The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown quite a lofty wrench into the normal cycle of TV production, as many fall shows that would have been in production from sometime in June haven’t even begun yet. According to a Deadline story, this might change this month and next, but so many questions still remain.
CBS‘ S.W.A.T. is slated to begin production in Los Angeles today despite there still being a growing number of COVID cases in the county but with the cast and crew having already been tested. It doesn’t sound like they’re going to the extremes of Tyler Perry‘s “Camp Quarantine” but taking all the necessary precautions to satisfy the respective unions.
Vancouver and the rest of Canada weren’t hit nearly as hard as the United States, which may be why productions like CBS’ The Good Doctor will start filming later in August. Warner Bros. TV shows like Flash and Riverdale are also looking to start filming during that frame, joined by the CW series, Charmed. The CW’s other popular series, Supernatural, is also slated to complete the final three episodes of the season over the next few weeks, having halted production early in March.
Prep for non-Perry TV productions have also started up in Atlanta, specifically for series like Netflix‘s Ozark, The Walking Dead — Season 11 is scheduled to start shooting in Atlanta in October — as well as Genius: Aretha and others, although there’s no word when crews and cast will be able to return to the sets starting to be built. Construction is also beginning for films like the movie version of the Tony-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen, and Red Notice. (Construction, in general, has not been seen as a high-danger job during the pandemic due to the social distancing built into such jobs.)
New York City was approved to restart production starting on July 20, although it’s been much slower getting productions back up and running with soaps taking the lead, and shows like The Blacklist getting ready to follow. Dick Wolf and NBC‘s shows, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, had intended to be back up and running by mid-August, but those productions have already been pushed back to late September due to the COVID spread in that city.
There are a lot of questions about how these productions will be able to restart and how some of the shows that already have specific ways of working and looking will have to modify their strategy to safely resume. One also has to wonder how areas like Los Angeles and Atlanta, where cases of COVID have been spreading, can restart production. A lot of these restarts are contingent on studios and the unions reaching an agreement on the proper safety guidelines, but creating production “bubbles” ala Perry’s “Camp Quarantine” seems to be in the cards.
As we know from Perry’s venture, much of returning to work will rely on regular testing and being able to get the results back quickly, which is tougher these days with many of the labs being overrun with tests to be analyzed. There are also still discussions about how regularly cast and those who work directly with them (hair and make-up, for instance) will need to be tested in order to allow close conduct. Three times a week seems to be working for the soaps that have stepped forward to resume shooting with precautions in place. As getting results back from tests gets tougher, it may put some of the productions on hold. There are also the obvious concerns about someone testing positive COVID and what that might mean for a production.
According to the Deadline story, some of these productions will attempt to skip the normal three-week holiday break, just giving cast and crew off on the holidays proper so that they can make progress from any momentum once production restarts.
Either way, it already looks like the Fall television season will likely be delayed from anywhere between a month or longer, because networks won’t feel comfortable starting a new season until they have a certain number of episodes in the can.