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Coronavirus Halts Television

As attempts to flatten the curve of coronavirus continue, productions (scripted and otherwise) have halted and are halting with multiple networks telling production crews and casts to go home and stay home, while office staff are advised to work from home. Multiple shows will now end their seasons early as restarting productions across hundreds of shows is incredibly expensive and as the spread of the disease continues, may not even be possible. Though Supernatural is the only show ending this May still needing to film a few more episodes!

At a time where networks are also filming pilots (now stopped) or gearing up to film them, the spread of the disease here highlights just how much our health is affected by choices governmental and individual.

With all but a handful of series halted (or ending production entirely), comedies are the least likely to suffer at least in their plots, but most dramas are in the midst of arcs revving up for May sweeps which include all the dramatic deaths, weddings, births, time jumps, and the related. While many shows had filmed episodes meant to air at the start of April, most were working on their third or fourth to last episodes of the year.

An actor on New Amsterdam posted on Instagram (then deleted) that episode 19 was their last, but after receiving a three-season renewal, it should be fine into the fall. (Same goes for the OneChicago and SVU.)

On the other hand, all major league sports (except football) have suspended their seasons, meaning multiple networks have to find things to air during what would have been sports coverage. CBS, for example, is rearranging shows ending (splitting H50’s originally two-hour finale into two weeks). Throughout the next few weeks, I’m sure we’ll see more schedule rejiggering.

Live shows, late-night or daytime are now recording without audiences or halting productions entirely. Briefly jumping to movies for a moment, the next Fast and Furious film is now delayed by a whole year!

Coronavirus and Upfronts

Back to broadcast, coronavirus now identified as a pandemic is only revealing what could occur in May should the rumored Writers Strike come to pass. Production grinds to a halt, everyone goes home, and no one knows when things will go back to normal. The 2020 Upfronts are scheduled for the week of May 10-16 and understandably were all canceled yesterday! All networks will now hold their Upfronts (where they reveal their new shows, fall schedules, and of course, advertise) digitally with NBC stating that they will even televise them!

More shockingly, or maybe, more indicative of just how seriously this is impacting the TV world, is that the LA screeners themselves are canceled! Those screeners are where advertisers are flown in, wined, and dined, and sold the new shows. Those sales are what get shows internationally distributed!

Even as I write this, by the time any of you read this, there will absolutely be more cancellations, changes, and shifts in the entertainment world due to coronavirus. Obviously those changes have way more ramifications than we won’t get new episodes in mid to late May. Crew members have tested positive which leads to questioning just how many of the cast and writers and literally anyone else that has been around them are sick. Social distancing is literally impossible on a TV or movie shoot. And as we know, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were the first “famous” people at least for the US to test positive (and only because they’re in Australia)!

All that being said, who knows whether the Upfronts will even happen in May as currently expected? With only two of sixty pilots finished all the bubble shows might just sigh in relief. On the other hand, the straight to series orders for this year will get to coast to landing in the fall. While I plan to cover it as I have for the last many years, maybe my article will just say “nothing happened because everything got renewed, and there are no new shows”, which actually did happen the last time there was a strike. Low-rated shows got renewed and then died the next year. NBC’s multi-season renewal approach may just have saved them and those shows…


Everyone please stay safe and try not to spend more time outside than absolutely necessary in public places! The FDA just approved more testing so we will likely see many cases reported throughout the weekend and into next week.

I’ll be back at the end of the month with an article all about HGTV and its messaging on renovations and resells.

Seher
Written By

Seher obsesses over show ratings and usually writes about media representation issues. Otherwise, she's reading away for her graduate program in anthropology.

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