Late-night shows are going dark for at least two weeks (and lots of scripted series are too)

Earlier this week a number of television shows that usually have a studio audience announced they would be filming without an audience out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus:


“It feels like we’re auditioning,” a dazed Ryan Seacrest said on live television Wednesday morning, before a sea of empty seats.

Two hours later, in another bare studio, Whoopi Goldberg sat at a table with her four co-hosts on “The View” and put it plainly: “For the first time ever, as you can see, if you looked around, we made the decision not to have a studio audience. This is unprecedented.”

And later on Wednesday, several late-night shows in New York, including “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on CBS, and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on NBC, announced that they, too, would film without studio audiences starting on Monday.

But in a sign of just how quickly things are changing, most of the late-night shows which had planned to film without an audience starting next week have now announced they will be shutting down for at least the next two weeks:

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” are all suspending production next week, NBC and CBS said Thursday, making them the biggest daily American television series to go off the air because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The earliest date that the three shows would return with new episodes is March 30, the networks said…

“God forbid you stay on the air too long and someone in the building gets hurt by this,” Rob Burnett, an executive producer of David Letterman’s former late-night show, said in an interview on Thursday. “That transcends anything you might be doing on television. It’s a very challenging situation.”


How will America get along without the razor sharp wit of Stephen Colbert? Okay, that was sarcastic because I never watch his show anyway. But it turns out a lot of scripted TV series have also shut down production for the next couple of weeks. Unlike the shut down of sports leagues, the shut down of TV shows may not be noticed immediately by people stuck at home because shows are usually a few weeks ahead. But the production shutdown will probably be noticed eventually and that has content producers worried:

From traditional cable programs and networks to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, television production has been halted or, if the show was filmed in front of a live audience, altered.

“They all suffer from a drought of content in the pipeline and that is extremely dangerous for content producers who need to hang on to users and their recurring attention,” Eric Schiffer, CEO and chairman of Patriarch Organization and Reputation Management Consultants, said…

On traditional cable channels and networks there is a fear that a lack of new content, compounded with sports leagues suspending their seasons, will result in advertisers pulling out.

Among the shows that are now shut down: Riverdale, The Flash, Batwoman, Supergirl, Grey’s Anatomy, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Good Fight, Dynasty, Bull, Law & Order: SVU and all three of Dick Wolf’s Chicago-based shows (Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD). Survivor and the Amazing Race have also shut down or postponed their seasons. Sadly, even Stranger Things has shut down production of season four.


There’s a full list here but the bottom line is that just as we’re all likely to be stuck at home and need TV the most, it’s going to become all reruns all the time.

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