When Freeform first announced its plans to make a COVID-19 series called Love in the Time of Corona, many were skeptical about whether it could (or frankly should) pull it off. In these unprecedented times, did we really need another reminder that we'll be locked away from the world for an indefinite period of time? As it turns out, the series isn't so much an unpleasant reminder of all that we've lost, but a hopeful expression of how we've managed to overcome those struggles.
Through the eyes of various couples self-isolating in Los Angeles, this four-part miniseries explores how difficult it is to connect with people when you're cut off from the world. Nanda (L. Scott Caldwell) agonizes over being separated from her husband of 50 years, whose progressing illness makes her feel like she's losing what little time she may have left with the man she loves. James (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Sade (Nicolette Robinson), on the other hand, battle with the question of whether to bring another child into the world after seeing the viral video of the brutal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. The heaviness of those two storylines is made lighter by the less intense, but still emotional struggles of Elle (Rainey Qualley), a girl who realizes she's in love with her best friend and roommate Oscar (Tommy Dorfman), and Paul (Gil Bellows) and Sarah (Rya Kihlstedt), a recently separated couple who have to hide their impending divorce from their daughter who comes home from college to quarantine with them.
Stylistically, this series definitely achieves an intimate aesthetic that helps tell the stories in an organic way. The actor's own apartments were used for filming, and they did their own hair and makeup which made gave the "loafing around at home" vibe a very genuine and realistic quality. It's not often an entire love story is told with both parties predominantly wearing sweatpants, but Love in the Time of Corona definitely makes it work.
The true magic of the series, however, is the ability of the audience to instantly identify with many, if not all of the characters. At first, all of these couples approach the outbreak and their resulting isolation the same way we all probably did -- as a temporary inconvenience that would surely be over by May. The slowly creeping realization that this situation is not just serious but also long-term is handled differently by all of them in ways that feel appropriately flawed and honest.
Rather than feeling gimmicky or tactless, Love in a Time of a Corona actually validates the feelings we're all struggling with in the midst of this global pandemic. The canceled anniversary parties and trips abroad, the underlying fear that you will inadvertently infect a loved one, even the too-real struggle of suddenly being trapped in your house 24/7 with a toddler all ring true and feel utterly relatable. Somehow, seeing these characters face the same trials and tribulations we've all had to go through in 2020 -- and how they overcome and make the best of them -- provides some much-needed reassurance that we, too, can cope with quarantine and the anxiety that comes with it.
Love in the Time of Corona's one major weakness is that it fails to really delve into the more tedious but truly anxiety-inducing obstacles the pandemic has created. With professions like songwriter, travel blogger, and stylist, the reality is that these characters' main concern should probably be how they're going to make rent given that lockdown has nullified their sources of income. Instead, the grimmer realities of this pandemic are somewhat glossed over in favor of maintaining the series' aspirational tone.
In the end though, the world probably has enough doom and gloom in it at present, and Love in the Time of a Corona is a blessed escape into a feel-good rom-com that provokes tears of joy rather than sorrow.
TV Guide Rating: 4/5
Love in the Time of Corona premieres Saturday, Aug. 22 at 8/7c and continues Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8/7c on Freeform.