HOW soon is too soon? The thought comes to mind when seeing yet another pandemic inspired drama in the schedules. We are still not out of the tunnel, and that light at the end might be a third wave coming towards us, but in television land it has never been deemed too early to explore what “it”all means.

Together, which aired last night, makes previous attempts to do so look like the amateur hour, badly shot, patchily written packages they too often were. This 90-minute relationship drama boasts a bona fide movie star and comedy goddess in James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan, with Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) directing, and a script by Dennis Kelly (Pulling). If any crowd could mine laughs out of tragedy it is this one.

But my goodness it is miserable, with McAvoy and Horgan’s characters, simply named “He” and “She”, going all out to make the viewer hate them as much as they despise each other. She’s middle class and trendy left. He’s a working class kid made entrepreneur and closet Tory. After another rant about how tough he had it growing up she spits: “Dial it back. You’re from effing Kilmarnock, not Compston.”

There is lots more like that: I hate your face/I think of him as a cancer. Awful stuff, much of it overheard by their young son Artie, or Arthur as she calls him. They can’t even agree on that.

So far so War of the Roses/Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf/every face-achingly tiresome warring couple you’ve ever met. Other people’s misery is no fun. And who wants to be reminded of Covid anyway? Staged, the David Tennant/Martin Sheen comedy worked because it did its best to ignore or mock the bloody thing.

Slowly, the floe separating the pair grows smaller as the severity of the crisis inches closer. We are reminded at regular intervals of the date and the mounting death toll. From 422 to 124,000 and still rising. Wow. How did that happen? But the good news is her mother has finally gone into a care home where she will be safer …

The best thing about Together is not the attempts at humour but the sheer anger that pulses through it, directed first at each other, then at those meant to be running the country. Horgan has a blistering monologue explaining what exponential really means, while McAvoy shows his sheer acting class as “He” falls to pieces.

Shot in one house, Together feels stagey at times and you can hear the gears creak when the script tries just a little too hard. Yet it brilliantly captures the fear, claustrophobia, and borderline madness of the past year, with both McAvoy – even with a man bun – and Horgan outstanding.