The coronavirus pandemic that saw its outbreak first in 2019 in China, and in the initial months of 2020 for the rest of the world, compelled all countries to declare lockdowns and citizens to enter an indefinite period of home quarantine. All local businesses were brought to a sudden, unexpected standstill as protective guidelines mandated social distancing and minimal interaction amongst the general public. The entertainment industry including films, reality TV and other TV shows ceased to follow their regular production schedule for filming series. While we have been binge-watching old Real Housewives episodes, there is not one of us who isn't craving for some new content to entertain us while we're caged at home.
The coronavirus concerns are only growing worldwide as the numbers are skyrocketing high with its daily jump in active cases. Globally, there are over 28.1 million confirmed cases infected with the deadly COVID 19 virus. In the United States alone, that number has risen to over 6.4 million since March. In an effort to prevent spreading the virus, many concerts, festivals, film and TV shoots, and other events have been cancelled, rescheduled, or modified. Bafta LA has postponed the 2020 Britannia Awards due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic in the US and said since the onset of the lockdown earlier this year, it has delivered its programmes and initiatives through virtual platforms. Taylor Swift's Lover Fest, Harry Styles's Love on Tour, and all of Billie Eilish's 2020 performance dates are being pushed back, as are festivals such as Coachella, Stagecoach, and Lollapalooza which usually cater to swarming crowds of people from all around the globe. Many celebrated film festivals like the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival have been called off in respect to the sustenance of public health and well being. The International Olympics Committee and Japan agreed on cancelling the Summer Olympics for the first time since World War II, owing to the COVID 19 pandemic.
While there is a whole list of films and TV shows that were cancelled this year that include The Batman, Mission Impossible 7 & 8, the finale of The Walking Dead, a reboot of Gossip Girl and reunion special of Friends, some productions are getting back on track. Luckily, the state of California allowed the Hollywood film, television and music industry in Los Angeles to resume rolling from 12 June, and New York City to resume production from 20 June. Although Broadway theatres are to remain adjourned until further notice (allegedly end of the year), entertainment sites are reopening. With the legal green signal from authorities, some productions have begun venturing back to their studios under enhanced safety protocols, with more shows also expected to start up again in the coming few weeks.
The Bachelorette, an ABC reality TV series, began filming for its upcoming season at a Palm Springs area resort in July, which will be starring two leading ladies. All contestants and crew members were compulsorily required to quarantine for 14 days prior to the start of filming, and the entire season will be filmed within the confines of the resort. The production house plans to air the season as early as September 2020. Meanwhile, one of the most popular reality TV shows, Love Island U.K. has entirely cancelled its summer 2020 series, but its American counterpart is utilising a "quarantine bubble" format and began filming at a Las Vegas boutique hotel in early August. A raging Netflix drama, starring the steamy Henry Cavill in a bathtub, also confirmed the news of their resumed production for its second season that began on 17 August. The drama show makers confirmed the news with a lovely little poem they posted on Twitter. Another reality TV series that is a hit amongst the live audiences, CBS's Big Brother resumed production after a mandatory 14 day quarantine period was followed by all contestants and crew members.
The Roseanne spinoff, The Conners, resumed production for its upcoming third season in mid August. A minimal crew has been employed, and there will be no use of live audiences for episode tapings. What's different about this new season, is how this TV show has adopted the pandemic-hit lifestyle and used the social distancing guideline as their own tagline. The show's return was announced on Twitter with the caption: "Socially distant since always... New episodes of #TheConners are coming to your TV Wednesdays this Fall" and an image of all actors wearing face masks, which positively promotes the importance of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection and ultimately safeguard personal and public health.
