USA TODAY TV critic Kelly Lawler explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected TV reveals, networks and productions in 2020.


Pandemic life has been formally stranger than fiction for the previous 12 months.

This week unofficially marks the primary anniversary of the pandemic for a lot of Individuals. Though the virus had been circulating for months, it was a 12 months in the past that many states issued stay-at-home orders, when faculties closed, when the NBA suspended its season, when Tom Hanks introduced that he had COVID-19, and when a lot of Hollywood manufacturing stopped.

For cinema, the pandemic has modified every little thing rapidly. Theaters Closed, Main Releases Delayed Or Finally Streamed – Warner Bros. is releasing its whole 2021 slate on HBO Max, together with a restricted theatrical launch.

On tv, the adjustments got here extra slowly, however they had been no much less monumental. Exhibits had been delayed or canceled and streaming companies flourished. However months after TV manufacturing shutdown, the content material pipeline has slowed, and streamers and cable networks with lengthy supply occasions are lastly feeling the pinch.

In January, CBS Leisure chairman Kelly Kahl acknowledged the changes wanted to outlive an “unprecedented and unusual 12 months” and recommended that adjustments to the printed’s conventional programming technique, corresponding to commissioning new drama “The Equalizer” and “Clarice” with out filming pilot episodes will lengthen past the pandemic.

“Now we have clearly discovered to be versatile. We found out shoot a sequence with out an viewers and with no few hundred folks gathered across the set.

As vaccines start to be distributed throughout the nation and the sunshine on the finish of the COVID-19 tunnel appears barely brighter, we took inventory of what has modified without end within the tv business, from this which might return to “regular” and what has remained the identical, pandemic or not.

Shorter seasons and programming all 12 months spherical

The manufacturing halt has led networks to delayed and typically shortened seasons for reveals together with NBC’s “This Is Us,” HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” the ultimate episodes of The CW’s “Supernatural,” and HBO’s “Euphoria”, amongst many others. The ultimate season of “Brooklyn 9-9,” slated for March, will not even start filming till subsequent month, and will not air till at the very least fall. The extremely publicized assembly of the forged of “Mates”, scheduled for final spring, additionally didn’t happen. And for the primary time in many years, there hasn’t been a conventional fall launch in September for broadcast networks. This spring, fewer pilot episodes for potential new sequence are being made, as programmers stay extra prepared to order new sequence based mostly solely on scripts and castings. Very similar to streamers, the pandemic has sped up conventional TV programming all year long, a change that might develop into extra everlasting.

Benefit of streaming companies

Peak TV was alleged to have peaked now, however the variety of shops to broadcast reveals retains rising. Final 12 months, Peacock, Discovery +, and Paramount + joined latest startups Apple TV +, Disney + and established streamers Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, amongst others. An excessive amount of? Not for a pandemic 12 months that has shut us all off, searching for the following frenzy present, which has accelerated the uptake of those new companies. Discovery attracted 12 million subscribers in its first month, and Netflix topped 200 million worldwide. “As summer season turned to fall and fall turned to winter, Individuals as soon as once more discovered themselves in entrance of their screens with few (TV) choices outdoors of reside information and sports activities. and a vast bunch of more and more wonderful streaming content material selections, ”wrote analyst Michael Nathanson.

The large reveals are gone too quickly

The pandemic has launched a brand new time period to the tv business: non-renewal. Exhibits like Netflix’s “GLOW”, “The Firm” and “I Do not Agree With This”; ABC’s “Stumptown”; “Drunk Historical past” from Comedy Central; TruTv’s “I am Sorry” and Showtime’s “On Changing into a God in Central Florida” have all seen the promised new seasons canceled as a direct results of COVID-19, their networks stated. The selections had been each budgetary and sensible: the intimate and bodily nature of some sequence has develop into an excessive amount of of an issue to movie amid COVID protocols that encourage social distancing. However the truth that so many “unrenewed” sequence had been made or directed by ladies was disappointing, given the inequalities in entrance of and behind the digital camera in Hollywood.

