David Tennant and Michael Sheen are back as shambolic, bitchy, petty, and insecure versions of themselves in the second series of Staged, mere months after the first season run. Staged is probably the most successful TV show to be based in the lockdown, written, shot, and broadcast very quickly during the first lockdown in the UK during the spring. So successful that the BBC commissioned a second series, and that just premiered in the UK tonight. And it hasn't missed a beat.
Staged 2 opens with Tennant and Sheen being interviewed on a lockdown talk show hosted by comedian Ramesh Ranganathan – via zoom – and talking about the first series of Staged. That's a statement of intent as the meta hall of mirrors starts to extend and refract immediately. They're claiming to be the real-life versions of themselves but really playing the Staged versions: deeply insecure, needy, and bickering again, this time on national television. Things don't improve when Sir Michael Palin shows up as the third guest and turns out to be rather less nice than his public "nice guy" image, dismissing Staged as a pile of crap and brushing Tennant and Sheen off as not funny. The first episode of series 2 might have spent way too much time on the talk show as a prologue before slowly revealing where the rest of the season might be heading. Series co-creator Simon Davis is back, of course.
It's a weird coincidence that series 2 should premiere on the night that the UK enters a second lockdown due to skyrocketing infection numbers in the country. Coming after the news of a second lockdown, the show takes on more levels of irony. Tennant announces he's all set to fly to South Africa for a TV shoot, and Sheen is about to fly to New York. We know how that's going to turn out.
The first series of Staged captured the mood of trying to stay sane during the lockdown. It's too soon to tell if the second series can catch lightning in a bottle again, especially when the mood has changed in a big way with another national lockdown just declared in the UK. The important thing is whether the series keeps up the laughs without overselling being in lockdown since viewers will be even more desperate this time.
Staged Series 2 is now on BBC iPlayer. It remains to be seen if it will come to the US.