Despite hundreds of channels and dozens of streaming services, it’s still hard to find something new to watch. Often, the biggest problem is the investment. Hour-long shows with many seasons are difficult to pick up. And that’s what makes Staged, with David Tennant and Michael Sheen, the perfect show to watch. It’s short, hilarious, and respects your time.
Staged might hit a little close to home at times, but mostly in good ways. It stars Michael Sheen and David Tennant as dramatized versions of themselves trying to live through the global pandemic. The story begins just as the shutdown goes into effect.
That shutdown cancels the play they were getting ready to rehearse, Six Characters in Search of an Author. The director, Simon Evans (again playing a characterized version of himself), is broke, and the play was supposed to be his big break. So he comes up with a crazy idea: rehearse over the internet.
The setup is simple, but it does an excellent job of capturing how we all felt back in March when the world shut down. Tennant and Sheen let their hair grow wild and often fail to change their clothes. Boredom and stress set in as Tennant and his wife (played by his actual wife Georgia Tennant) attempt to help their children with remote schooling and finding something to do with the whole day.
Slowly, the insanity and frustration take over as they try to make do with new technology and the lack of real human contact. Sheen and Tennant fight and bicker and greenhorn Evans doesn’t know how to handle two larger-than-life actors turning into petulant children. The whole play falls apart before they can even finish reading the first scene.
And that’s before the twists come along, like the surprise of a big-name actor who passed on the play and now wants back in, unaware that they’ve already replaced him. The story itself isn’t complicated, and if you’re looking for something life-changing, you won’t get it here.
But what you do get is chemistry that works, even over “Zoom.” If you watched David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Good Omens, you already know the two can play off each other in endlessly enjoyable ways. That same energy comes back, albeit more intimately and awkwardly thanks to the fun of learning video call etiquette on the fly.
Everyone involved provides one laugh after another as they hit a new level of ridiculousness. And it’s the sort of “people gone stir crazy” that you wouldn’t have believed in 2019, but which feels perfectly at home in 2020. You’ll relate more often than not.
And the show isn’t afraid to hit somber notes as well, with a few twists here and there that see Michael Sheen open your heart as he fights back tears. But don’t worry, it’s a show that never takes itself too seriously. Watch for the Easter Eggs at the beginning of each episode. The credits will change to match parting words from the previous episode as the characters fight over who should get first billing in the play.
Staged is only six episodes, and each episode is a half-hour or less. But that’s perhaps one of the best parts of the show. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, it doesn’t belabor any points, and it doesn’t ask too much of you. It’s the perfect show where you’re not quite ready for bed, but you don’t want to stay up too long.
And the good news is, a second season is on the way. Which seems about right, because if the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, then we may as well eke out a little more enjoyment out of all the frustration.
You can watch Staged on Hulu if you’re in the U.S., or on Netflix in the U.K. and other countries.