In a recent Buzzfeed News O'Clock podcast hosted by Hayes Brown and Casey Rackham, the Buzzfeed contributors discuss how the scripted TV production is finally coming back to the small screen but there is a strong hesitation about whether people want to watch any pandemic or coronavirus related content on their favourite shows. In a discussion with Washington Post columnist, Alyssa Rosenberg, they explain how they were surprised to hear TV star Ellen Pompeo say in July that the next season of Grey's Anatomy will cover the COVID 19 pandemic. Alyssa, who writes about the intersection of culture and politics, mentions how she had conversations with multiple creators in the Hollywood industry and their varying views on the TV show coverage of the covid 19 pandemic was enthusiastic on the behalf of some, and otherwise for the rest. Many of the producers said how they would love to deliver dark comedies on the quarantine experience and the policy response by the folks of the country. However, some others said they would like to avoid the whole subject and rather develop new formats to help people escape from the stress of the pandemic. She discussed how the most interesting responses came from the X-Men first class writer, Zack Stentz, who writes majorly for children and adolescent audience, saying that we must find a way to express personal worries like their affected friendships, loneliness and a major change in their education system, which in a way helps them process these feelings.
She mentions how she personally loves exceptional movies like Contagion, available on Amazon Prime Video as well as Netflix, that revolves on a very similar situation like the current pandemic we are facing are captivating in the 'pre-coronavirus times' but currently it can altogether be distressing. She is an ardent fan and follower of medical drama, Grey's Anatomy, but she mainly watches the show for the hot doctors in scrubs as a distraction from her monotonous routine to blow off some steam. Watching such shows divert her from the depressing fact that she hasn't left her house in six months. She says that it will be very interesting to see which shows will experiment by introducing the pandemic in their plot lines since a lot of experiences can be moulded on this subject. It makes for a great conflict of interest that has, in reality, manipulated each and every person's life globally.
Casey goes on to explain how she belongs to that category that binge watches sitcoms and comedies where she already knows the events guiding the plotline and is an overall light watch. They then discuss the new show, called "Love in the Time of Corona," a series of interwoven stories about people in quarantine trying to find love and stay connected. The cast including Tony Award-winning actor Leslie Odom Jr., and actor Nicolette Robinson, who play James and Sade in the show, a couple deciding if they should have another baby, are actual couples, families or friends, in real life, who have been quarantining together during the pandemic. Alyssa mentions how it has been difficult coping with this alternative lifestyle of staying home and away from people, unable to strike up spontaneous conversations with coworkers and friends, so it can be comforting for people who are trying to figure out dating in such times. While there are favoured shows like The Walking Dead and reality TV series Keeping Up With The Kardashians that are ending, these refreshing forthcoming shows will be great to keep the audience engaged and not lose their minds over the 'possibility of the world ending', that such distressing and hopeless times instigate.
Casey goes on to explain how she belongs to that category that binge watches sitcoms and comedies where she already knows the events guiding the plot line and is an overall light watch. They then discuss the new show, called ""rs and reporters huddled up to discuss matters, often without masks, even though physical distancing is integral right now. She mentions that the release date of many shows may see a longer lag than the usual 6-month gap that networks often ask show makers to keep. The third and fourth season of the esteemed TV show, Atlanta are apparently written but the halt in filming the series in places like Europe and Georgia, has further delayed post-production and airing of the show. Show makers and networks may be confused with how to take the series forward owing to the delayed timeline of the release. She says it might be easy for shows to incorporate the pandemic for shows that may be set in a diner or limited indoor spaces as they can film while employing a minimal number of people who maintain distance, as a result keeping up their production schedules while also indicating that they respectfully follow health care protocol. They also discuss how this is the perfect time for animations to shine as they demand less task force for production. The three podcasters finally discuss how it's amazing to see reality TV make do with a limited playground for them to venture and they are excited to watch a whole new season that was developed whilst the pandemic persists.
As brilliant as it will be to see several TV shows incorporate the pandemic and its features for us to watch on the small screen, it is sure to receive disparate reactions from the diverse audience who may accept coronavirus-based material wholeheartedly or perhaps, not at all.