessary.
From a plot perspective, the overarching driver of the need to continue rehearsals during lockdown is a clever enough gimmick, as it provides plenty of excuses for the scenes to unfold without really needing to develop at all. Subplots are where the show shines, however, such as Sheen's neighbourly rollercoaster and the constant bickering around title billing. On the latter, I thought the consistent switch-ups in the actual show titles were a particularly fun piece of production design 👏
At the end of the day, though, Staged is a triumph not because of any ostensible storylines or plot, nor even due to the actors or incredible cameos (Sam Jackson! Judy Dench!), but because it so succinctly manages to present a realistic yet humorous take on living through the pandemic. Everything feels a little heightened and surreal, but also strangely grounded. I can fully understand why it was such a big hit during the first lockdown, but even months later it still feels fresh, original, and utterly relatable. Excellent all round!