Quarantine Binge-Watching Just Got Meta With Netflix’s ‘Coronavirus, Explained’

Abi Travis - Author

Apr. 27 2020, Updated 11:54 a.m. ET

coronavirus explained on netflix bill gates
Source: Netflix

Chances are you’ve probably been binge-watching plenty of stuff on Netflix over the past few weeks. While many of us are staying home in an effort to thwart the spread of COVID-19, binge-watching everything Netflix (and Hulu, and Disney Plus) has to offer is one of the only things to do. Now, your binge-watching sesh can get meta with a new documentary that’s all about the coronavirus. Coronavirus, Explained is on Netflix — here’s what we know about it.

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The first episode of ‘Coronavirus, Explained’ is currently streaming on Netflix.

Coronavirus, Explained is a mini spinoff season of Explained, the weekly documentary series on Netflix that’s produced by Vox Media in the style of their very popular YouTube videos. Former episodes of Explained have covered everything from K-Pop to athleisure to cults. Back in November of 2019, there was an episode called “The Next Pandemic,” which was all about the history of pandemics, how they spread, and what could be done to contain the next one.

coronavirus explained on netflix episode
Source: Netflix
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Of course, at the time, the show’s creators didn’t realize that “the next pandemic” was literally right around the corner. Now that we’re currently living through the no-longer-hypothetical next pandemic, Vox has made another super relevant limited series all about it. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Vox was in the process of brainstorming topics for Explained Season 3 in mid-March of 2020 when Netflix reached out to request the Coronavirus, Explained series.

While the team initially planned to have 10 weeks to work on each episode of their next Explained season, the sudden prevalence of COVID-19 pushed up their production schedule and they made the first episode of the limited series in two-and-a-half weeks.

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How was ‘Coronavirus, Explained’ made during the pandemic?

Obviously, now is not the easiest time to be making any type of shows. People can’t gather together to film anything, and anything that is filmed has to be edited remotely. So how did Vox Media make Coronavirus, Explained during the actual coronavirus pandemic?

coronavirus explained on netflix
Source: Netflix
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Well, remember how we mentioned the episode of Explained all about “The Next Pandemic”? In order to make that episode, Vox interviewed Bill Gates — whose philanthropic work is heavily focused on global health, and who is also currently a major funder of COVID-19 vaccine research. Vox ended up using some of that interview footage in the first episode of Coronavirus, Explained.

If you watch the first episode, you’ll see that other interviews were conducted remotely. The Explained videos often include a lot of charts and other graphics so Coronavirus, Explained remains true to form in that regard. In order to get the episode out so quickly, Vox leaned heavily on archival footage and animators. They also shipped J.K. Simmons (who had narrated the “Next Pandemic” episode) a recording kit so he could narrate the new episode from home.

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The result is a 26-minute-long episode that provides information and context to the continually evolving pandemic situation. “We thought it was a great opportunity to provide a public service,” showrunner Claire Gordon said. “This was a moment that was incredibly confusing for the whole world and it felt like a thing that our show could do well in trying to make it understandable.” The first episode of the limited series, called “This Pandemic,” started streaming on April 26, and there are two more episodes planned for a summer release.

The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org. 

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