TV Viewpoint: The Next Normal and Brave New World

Facing the next normal with a glimmer of hope

IT’S been a strange six months, with long stretches of inactivity compounded by rapidly changing strategies and management, lockdowns and levels. It’s been difficult to keep track of time, as ululating as it has seemed to be, which is why I was surprised that the survey taken by a selection of 1.345 Irish citizens and 276 residents of Northern Ireland for RTE One’s The Next Normal, was taken between the first and 14th September.

Doesn’t it feel like ages ago? It’s only been a month, but much has changed since then, particularly our present Level 5 status, record numbers of recorded cases in Northern Ireland and the threat of Level 5 lockdown looming. Yet the results of the survey, I’d wager, still ring true, and offered no real surprises, but a confirmation on the state of the nation.

Mental health issues proved of great concern across the board, as did the overall effect the pandemic is having on our youth. A third of those surveyed said that their mental health had suffered, unsurprising given the change to routine and worries over the health of ourselves, families and friends.

Regardless, the primary concern of those surveyed and the experts brought on to discuss the findings remains the health versus economy divide. Young people least likely to be badly affected by the disease are growing impatient with their lives being put on hold, and business owners are conflicted over how to handle the health crisis without running the economy into the ground.

An interesting segment showed the different effect the crisis has had on two coffee shops, one in Dublin and one in Kells. While the Dublin shop is faring very poorly, without the regular office workers and tourists they previously relied on, the Kells trade is booming, with people working from home popping in on their breaks.

It’s an ironic reversal of fortunes, in a way. The capital has always enjoyed the fewest repercussions of recession, but the nature of the Covid strategy has pushed people out of the city and back into the rest of the country, where it turns out that working remotely is largely a perfectly efficient way to do business. Could it mean that rural Ireland will reap the few benefits Covid has bestowed? Time will tell.

The programme ended on a hopeful note, with entrepreneur Mark Little speaking anecdotally about colleagues being at a production high. A great emphasis on personal responsibility was given by all of the experts, with reminders that keeping up our social distancing, hand washing and mask-wearing will go a long way towards avoiding overwhelming the health system.

Although aspirations for the future have changed, according to the survey, they’ve changed in a positive way. More consideration is being given to the world directly around us, including the nature of our local environment. Solidarity remains key, with our collective outlook focused on both protecting our loved ones and getting on with life as best we can.

As we all know, the winter weeks and months ahead are bound to prove difficult, but with hope in mind we’ll get through it. Again.

Principal cast of Brave New World

WELCOME to New London. We have three rules. No privacy. No family. No monogamy. Everyone is very happy. That last assertion that the three rules ensure universal happiness is disproved pretty much straight away, in the pilot episode of Brave New World, which began on Sky One last Friday.

Set deep in the future, this enforced utopia is maintained by regular mood-enhancing pill-popping by the actors who conveniently already have that perfect, genetically-modified look. Everyone wears specially engineered contact lenses that identify each individual encountered with their assigned caste; Alpha Plus is at the top, and Epsilons languish at the bottom.

I’ve seen plenty of headlines braying Brave Nude World like they’re the first people to come up with the (admittedly on the money) pun, as the show based on Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel is gleefully racy, but it also has that bland, standard mid-range budget green-screen look that renders all the smut curiously humdrum.

Saying that, the contrasting lives of rebellious Americans working in a grim looking theme park, and a possible suicide of a custodial worker added intrigue, so a further watch will probably be on the cards.

First published in The Tuam Herald on 07 10 20

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