The world is full of bad news right now. Between writing and publishing this, the number of people infected by the Coronavirus is bound to increase by vast amounts. The healthcare system is facing an unprecedented strain, people are dying alone without comfort from loved ones, the economy is in shambles, unemployment is at record highs, and certainly most everyone reading this hasn’t left their homes in weeks. We are steeped in the bad news this pandemic has wrought on us, reminded daily of our frailty, our mortality, and how little control we have over so much we took for granted just a little while ago.
Adding to the unmooring of our daily lives is the disconcerting lag between our outside reality and our entertainment reality. Life as depicted on our screens doesn’t match what is going on around us and in our news streams. This disconnect is, however, slowly being filled by people crafting and creating art and cultural works in isolation during our time of quarantine. These works are being subsequently posted online, largely unpolished and only rudimentarily edited—even that which is produced by celebrities.
One such piece of culture that has sprung up recently is a YouTube show by actor John Krasinski (of The Office and Jack Ryan fame) called Some Good News. This show is, Krasinski says in the pilot episode, something he’s thought about for a long time. Namely, why isn’t there a news show devoted solely to good news? Stuck in his house like the rest of us, he decided to use his time to make that idea a reality. Krasinski posted a call to Twitter on March 25th asking people to respond with, well, some good news!
Because he’s a celebrity with over two million followers, the responses came pouring in. He then curated a portion of those responses into segments of a news-style show filmed by himself, in his home, with a hand-drawn and colored sign hanging behind him (his daughters made it, he tells us through the camera). During the show, he swivels back and forth between two cameras to give the feel of newsroom cuts, and he Zooms in guest appearances of celebrity friends and “regular” people with good news to share—people with whom he has connected via his call for good news.
The idea for Some Good News may seem trite, especially during a time when everything is so terrible in the world—when over a million people worldwide are infected with a novel virus and tens of thousands of people are dying. But Krasinski’s idea for a news show dedicated to good news is actually just what we need at a time like this. Some Good News is not forced cheerfulness—it is not the YouTube equivalent of “smile, sweetheart!” or “Why so serious?” It does not take the solemnity out of what is happening in the world around us, nor does Krasinski, in it, ask his viewers to set aside their fear, anger, or sadness for cheap smiles and shallow laughs. There are no shortages of cute animal videos on the internet, if that’s what you’re looking for, and people will always create vapid memes and gifs to distract you from the barrage of death and destruction on your screens. That’s not what Krasinski is doing in Some Good News. Rather, he’s setting out to inform his audience about the very real good things coming out of this crisis—from cities around the globe cheering their medical workers, to companies transforming their production services into medical production, to personal stories of love and triumph despite social distancing requirements. The show itself, in form, content, style, and function, has an inherent goodness. It is simple, honest, joyful, and true.
Bearing good news does not mean displaying a lack of gravitas for what is happening in the world. Although Krasinski is sometimes silly, and sometimes shares silly content, the ethos of the show respects the tone of our global pandemic. Because what is happening is so serious, Krasinski finds the light in the dark to give us hope. Some Good News is a curation of that hope, and that is a very needed thing right now.
Best of all, in Some Good News, Krasinski uses the privilege he has as a celebrity to do what most of us could never hope to do in our own isolation. Not only does he have the ability to reach a huge audience with his show and his message, but he uses the connections he has to go one step further than just relating good news: he couples good news with good action. In episode two, he gifts a young fan of Hamilton with tickets to New York to see the show that got cancelled on her (whenever this pandemic is all over), and then he rallies Lin Manuel Miranda and members of the original cast to a Zoom call to serenade her with her favorite song.Because what is happening is so serious, Krasinski finds the light in the dark to give us hope. Some Good News is a curation of that hope, and that is a very needed thing right now.
These sorts of gestures are not small things, especially not right now, and especially when done for children. Acts of kindness, signs of humility, mercy on the weak, displays of joy—these are memories we want our children to also form during the months of the pandemic. They will remember the fear, isolation, sickness, uncertainty, disappointments, and sadness. To encourage light through curations of hope does not diminish the gravity of this historical moment, but rather it helps all of us to have a stronger resolve to fight for life.
John Krasinski sees, as he says on the show, that “no matter how tough life can get, there’s always good in the world.” What Krasinski is doing in Some Good News is the sort of work that will prove to be life-giving the longer these months of isolation drag on. We’re not just battling the virus itself; we’re battling despair.
In the epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, Frodo has to destroy the Ring of Power to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. But the way is too difficult for him, and he very nearly gives up on taking the Ring to Mordor when he loses hope. Frodo, however, has Sam as a companion, and Sam’s defining quality is “hope unquenchable.” When Frodo asks Sam what they are holding onto, Sam says, “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” The good in our world is worth both holding onto and fighting for, too. Thank you, John Krasinski, for being a Sam for us as we shelter in place. Your show is also some good news.