COVID is a true nightmare. There are also aspects of it that lend themselves to comedy (don’t kill me), particularly a romantic comedy. Let’s get the ball rolling, brainstorm flowin’ on central plot points for the inevitable COVID rom-com.

Let’s be clear about two things:

1.) COVID has sucked. It’s the worst. Actually saying it’s the worst is a huge compliment to other things that are “the worst.”

2.) It’s begging to be a central theme in a rom-com… Firstly, we all desperately need to make light of this horror. But secondly, I’m sorry to say it, It’s ripe for comedy—especially when it comes to dating.

Are you single? Have you talked to any of your single friends? I’m married, but I reached out to our graphic and marketing czar, Leah Bury, who has dipped her toe in the COVID dating waters. She shared, “It’s really hard to date when all small talk feels more painful than ever. When “how was your weekend” questions usually lead to, “the same as every other, I stayed inside.” When you feel afraid to come within 6 feet of someone, let alone close enough to kiss, especially considering most guys like to claim 6 feet when what they mean is 5’11” 🤣🤣.”

Leah also talked about how slow the dating process moves right now. To that point—in addition to everything else—COVID has rewinded us back like 70 years. Courtship has returned my friends!

My single friends all tell me that dating in 2020 is a step-by-step process akin to the 50s with a twist of Star Trek Viewscreen spice:

Step 1: match on a dating app
Step 2: text
Step 3: Zoom dates (Zoom dates!??!)
Step 4: if you complete the Zoom date level of the COVID dating gauntlet, you reach the socially distanced date stage
Step 5: shall we merge our pods?
Step 6: merged pods, physical connection, Houston we have a successful COVID couple

And we can only imagine how many budding romances collapse at every step. Just for fun, I’ll take a total gut swing at answering that question:

Step 1: 100% make it
Step 2: 70%
Step 3: 40%
Step 4: 15%
Step 5: 5%
Step 6: 1%

As far as I’ve heard, if you’re sleeping with someone you started dating during COVID, you gotta really f**king like them! And you know what, I think I’m totally good with it.

At 32, can I already be the old guy on the couch in saying, “weren’t things movin’ kinda fast these days?” I feel like over the last 5 years it became absolutely culturally appropriate, if not expected, to match on a dating app, flirt for a relatively short time, go out, have drinks, and get down that night.

Damn, that kinda feels like a lot. Maybe I’m too 2010. Maybe I’m a prude. But I’d be curious how many single people felt great about dating cultural in 2019?

I digress… I bring this up to say that the mix of old school courtship + modern technology + a global pandemic = dating in 2020 is unlike any other time in history and thusly should—and will—be explored in film. So I wanted to get out in front of it, get the brainstorm going now. I have some central plot points and I’ll do my best to determine which director is best suited for the gig.

I’m fine with this being a hetereo tale, I’d be thrilled if this was a queer love story! Even if it’s hetero, I’d love to flip some of the typical rom-com gender roles. I ended up using he/she fairly often simply because it is clear I’m speaking about two different people, but you can decide if it’s guy-girl, girl-girl, guy-guy, or gender fluid! It’s all damn beautiful.

Here’s what I got:

Mask Mishap

It’s hard to recognize people in masks. We’ve all run into a someone from our lives and not known who they are, right?
We absolutely have to make something of this. I think we gotta have a mask mishap that becomes a plot twist later. Maybe in the first few scenes, in public, wearing masks, the guy cuts the girl on a long line for an outdoor brewery, or takes the last COVID test in the town, or doesn’t help when she can’t reach something at the grocery store, something douchey.
Fast forward and they’ve started dating and she sees the mask on the floor of his apartment, maybe the mask is something obvious and dumb like “Warning: may contain Dad jokes.” Or the Predator mouth. Anything specific.
But she sees it, the lightbulb goes off, there’s the obligatory flashback to the first scene where we put it all together, and it leads to a fight/the conflict of Act 2.

Quarantining at the Worst Time

Gotta get quarantining in there. I’m thinking this one is simple. We’re pretty far in at this point, the main characters have decided to merge pods and after waiting and waiting and waiting, they’re finally going to be intimate for the first time. And like the night before the big day, the sister of the girl shows up from Denver or Sacramento, or wherever, unannounced. You know the totally oblivious character, barges in, hugs the lead, “Hey girllll! I’m here!” And because she’s obviously not been strictly following protocol, the leads have to reset the quarantine clock and wait 14 more days.

Socially Distanced Dating

This would be short, maybe a montage. Just kinda making fun of the situation: they go on a date to a drive-in… in different cars. They sit across from one another at a picnic table at an outdoor BBQ joint and can’t hear each other over the music. He gesture’s to hold hands, and she scolds, “6 feet!” She thinks he’s brought lube and it’s hand sanitizer… and on and on.
And of course you need the “COVID-adapted date activity gone wrong” scene.” Maybe something like they go to a circus, but because of COVID the circus is doing private shows. So it’s this full circus production, giant tent, and the two of them… and it’s just a lot.

Pod Betrayal 

An alternative or additional source of conflict between our COVID lovebirds: the pod betrayal. We have this elaborate scene where the leads share lists of who they’ve come in contact with, decide they trust each other, commit to only being close to a vetted group of predetermined people—a roommate, parent, colleague, etc.—and agree to merge pods.
Then of course a social media post surfaces with the guy or girl with someone not in the pod. Oh no! And I think if we’re going to do this in true rom-com style, that person has to be an ex.
Anything to get in the line, “YOU CHEATED ON ME!” “We never touched!!!”
Backstory: ex is in trouble maybe he/she gets dumped by his/her new partner. Main character goes to comfort the ex, it’s actually totally innocent and one of those classic rom-com miscommunications. Ex snaps a pic, maybe when lead isn’t looking? Posts it, drama ensues! And we’re off.

Get Your Freak On

So if you’re single during COVID it’s I have to assume it’s very possible you haven’t been touched in A LONG TIME. And I can say from the bottom of my heart to all of the folks in that situation: I am so sorry. Truly. I can’t imagine getting through this bitch without holding and being close to my wife.
But again, there’s some intrinsic humor here… If this is your first hook up since COVID, it’s gonna be, well, is “enthusiastic” diplomatic enough? I mean my lord. We all know young men struggle with endurance—even when they’ve popped a cap earlier that day. I think we gotta lean in on that. Either the guy erupts literally immediately? Or maybe we push it even farther and the couple starts with a massage and that’s all it takes? Or maybe we modernize this troupe and the lady lasts like 5 seconds! There’s a way to make it current and fun.

Happy Endings

We gotta go happy ending. It’s the rom-com way and even more to the point, it honestly feels like the only move in this environment. Something big, some grand gesture to bring us home after the pod betrayal/mask mishap. I’m sure there are a million ways to go. What comes to my mind is something with like a curmudgeon, shut in Father character of one of the leads. Like a Scrooge or Bruce Wayne type. Maybe even before COVID he would never let his child bring his/her partner to their private, gated compound. And as a textbook germaphobe, once COVID strikes, he locks the place down like Fort Knox.
But something dramatic happens. The girl gets pregnant, the guy loses his job because of COVID and gets evicted, hell, one lead GETS COVID!!! And in a dramatic turn/moment of compassion, the Dad embraces his child’s partner and lets the couple stay at the house, join his pod, and they ride off into the sunset as a united family.

Man, I was also going to lay out my case for which director is the best choice to helm this movie. But this post got pretty long… so to be continued! I’ll be back next week with the director analysis for Love in the time COVID!