And the Show Goes On
Some Hollywood movies and TV shows were recently given the green light to resume production, albeit with a series of new guidelines now in place, and it will certainly be interesting to see how America's favorite shows adapt to the COVID-19 environment. As the new TV world order kicks off, it's worth saluting those showrunners and TV production teams for their extraordinary work over the past few months in keeping their shows running.
Old and nostalgic TV shows came back to the forefront. Zoom interviews were broadcast with talent to discuss their television shows. Children's programs hosted remote town halls to educate kids about the pandemic. Virtual concerts were aired. Unscripted TV took remote production and ran with it. And while many scripted shows were halted over the last few months, even a couple of scripted TV series found creative ways to continue their storytelling arches remotely.
Take a look at a sampling below.
Pop TV's One Day at a Time produced a fully animated episode, titled, 'The Politics Episode,' that aired in mid-June. One Day at a Time is a reboot of Normal Lear's American sitcom of the same name from the 1970s. While the show's production was initially halted due to the pandemic, the showrunners and directors realized that they needed to find a way to produce the timely episode before the election later this year. The crew reached out to an animation company based in Canada, and completed the episode in eight weeks - which, under normal circumstances, would have taken up to 29 weeks, as executive producer and co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett explained to IndieWire. The cast voiced their own characters, and production was done remotely. "In my 97 years, I've never known of a multicam comedy to animate a single episode as a special. Even this I get to experience," said executive producer Norman Lear to Deadline.
Discovery has done a large amount of remote show production for its unscripted series, as well as pop up shows to meet its audience's demands for more storytelling around the pandemic and how it's impacting the network's talent. Expedition Unknown: Josh Gates Tonight hosted the show from his own home to talk about his travels around the world. Shows like Moonshiners also filmed how the lead talent converted their distillery to make hand sanitizer, and Diesel Brothers showed viewers how the pandemic had changed how they do business. Then there was Bindi Irwin's wedding that was moved up right before Australia's lockdown went into effect, when Discovery's crew quickly got filming and production ready in less than 48 hours before the small ceremony took place at the Australia Zoo.
ViacomCBS shined as many of their channels took the opportunity to get creative. Showtime embraced remote production of Desus and Mero, with the hosts remoting in from their homes. BET produced its annual BET Awards 2020 show remotely, as did Nickelodeon's Kids First Choice Awards. MTV also aired 'Prom-athon,' a virtual prom for those high school seniors missing out on their high school dance, which was kicked off by former First Lady Michelle Obama. CBS show All Rise, a legal drama, also produced a unique episode using a Zoom grid view of the characters. The episode was filmed, edited, and directed remotely during stay-at-home orders. The cast themselves had to figure out lighting, camera angles, and good filming areas inside their homes as producers and directors talked to them via Zoom sessions to prepare for 'filming'.
ESPN produced the NFL's first virtual draft in April, when almost every professional athletic competition was halted and sports fans were desperate for some sort of unity and connection over sports and TV. The virtual draft was a huge success that took many hours of effort, trial and error by the ESPN staff to ensure that every person involved, every coach, and every draft pick was able to remote in and have their story conveyed on television.
Paramount's Yellowstone is preparing to go back into production and will be filmed entirely in Montana. To limit the possibility of anyone on staff catching or spreading COVID-19, filming will be done almost exclusively on the ranch fixture of the show. The crew and talent will also be required to go through testing and to quarantine in the area two weeks before the show filming starts. "Once we're there," Taylor Sheridan, the series co-creator, said, "we'll be very cautious. … And everyone will just stay there for the duration." As more shows begin filming again, they will likely be looking to shows like Yellowstone to see how scripting, set locations, and filming will need to change to ensure the health and safety of the cast and crew.
Header image of Pop TV's One Day at a Time animated episode special