Pandemic Television: What does the future hold…

As we watch Washington Apprentice play out in the White House while the nation is ravaged by COVID-19, television is becoming slim on new shows.  Television production has had to shut down due to the virus, stay-at-home rules, and quarantine which means we will not get some of our season finales.  More than that, it has put a hold on reality programming which has always been a staple of the summer season.

So where do we stand.  Let’s start with the regular shows on television.  Unless they were lucky and finished filming the season before the planned season finale, we will not have a regular finale for the season much less a show finale.  Production was shut down in Vancouver and Hollywood.  Atlanta has been hard hit with numbers of those with the disease as has New Orleans.  If production begins in August, we may have a season of new shows by late September or early October.  That will depend on the spread of the virus and the quarantine restrictions.

I turned to two friends for their input on the next season.  I’ve known bacali and ponytail (yes lower case for both) for years on discussion boards.  Both are fans of Big Brother and The Amazing Race.  Their fears echo mine with each worried about Big Brother and The Bachelor that was to air late spring and summer.  I’ve already heard rumors that if Survivor has a finale for this season, it will be without an audience.  Now I’m hearing they may not be on the stage at all but the finale will be done through Zoom.  The Amazing Race has at least one season filmed but the filming for the most recent was halted and all flew home when the virus outbreak happened.  It’s doubtful that they will ever complete that season.  While there have been rumors of Big Brother, it’s safe to assume that it will not happen until the quarantine is lifted.

So where do we stand with the competitive shows.  The Masked Singer had enough to finish this present season.  American Idol is trying to do the show from home but it is confusing to watch.  America’s Got Talent was in the auditioning stages when the pandemic happened and it usually airs during the summer.  According to EW, it will happen but production is in limbo.  World of Dance had wrapped production so it will be a normal season.  Rumors also have circulated that two new seasons of Hell’s Kitchen exists but I have seen no official word.  The Bachelor appears to be heading toward retrospective shows.  The Voice and other shows with audiences are in limbo as of what I have heard.  What is filmed will air.  Questions arise for the future.

So what will television look like when we return to “normal?”  Maybe I should say what will the “new norma”l be like when we move into the 20-21 season?  As I write this CNN (fake news to the Celebrity Apprentice) is airing in the background with a news story that we are just seeing the outbreak of the pandemic.  Dramas and comedies may be able to adjust.  Some game shows (like Family Feud, $10,000 Pyramid and Match Game) may be able to return with no audience, reduce staff, and wider spaces between the participants.  Let’s face it though.  Reality series rely heavily on participants who conspire and use cunning and backstabbing to make it to the end.

Thus here is what I see as the face of television in 20-21.  Good news is that it won’t be as bad as the writer’s strike.  Bad news is that we don’t know what the normal will be as we move into the usual flu season.

For All:

  • Temperature and health checks as people enter and leave the set.
  • Hand Sanitizing and frequent hand washing locations near the set.
  • Close sets with only those required present.
  • Sets that put more space between participants.
  • Longer production schedules as programs must sanitize the locations more often.
  • Less filming on location as fans tend to flock there to observe.
  • Less emphasis on foreign locations and travel.

Dramas and Comedies

  • Taped with fewer crew members.
  • Actors more aware of physical (social) distance and putting more space between their characters.
  • Fewer scenes of close interaction and less people in police dramas leaning over a body.
  • Medical dramas that may focus on interaction and less on surgery as the equipment is needed in “real world” situations.
  • Comedies filmed with no studio audiences.
  • Possible temporary shutdowns due to health concerns.

Competitive Game Shows

  • Those with studio audiences with smaller participants or none at all.
  • Space between host and participants.
  • New sets that are aware of distancing.
  • No trips to foreign lands as prizes.
  • Limited travel opportunities.
  • More cars and money prizes.
  • Tickets given out with no lines for those wanting to watch production

Reality Shows with interaction

These will be the hardest hit because they rely on close participation (Dancing with the Stars), schemes and backstabbing.

  • No travel to foreign lands.
  • If travel occurs, the set is closed.
  • Participants monitored daily for changes in health.
  • No sharing of “spaces” or “beds”.
  • Limited punishments (like Big Brother’s ‘have not’ room or Survivor’s Exile Island).
  • No home or town visits for shows like The Bachelor.
  • Possible quarantine for 14 days before filming begins.
  • Less alcohol as that tends to lead to fights.

I’m sure I’ve missed some things but this is what I see.  Give me opinions please.  Is reality dead?  What do you expect on your weekly comedy or drama?  I also look forward to the summer and fall previews from the networks which will happen shortly.  Some people feel that Dancing with the Stars will be a go and The Bachelorette, which is planned to film in one location, are safe.  Time will tell as the COVID-19 rates rise and fall.  Maybe I should get busy on that pandemic book I am writing in my head.  It might actually be a good solution for a producer during this terrible time.

One thought on “Pandemic Television: What does the future hold…

  1. You gave me a lot to think about that I had not considered before. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully this pandemic will play out and they will find a cure or a vaccine soon.


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