Television in the age of cholera, or COVID-19, is moving in several directions.
Some regularly scheduled programs will have shortened seasons because production was suspended before the complete roster of shows could be recorded.
Competitive shows, such as “The Voice” and “American Idol” can continue airing new product into April, but do not have their full seasons, including the episodes declaring a winner, intact.
Fans of local “Idol” contestants Louis Knight of Narberth and Margie Mayes of Wilmington will be pleased to know that they continue on the ABC program for at least another week.
Several stars of live shows, or shows with studio audiences, have stopped coming to the empty studio and do their programs from their homes.
One of the first of these was “Today” weather icon Al Roker, who took the at-home route when someone on the “Today” staff was known to be among the first reported to be affected by the coronavirus.
That staffer, Larry Edgeworth, a revered tech for most of his career, most lately working in research, died this weekend.
People from other shows have been affected. Dr. Oz is doing his programs from his home because someone on his staff has contracted the virus.
“The View’s” Whoopi Goldberg and a slew of late night talk hosts are also broadcasting from their domiciles. TBS’s Conan O’Brien records his shows on his iPhone.
School children have to stay and home, and Xfinity has created educational collections to help occupy and teach them. The collections, done in partnership with Common Sense Media, span all grade levels. X1 subscribers only have to say “Education” in their flex voice remote, and they’ll see a menu. A similar service offer the latest news on the coronavirus. Of course, the vocal cue for that is “coronavirus.”
Social distancing is another advent of the time. The first I noticed was on Channel 3 where Ukee Washington did his anchor bit from the “Eyewitness News” set while co-anchor Jessica Kartalija read her half from the newsroom.
Other shows have activated similar plans. Several have made a point of announcing various anchors and reporters are six feet apart from each other, the standard mandated to limit spread of the virus.
Celebrities in and out of show business are doing their part by inaugurating or contributing to funds established to help Americans in various ways during this unprecedented crisis.
Kelly Ripa and husband Mark Consuelos have donated $1 million for aid. Locally, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” stars Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson are matching gifts donated to Philabundance, which provides food to people who depend on the charity for it. “Modern Family” star Ty Burrell set up a fund to relieve food and beverage workers in Utah. Bethenny Frankel donated masks and other emergency paraphernalia.
Naturally, news is an important part of any situation on the scale of COVID-19, its contagion, its toll, and its shutdowns.
News, please remember, can’t fan flames or create panic if reporters are doing their stated jobs and provided facts to make sure viewers understand all that is happening in terms of medical updates and governmental interventions.
That doesn’t absolve the news from making sure the information it presents is accurate and comes from knowledgeable, authoritative sources. Dr. Anthony Fauci is such a source. A celebrity, even a well-meaning celebrity may not be. Rival politicians are ruled out as compromised sources because they may have something to gain from causing doubt or commotion or praising one side and denigrating another.
On the sweeter side, Hallmark is airing a marathon of its Christmas movies as more and more people are home without work.
It’s a shame the card company doesn’t have a rank of Easter or Passover movies. They’d be timelier.
Let’s get Judy Garland and Fred Astaire on the screen when we need them.
Thank goodness for all kinds of programs that are available to entertain a homebound America as it weathers a storm that current measures indicate has not peaked.
With theaters closed and another job curtailed for two weeks, I, whose life is always jam-packed to the point of hectic, have time to watch instead of sample shows and to go back, including to Broadway.com, and see shows time forced me to let pass.
I mentioned Fred Astaire. One of my intentions is to watch all nine of his movies with Ginger Rogers and some with Garland and Audrey Hepburn and Nanette Fabray, too. On my agenda is also the 10 Oscar nominations of Bette Davis, the 12 of Katharine Hepburn, and the non-nominations of Greer Garson, which, with the exception of “Mrs. Miniver,” I tend to like better than her honored performances.
Channel 12 has been doing its part to bring high culture to its audience. This weekend, it broadcast a Metropolitan Opera performance of Puccini’s “Turandot” and the Philadelphia Orchestra concert of two Beethoven symphonies performed to an empty house the previous week.
See, that’s one of the benefits of semi-quarantine. I will make rounds to Costco and Giant – I cook every day and like to buy the food that day like our grandmothers did – but I will also sit down, see some favorites, give “The Hunters” another chance, catch up with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere” and keep going with “The Outsider.”
The weekend brought some interesting shows to the mix.
Julian Fellowes, who, with “Downton Abbey” cornered the costume market while George R.R. Martin (“Game of Thrones’), who happens to be self-quarantining, was claiming the fantasy audience, and Frank Darabont (“The Walking Dead)” was nailing the horror crowd, returned with a six-episode series, “The English Game” about the rise of football, a.k.a. soccer, for Netflix.
Prime Video launched a movie, “Blow the Man Down,” a Coen Brothers-stye comic thriller from Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Kundy about a murder in a New England town. Annette O’Toole, June Squibb, and Margo Martindale are among the stars.
Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer has become a canny producer and debuted a four-part series, “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” about an early 20th century black millionairess, on Netflix. Spencer, Garrett Morris, Blair Underwood, and Tiffany Haddish star.
Hulu, which offers a most recommended binge watch with the first two seasons of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” features a documentary about that story’s author, Margaret Atwood, called “A Word After a Word After a Word is Power.” Starting today, Hulu is available to Xfinity Flex, word is it will soon stream to X1 subscribers as well.
On March 24, Pop TV revives the revival of “One Day at a Time,” scuttled by Netflix after last season. Justina Machado and Rita Moreno star. Ray Romano is a guest for the first new episode.
Big news for Friday, March 27 is my favorite series, “Ozark” returns to Netflix for its third season. The big question for this go-round is how evil Laura Linney’s Wendy Byrde can get.
On Sunday, March 29 the next season of “Call the Midwife” starts on PBS.