Parents' Guide to


By Marty Brown, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Slice-of-life pandemic docu shows more suffering than hope.

TV HBO Reality TV 2021
COVID Diaries NYC Poster Image

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The cinema verité style of documentary, which aims for an objective slice of life without artifice, has mostly fallen out of fashion in favor of narrative documentaries featuring talking heads and archival footage. COVID Diaries NYC is a bit of a throwback in that respect, as it values access to the real lives of real families above all else. Watching a diverse group of working-class families cope with the unique problems the pandemic presents could have been powerful, but the amateur filmmaking puts the documentary at a huge disadvantage. Though each segment is less than 10 minutes long, the segments struggle to keep your attention. Nearly everyone is awkward in front of the camera, and they respond by withholding emotion, joking glibly, or trying to manufacture drama. When powerful moments do happen, there's no follow-through to see if the families respond to or recover from them. Worst of all, the filmmakers send mixed messages about preventing the spread of the virus, as they are inconsistent about wearing masks and social distancing. The documentary succeeds in capturing a slice of life, but it's too small a slice, capturing families' struggles but not their resilience.

TV Details

  • Premiere date: March 9, 2021
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Last updated: March 2, 2022

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