The Weekend Movie Takeaway: US-Shot Shows Prepare For Production With New Security Measures
July 20, 2020
Although many states continue to post rising numbers and screen production for the most part is still stuck in limbo, the film and television industry is tentatively engaging with the “dance” part of The Hammer and The Dance, whereby elements of the business are taking steps towards ramping things up again with the requisite measures in place to ensure everybody's safety.
Yet as this recent Deadline article notes, despite new contract agreements with the largest guilds having been struck, there is still debate on exactly what measures need to be undertaken to prevent any on-set outbreaks
All parties agree that testing needs to occur, but debate remains over the frequency of the testing, and whether or not those who test positive should remain on the payroll.
The debate is complicated by the long wait times for test results that is currently plaguing much of the United States. Several soap operas are already back up and running, and US-shot shows such as S.W.A.T. and The Goldbergs are preparing to move into shooting in the coming weeks.
Those shows are facing a bigger sense of uncertainty than the many shows that shoot outside of the continental US, such as Supernatural and The Good Doctor (which shoot in Canada) and Magnum P.I. (which shoots in Hawaii).
As broadcast television reserves run low, the possibility of there being any kind of new season this fall remains precariously balanced on how well studios and production facilities can navigate this fragile dance.
The shows that are getting up and running again constitute a very small percentage of what would usually be underway right now, while the vast majority of new programming planned for this year continues to be cancelled. A recently announced example is the USA Network Evel Knievel mini-series starring Milo Ventimiglia that was due to begin production in mid-March (during Ventimiglia's hiatus from This Is Us), but was put on hold as the pandemic spread throughout the land.
Variety reports that the series is no longer happening at USA Network, and it's only one of many screen narratives we'll likely never see now due to the pandemic.
With most movie theaters in the US remaining shut due to the pandemic, home streaming services continue to play an increasingly larger role in our collective consumption of scripted narrative. NBC Universal's new service Peacock, has seen the final phase of its launch play out in recent weeks, following early access for certain cable customers.
It's the latest in a sting of major streaming service launches, following Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max. Although it had enough scripted shows in the can to launch with a raft of new originals (such as the David Schwimmer-starring comedy Intelligence, and a new TV series adaptation of Aldous Huxley's iconic 1932 sci-fi novel Brave New World), the service has been criticized for a lack of clarity around how it is accessed, and its tiers of membership, which range from a "free" option (with a limited selection) to two paid tiers, one involving ads.
There's no denying that the service has been negatively impacted by having to launch without the planned promotional platform of the 2020 Olympics to help advertise it, but the deep library of titles offered on the service (including The Office, Everybody Loves Raymond, and old favorites like Columbo and Cheers) should see viewers eventually come around.
But the ultimate impact of the pandemic on viewing habits and production status—like nearly everything else surrounding the current crisis—remains to be seen.
Written by: Dominic CorryDominic Corry is a Los Angeles-based film critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Raised in New Zealand, he is also the West Coast editor of Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers. For more of his film writing, see his website www.TheGoodInMovies.com