99°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy
TV

Fall TV season in jeopardy amid virus shutdown

LOS ANGELES — The first new TV season of the coronavirus era is facing an understandably shaky start that comes with a tacit disclaimer: The comedy and drama series being trumpeted for fall 2020 and beyond will air — if they get made.

Studios, guilds and trade groups are huddling to find ways to ease a near-complete production shutdown, among the nationwide efforts to curb the pandemic. While streaming services parcel out series year-round, broadcast TV still relies heavily on a September filled with fanfare and high-profile scripted shows.

How that will happen is a cliffhanger only a masochistic screenwriter would envision.

Gabrielle Union, who with Jessica Alba stars in and produces Spectrum cable’s “L.A.’s Finest,” is among those awaiting guidance on how actors and crews can safely return to work. The police drama combines shoot-‘em-up action with more intimate scenes, both a test of how social distancing and story demands will co-exist.

“When we all are given the green light to go back, we just have to be flexible and open to this new normal, whatever that’s going to look like,” Union said.

Just four months before the Sept. 20 Emmy Awards kick off the season’s traditional start for networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, the uncertainties swirling around COVID-19 are daunting. Even well-stocked Netflix or premium cable channels like HBO with fully produced new series in hand must keep a wary eye on prolonged disruption.

‘No way’ to start production

Neal Baer, a physician and a veteran TV writer and producer (“ER,” “Designated Survivor”), had a succinct reply when asked if he would start a production given the unanswered questions about the disease, including whether coronavirus antibodies confer immunity.

“No way,” Baer said. “I’m not going to put people potentially in harm’s way” given the unknowns.

While the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers spearheads the broad industry effort to work with health and government officials on safety protocols, there are also what one executive called impromptu “think tanks” to find solutions.

“Some have attorneys and doctors involved. I do a weekly panel that a cinematographer put together, and we keep adding people who run production companies, sound stages,” said Matt Birch, co-head of physical production for the multinational talent agency APA.

Visual effects supervisors and producers are in high demand, Birch said, to create what can’t be filmed. Among the steps industry members say are being mulled: scenes with fewer actors and shorter production schedules, and more animated projects,

A critical issue is the insurance that covers losses due to production delays or budget overruns, said Carolyn Hunt, a veteran entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles who handles film and TV financing deals. She said virtually all policies are excluding coverage of COVID-19-related issues.

“That makes things very tricky, so a lot of people are waiting to see what happens there,” Hunt said.

Trying to make schedules

Meanwhile, networks are cobbling together schedules and, in true Hollywood fashion, hoping for a happy ending.

When Fox announced its fall schedule, it included a recycled season-one run of “L.A.’s Finest,” along with two series that the network originally intended to debut this spring, “Filthy Rich” starring Kim Cattrall and tech thriller “neXt” with John Slattery.

The reason the trio of series earned a coveted spot on a network’s fall schedule: They were in the can and ready to air.

The same holds true for several upcoming CW shows, including “Swamp Thing,” canceled after one streamed season, and imports from Britain and Canada. But those are merely fall placeholders for CW, which announced it’s moving the start of the new season to January 2021, quickly dubbed “the new fall.”

ABC and NBC haven’t disclosed their plans, while CBS said a handful of new series will join its long-running series including “NCIS” but has yet to release a schedule. In an ordinary year, by now all of the networks would have spotlighted their upcoming seasons in elaborate presentations to ad buyers packed into Carnegie Hall or other New York City venues.

The studios that make CW’s series are targeting a September production start to allow for the January debuts, said the network’s chairman and CEO, Mark Pedowitz. His reply when asked if the timeline is realistic: “As realistic as anything else is at this point.”

Tyler Perry trying for July start

Movie and TV mogul Tyler Perry may be showing the way. His studio in Georgia, among the states relaxing virus-related restrictions, plans to re-open for production in July with two series for BET. Protective measures will include testing and isolation at the Atlanta studio lot for cast and crew,

There are other options, if further afield. Iceland plans to ease its travel restrictions in mid-June and is preparing taping guidelines, said producer Leifur Dagfinnsson, whose credits include two “Star Wars” films and the shows “Sense8” and “His Dark Materials.” He touts the country’s dramatic landscapes, the London studios that are a three-hour flight from Reykjavík — and Iceland’s emphasis on coronavirus testing.

There are also alternatives to traditional, highly produced series. CBS aired a socially-distanced episode of its drama “All Rise” made using digital technology, and late-night hosts are drawing kudos for their homespun shows with family as supporting players.

Bigger issues in the world

That’s not the future envisioned by Laura Kennedy, CEO of Avalon, a U.K. and U.S.-based management and TV production company whose shows include HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and the FX comedy “Breeders.”

“It really is an industry that begs team effort and personal reaction, including writers’ rooms where people riff off each other,” Kennedy said.

A secure return to work is something exciting to look forward to, said “This Is Us” star Mandy Moore. She and others in the NBC drama’s cast reconnected with a Zoom call recently as they await word on when season-five production will begin.

