We know COVID-19 has changed our world. Even as the lockdowns are being eased and businesses are slowly re-opening, our world has changed. So how will the stories on televisions reflect this?
Last spring, the hit drama New Amsterdam shelved an episode about a flu epidemic sweeping through New York. Although it was already complete, the producers felt showing a fictional epidemic could lead to misleading information (they already have a president for that) and create more public fear (something that might have actually helped in some states).
Now, as many shows are slowly returning to production amid new safety protocols, the writers are re-thinking where their shows go from here. ABC’s Grown-ish was about college life. Will that even exist? And in the season finale, the lead character made the decision to drop out to enter the fashion industry. How will that story go now? How do you style someone “virtually”?
Like New Amsterdam, medical dramas are embracing the new storylines now possible because of COVID. Grey’s Anatomy will delve into the need to quarantine and the separation of doctors from their families, some of whom will move out of their homes to keep their loved ones safe.
The Good Doctor’s season premiere will be a two-parter that focuses on the pandemic – which could be very interesting. After all, the social distancing requirements may give Dr. Murphy, who has autism and difficulty with physical contact, a more even playing field among the other physicians. Facial expressions that he always had trouble reading are no longer visible for anyone in a mask-wearing society. And whereas he was always forced to accept physical contact from others, suddenly now, everyone else has to adjust their conduct to his preferences.
9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star have certainly had fun with the bizarre and dangerous situations in which the public finds itself in recent seasons. This fall’s stories are likely to be doubly-odd. However, the new safety challenges and bureaucratic issues that first responders face may be even more shocking.
Last Man Standing’s Tim Allen has always had something to say about the state of the nation on his shows. With COVID affecting so many companies, his character’s fictional business, “Outdoor Man,” will likely reflect the financial hit. However, given that the only safe way to play is outside and alone, “outdoor enthusiasts who want to escape into the woods” is probably a pretty stable customer market these days.
And since his character’s son-in-law runs his pot shop – an industry that has been booming pre- and during COVID – it’s safe to say the family will not be suffering as many others have.
While COVID is definitely creating a balancing act of fact versus fiction for writers, the new normal has left them with an unexpected world of storylines. Topics and creative directions that were never possible before – or were considered too sci-fi – are suddenly feasible. And beyond the entertainment, audiences might learn a thing or two.
Maybe we can get the president to tune in.