Television Productions Taking Wait-and-See Coronavirus Approach: ‘We Aren’t Impacted Yet’

The coronavirus is rapidly transforming not just the way we interact with each other, but how we interact with media. The novel coronavirus COVID-19, which has sickened nearly 1,000 people and killed 32 here in the U.S. as of this writing, has compelled Hollywood to do its part to stop the spread of infection. Major festivals like SXSW, E3, and Coachella have either canceled or postponed their upcoming events, while premieres and release dates for James Bond’s latest, “No Time to Die” and the family friendly “My Spy” have been shifted to limit the amount of people congregating together.

But with the new television season starting up, how are studios dealing with the outbreak? AMC and A+E Networks have canceled their upfront presentations, while the Television Academy has already been warned to expect a far less intimate FYC season, limiting meetings with celebrities. All of these are massive crowd-gathering events meant to sell or promote shows already in the can. What about series that just started filming their new seasons or were already in production when the coronavirus started to take hold?

Disney looks to be the first to outright halt production on a new series. It suspended filming of the new Disney+ and Marvel series, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Tuesday, recalling the staff on-location in Prague back to Atlanta. They also canceled their two-day launch event for Disney+ in Europe around the same time.

Additionally, a crew member on the Disney/Fox Television series, “neXt”, a science fiction crime drama starring John Slattery, tested positive for the virus. The series had finished wrapping in Chicago prior to the crew member’s testing and per a statement released to Variety a Disney spokesman said, “We have been notified by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a crew member on neXt, which concluded production in Chicago last week, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving treatment. We are working closely with the CDPH to identify and contact all individuals who came in direct contact with the crew member, and are taking precautions to protect all who work on our productions.”

This is the first direct statement Disney has made about the coronavirus and a specific production. When asked for comment about this piece on Monday, prior to the suspending of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” a Disney spokesperson said their productions “hadn’t been impacted thus far.” Their statement mimics several from other studios who were contacted about how their productions are being affected by the coronavirus. Many are taking a wait-and-see approach, emphasizing that they will update as needed.

Though many are holding off on officially announcing that productions are being impacted, some changes short of cancellation are already evident. Netflix confirmed that the Dwayne Johnson/Gal Gadot-starring feature “Red Notice” will not film in Italy due to the country’s recent lockdown, though they are monitoring the situation and allowing other productions to go on as needed. Both “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” have suspended live audiences for their shows until further notice, especially as “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek battles Stage Four pancreatic cancer. Live studio audiences have also been canceled for the family sitcom “One Day at a Time,” filming on the Sony lot in Los Angeles. An executive at that studio said they will be suspending audiences until further notice; the series currently has seven episodes left to film.

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