“It’s the opportunity of all our lifetimes to be a part of this show and to do work we’re all so proud of, but we also understand there are bigger issues in the world,” Moore said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Las Vegas performers adapt to pandemic restrictions - Video
The coronavirus pandemic has forced creative people in Las Vegas, a city that thrives on live performance, to adapt to new or changed ways to entertain. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas woman brings Blue Angel to life - Video
When Las Vegas shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria Hogan created the Blue Angel costume and performance, emulating the statue locals know and love in order to connect with others in a time when connection isn’t as possible. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‘Hamilton’ postponed as Smith Center remains dark indefinitely - VIDEO
The hit musical 'Hamilton' was supposed to run from September through October at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Strip with Kats
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife Gilligan Stillwater GIbbons and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Las Vegas Strip with Kats - Video
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife, Gilligan Stillwater Gibbons, and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ex-WWE star Shad Gaspard found dead on beach - Video
Shad Gaspard, 39, the former WWE wrestler, was found dead Wednesday morning on the shoreline of Venice Beach in California. Gaspard went missing over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffets won’t reopen soon, but they may return eventually - VIDEO
In a Tuesday earnings call, Frank Fertitta III, CEO of Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts, said buffets won’t be among the amenities included in the early stages of the resorts’ reopenings. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Hamilton' to debut on Disney+ in July - Video
The film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical was originally set for theatrical release in October. The musical’s director, Tommy Kail, shot three live performances featuring the original Broadway cast. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Little Richard dead at 87 - VIDEO
Little Richard, the pioneer and rock 'n' roll originator, died on Saturday, May 9. His son, Danny Penniman, confirmed the news but the cause of death is unknown. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jerry Stiller, actor and comedian, dies at 92 - VIDEO
Jerry Stiller's son, actor and director Ben Stiller, announced his father's death via Twitter. Jerry Stiller became widely known with a recurring role on "Seinfeld" as Frank Costanza, George's hot-headed father. He also starred on "King of Queens." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wolfgang Puck's Players Locker opens in Downtown Summerlin along with others - VIDEO
Under the governor's orders a few restaurants were able to open their dining rooms in Downtown Summerlin Saturday, May 9. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nicolas Cage to portray Joe Exotic in ‘Tiger King’ TV adaption - VIDEO
Nicolas Cage is headed to television to take on the role of Joe Exotic, the iconic character from the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quarantined! 'The Ghost Adventures' miniseries by Zak Bagans - VIDEO
The four-part miniseries “Ghost Adventures: Quarantine” by Zak Bagans will debut in June on the Travel Channel. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 facts about Cinco de Mayo - VIDEO
The holiday celebrates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexico began the holiday in 1862, but does not recognize it nationally anymore. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kristin Cavallari has already filed for divorce - VIDEO
Kristin Cavallari, the "Very Cavallari" star, announced she and her husband, former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, have separated after seven years of marriage and 10 years together. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brad Pitt portrays Dr. Anthony Fauci on ‘Saturday Night Live’ - VIDEO
"Saturday Night Live’ aired their second socially distanced episode of the COVID-19 pandemic on April 25. The episode’s cold open featured actor Brad Pitt portraying Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brian Dennehy, 'Tommy Boy' and 'First Blood' star, dies at 81 - VIDEO
Actor Brian Dennehy died Wednesday in New Haven, Connecticut. Dennehy's acting career spanned more than four decades, working in television, film and theater. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bishop Gorman 'Guys and Dolls' virtual performance
Bishop Gorman's virtual opening of "Guys and Dolls." (Bishop Gorman High School)
John Prine, country-folk singer, dies at 73 - VIDEO
John Prine died due to complications caused by COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on April 7. The singer-songwriter is counted as one the favorite artists by the likes of Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Bill Withers, soul legend and 'Lean on Me' singer, dead at 81 - VIDEO
Bill Withers' family said he died of heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. Withers was a three-time Grammy winner. His other major hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine" and “Lovely Day.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas KatsWalk: From the Mandalay Bay to Excalibur - VIDEO
Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes walks and talks along the Las Vegas Strip, from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur. (John Katsilometes and Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Make Ivan Grant's Quarantini - VIDEO
Ivan Grant, a flair bartender at Long Bar at The D Las Vegas, makes his Quarantini. (Ivan Grant)
Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger dies from coronavirus - VIDEO
According to Variety, 52-year-old frontman and songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died, following a short battle with the respiratory illness, coronavirus. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
KATS WALK: A walking tour on south Las Vegas Strip – VIDEO
RJ columnist John Katsiometes takes a walking tour of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. (John Katsiometes and Kevin Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiger King character has Las Vegas connection - VIDEO
Entertainment reporter John Katsilometes talks about the popular "Tiger King" and Jeff Lowe, a central figure in the Netflix documentary phenomenon who wanted to do business with the last Las Vegas Strip entertainer to use wild tigers in his act. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coranavirus victim Howard Berman playing the harmonica in April 2014 - VIDEO
Howard Berman, 66, playing the harmonica at a jam session in April 2014. Berman, who was active in the Las Vegas music community, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19. (Diana Andriola)
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
TV best bets for the week of May 31

This week’s top choices include “Quiz,” a new miniseries based on a 2001 cheating scandal involving England’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

ESPYS to celebrate heroism with 3 hosts on remote

Instead of its usual July date during baseball’s All-Star break, the show has been rescheduled and re-imagined as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 
Champions for Charity golf match makes cable TV history

Turner Sports said the Sunday telecast of “The Match: Champions for Charity” attracted an average of 5.8 million viewers across four of its networks. Turner says it was the most-watched golf telecast in cable TV history.

 
Lori Loughlin, husband to plead guilty in college scam case

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have agreed to plead guilty to charges in the college admissions bribery case.