When TV studios returned to production amid the ever-fluctuating Covid statistics, viewers knew it was going to affect their favourite shows. (Unless, of course, you still think this is all a hoax to help hospitals make more money and deny hard-working people their right to a haircut.)
Well, it certainly has affected the content. With more families at home in lockdowns, parents and their offspring have been watching more television together. Fortunately, parents who used cover “little eyes” during intimate scenes, have been able to give their arms a break.
On-screen sex and its precursors have been cut back substantially. They’re just too hard to shoot safely. (And to be honest, even as an adult I’m still not totally comfortable seeing someone get it on with my mother watching beside me.)
Then again, television writers putting more emphasis on social issues – racial inequality, gun violence, hate crimes – means that now parents who are now now trapped with their kids also have a perfect opportunity to broach these subjects. Should they so choose.
Ironically, this has made some storylines even more intimate. Shonda Rhimes’ offspring, Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy have become even less about fires and medicine and more about the characters’ personal struggles. (I know. I didn’t it was possible either.)
For example, a recent episode explaining the exit of Dr. Jackson Avery from Grey’s involved a total of six actors, three of which were on-screen for just a couple of minutes. Consequently, viewers were treated to 44 minutes of discussion on Jackson’s need to be more than just a life-saving doctor – who apparently, can leave his post as a staff member and the hospital’s board chair without notice during a pandemic.
This “let’s have a deep conversion instead of any action” trend also led to a comatose Meredith Grey stuck on a beach for most of this season having long, often socially-distanced discussions about life with dead people. (Didn’t we already do this in Season 3 when she drowned?)
On the comedy side, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing returned this past fall with the characters just entering the pandemic timeline before literally fast-forwarding through it and re-starting in the post period. So there were a few changes coming.
The now three grandchildren (including a teenager) are nearly always off-screen. The two toddlers are upstairs, playing outside (where we can hear them), or just curiously absent. While obviously for production safety reasons, it’s seriously weird to watch week after week.
And the rest of the scenes rarely have more than four characters in a room together. Apparently post-pandemic, people don’t congregate anymore in Colorado, even at home.
Meanwhile, NCIS has seen a marked decrease in staff at the office. And S.W.A.T., despite focusing on racial issues and protests, has managed to avoid crowds.
Yes, Covid production changes have made your television entertainment both more – and less – realistic this year. It’s encouraged conversation and a few desperate “Jump the Shark” moments. And given that Grey’s has just been renewed for another season, it seems to be working.