The abundance of precaution to slow the spread of Coronavirus has hit the entertainment industry suddenly, and hard. My thoughts are with the freelancers right now, who have just gotten through winter and were about to replenish savings. Television is going to look different for the next year. Pilots that were just about to start filming are now on hold for a few weeks and productions already in progress have called a hiatus. Crowd scenes are being rewritten. Shows with guests and audience members are now set for reruns, but not before a really interesting thing happened.
On Thursday March 12, 2020, several late night talk shows were filmed without audience members. It was fascinating to watch The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert have only Jon Batiste to play off of, until he even pointed the camera at the producers to find out how much of his 48 minute monologue rehearsal was worth airing (14). On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mayor and former Presidental candidate Pete Buttigieg actually did a pretty great job guest hosting without an audience. Maybe he’s used to that dynamic more than the regular hosts who rely on the call and response of comedic delivery and reaction.
We’ll see how the industry gets back up and running. Advertisers will have to make placements without any dazzling upfronts. Networks will have to decide what pilots to move forward or leave in the dustbin of history. Most interesting to me will be the stories that come out in the next year of what changed because of the hiatus- with the extra time afforded, what was better planned or written differently? The writer’s guild strike of 2007-2008 gave rise to reality TV, which ultimately flourished, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog which became a cult relic. Shows like Mad Men took a long break but came back strong but other shows lost momentum and were cancelled. Only time will tell how television was forever changed because of this pandemic.
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