The pandemic is making its means into TV intrigue

When some reveals returned after manufacturing delays, their characters wore masks. A number of sequence together with ABC’s “Gray’s Anatomy,” NBC’s “Regulation and Order: SVU,” CBS’s “Superstore” and “This Is Us” and “All Rise” have made the pandemic a part of their fictional worlds. . “Gray’s” depicted life in a hospital through the peak of the pandemic, with exhausted docs liable to an infection. “Superstore,” which focuses on staff at an enormous field retailer, discovered cathartic humor displaying its frontline staff going through COVID-19 on each shift.

Much less exteriors …

In case you’ve observed fewer out of doors scenes or different areas in your favourite latest reveals, you are not alone. For safety causes, some studios have slowed down elaborate edits, which require extra time, cash and precautionary measures, particularly within the occasion of a pandemic. COVID-19 protocols have pressured producers to spend as much as 30% extra to provide the identical variety of episodes, so the cuts have helped get monetary savings in different methods. And a few Hollywood executives say such strikes might develop into extra everlasting.

… and fewer kisses

COVID-19 restrictions, significantly social distancing, have instantly affected what viewers see in different methods, from intimate scenes in daytime cleaning soap operas – the actors’ spouses had been romantic companions – to police reveals. CW’s “Walker” had to make use of laptop graphics to get near the pin. “Now there are a whole lot of issues we will not do,” “SWAT” star Shemar Moore stated in January. “There are not any love scenes. We won’t do hand-to-hand fight due to the bodily nature of being shut. We needed to restrict the size of motion that we’re used to. to do. “

Prize giveaways are losers

The awards tried to accept digital ceremonies that adopted COVID-19 safety measures, however couldn’t come near the pre-pandemic viewers. They had been harm by the shortage of pink carpet style and unknown movie titles as theaters remained closed throughout a lot of the nation. Emmys scores have dropped to an all-time excessive 6.1 million viewers, whereas final month’s Golden Globes fell to simply 6.9 million viewers, dropping 64% from its final present. televised in January 2020, worrying producers that the Sunday Grammys and Oscars (April 25) are struggling, too.

Rig a crowd

The rewards hosts weren’t the one ones taking part in in empty arenas. Sporting occasions used cardboard cutouts from followers to fill in empty venues. The NFL used synthetic crowd noise, whereas discuss reveals, “America’s Funniest Dwelling Movies” and the NBA employed followers in Zoomed-in audiences. And Fox’s “The Masked Singer” inserted outdated footage of the reside viewers to make it seem to be an engaged (and maskless) crowd was applauding their costumed opponents.

Pandemic winners

The primary few months of the pandemic turned actual weird crime and actuality TV reveals into wanted consolation meals. Netflix’s “Tiger King” was one of many streaming platform’s prime docuseries for the 12 months, together with “Killer Inside: The Thoughts of Aaron Hernandez.” The progressive courting reveals “Love is Blind” and “Too Scorching To Deal with” additionally had a chemistry with viewers.

There is no such thing as a stopping actuality competitions

Actuality competitions tailored extra simply than scripted sequence, as NBC’s “America’s Received Expertise” moved manufacturing outdoors, ABC’s “American Idol” despatched digital camera gear to the finalists’ houses, and ” CBS’s Huge Brother has enlisted a star-studded forged, preserving all of them near their scheduled occasions. Others, like ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” went with out an viewers and arrived on time, however “The Bachelorette” waited till fall.

The most well-liked reveals are at all times in style

NFL video games proceed to prime Nielsen’s scores, and procedural dramas led by CBS’s “NCIS” and “FBI” trio and NBC’s “Chicago” remained essentially the most watched scripted reveals, with the newcomer lately renewed “The Equalizer,” which obtained a post-Tremendous Bowl bump. .


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