Breathtaking viewers in tears but some say Covid drama is ‘too soon’

ITV drama Breathtaking looks at how the pandemic unfolded in the NHS

Breathtaking (ITV)
Joanne Froggatt stars in Breathtaking. (ITV)

What did you miss?

Covid drama Breathtaking has divided opinion, with some viewers saying it’s “too soon” but others insisting it is a “necessary watch”.

The three-part ITV drama stars Joanne Froggatt as fictional doctor Abbey Henderson and shows how the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in the NHS, covering working conditions and PPE shortages and looking at the way the crisis was handled by the government.

Adapted from real doctor Rachel Clarke's memoir, the series is airing over three nights from 19 to 21 February.

What, how, and why?

As it got under way on Monday (19 February), many praised the moving programme as “powerful” and "important" but admitted it left them in tears. Several posting on X said they were on the frontline during the pandemic.

Breathtaking (ITV)
Viewers were in tears as they watched Breathtaking. (ITV)

“Breathtaking dives deep into the heart-wrenching reality of nursing amidst Covid-19,” said one. “As a nurse, it's both a necessary and daunting watch, evoking raw emotions, shedding light on the sacrifices made daily. This glimpse into our world is powerful, reminding us of the resilience.”

“Watching Breathtaking in floods of tears!” said another viewer. “As someone who was with a frontline team it all seems very very surreal! No PPE! No guidance! Only hot zones are important… thankful to still be here to be astounded by this show!”

Someone else posted: “Fifteen minutes in and I'm already reliving the horrors, the frustrations, the anger. Breathtaking is going to be everything it needs to be. Never ever forget. Never ever let this happen again.”

“Triggering to watch this… it needs to be seen,” said one viewer, as another commented: “Breathtaking is a hard watch. What a bloody mess it was.”

“I’m so angry and crying already watching Breathtaking and it’s only the first ad!” said another viewer.

However, there were others who suggested it could be too soon for a series about the pandemic, saying memories of that time were still so “raw”.

Breathtaking (ITV)
Viewers said the programme was 'powerful'. (ITV)

“Not sure if it's too soon for a drama like Breathtaking to be released, it's literally only been a few years and memories are all too recent,” one said.

“It’s far too soon,” said another. “Families are still grieving, I refuse to watch a drama about a horrible, horrific time in history that is still very raw for very many families, and for many NHS workers too.”

“Too soon and still too raw,” said another viewer.

What has Joanne Froggatt said about her Breathtaking role?

Froggatt discussed her role during an appearance on The One Show, saying that Breathtaking was “very much the story we don’t know”.

Joanne Froggatt on The One Show. (BBC screengrab)
Joanne Froggatt on The One Show. (BBC screengrab)

“So many of us were unaware of the extent of what our NHS workers went through and what our healthcare workers went through,” she said. “The risks they were put under, their physical health and their mental health.”

The star added that it was a “huge responsibility” and that playing Abbey had been a “profound experience”.

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