Pandemic Hits Talk Show Halloween Costumes: Hosts Take on COVID-Era Stars as 'GMA,' 'The View' Go Low Key

Live with Kelly and Ryan - Kelly Ripa
David M. Russell/ABC Entertainment

'Tiger King's' Joe Exotic and the Mandalorian were frequent choices as morning and daytime talk-show hosts donned costumes on Friday, with this year's celebrations looking somewhat different due to the novel coronavirus.

"What an unusual year it's been," Kelly Ripa said near the beginning of Live! With Kelly and Ryan's annual Halloween show, this year subtitled "Almost as Scary as Real Life."

Indeed, for both the syndicated program and other morning and daytime broadcast shows, their annual Halloween celebrations, where hosts regularly sport costumes, often around a particular theme, looked different in 2020 as the ensembles chosen both reflected the stars of the COVID-19 era and the pandemic affected the celebrations themselves, which this year took place the day before the holiday, with Halloween on a Saturday.

Good Morning America and The View both opted out of having its hosts dress up in costume this year.

On GMA, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Strahan and Cecilia Vega, filling in for an absent Robin Roberts, instead showed off photos of their pets in Halloween costumes as Ginger Zee and Lara Spencer also displayed pet costumes as they appeared on the show remotely. The ABC morning show also kept the focus on its viewers as they highlighted creative costumes from fans at home, and some of their four-legged friends. Still the set, where the hosts sat a safe distance from one another, was festively decorated, complete with a giant skeleton in the window.

GMA also highlighted the younger generation, surprising a 13-year-old battling a rare disease with a Halloween party and message from her favorite singer, Kelsea Ballerini. The show also had kids take over for the co-hosts at the anchor desk, with the mini versions of Strahan, Vega and Stephanopoulos dressing up as the Mandalorian, Tiger King's Joe Exotic and a news anchor wearing a festive tie. Stephanopoulos is often a reluctant participant in the show's Halloween celebrations.

The View had a Halloween-themed cold open, with the hosts communicating via video calls as Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Sara Haines and Ana Navarro all told moderator Whoopi Goldberg that they couldn't make it to her Halloween party because they were quarantining.

After the call ended, Goldberg got a brief scare when Halloween and Friday the 13th villains Michael Myers and Jason showed up but weren't standing six feet apart. Goldberg scolded them for not social distancing before kicking off the show.

Once the show began, though, Goldberg noted that the hosts decided not to dress up this year, saying they weren't "doing our usual costume extravaganza." The hosts are still working remotely because of the pandemic, which Goldberg shifted to discussing, followed by talk about the upcoming presidential election.

Goldberg, however, was wearing a crown, joking that she was Meghan Markle who'd sat in the sun for too long. Behar, meanwhile, admitted she was glad they didn't have to wear costumes for once.

The show later featured kids dressing up as much-talked about sensations from the show's "Hot Topics" segment, with kids dressed as a mail-in ballot, the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head during the 2020 vice presidential debate and, of course, Tiger King's Exotic.

But the pandemic didn't stop other shows, including NBC's Today, the syndicated Live With Kelly and Ryan, CBS' The Talk and The Ellen DeGeneres Show from unveiling their annual Halloween costumes. Still, their outfits reflected a number of phenomena from the current socially-distanced, Zoom-filled era.

Read on to see how more of this year's broadcast network talk show hosts got into the Halloween spirit.

Today

NBC's Today show highlighted one of the industries that's been most affected by the pandemic, Broadway theater, with the hosts each dressing as memorable characters from beloved musicals. Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb teamed up as Elphaba and Glinda, respectively, from Wicked. Al Roker and Craig Melvin played King George III and Alexander Hamilton, respectively, from Hamilton. Sheinelle Jones and Dylan Dreyer took on Chicago as Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, respectively. And Jenna Bush Hager transformed into Grizabella from Cats as a remote Carson Daly emceed the costume reveal.

Daly opened the segment, after introductions from Dateline's Keith Morrison and NBC Nightly News' Lester Holt, by explaining that the New York-based show would be paying tribute to live theater.

"This year we've seen the lights go down on Broadway, but that is about to change," Daly said. "The lights are going up and the curtain will rise on a one of a kind show in certainly a one of a kind year. Many of us have been feeling a little bit down these last few months, but music is an excellent source of comfort. It's one of the few things that's been able to connect all of us. Here in New York the beat begins on Broadway. The songs that play on the great white way capture the hearts of millions far beyond 42nd street. So, we are taking a moment to celebrate the stories, scores and songs that move us."

Sheinelle Jones later added, “Cheers to Broadway! This just reminds us how great Broadway is!”

Beyond the costumes, the show celebrated the theater community, still largely shut down in New York, by using Broadway costume shops and makeup artists to create the hosts' looks and bringing in stars who appeared in the Broadway shows — including Wicked's Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, Hamilton's Chris Jackson and Chicago's Rita Wilson to help the hosts get into character.

Live! With Kelly and Ryan

The syndicated daytime show featured a mix of pandemic-era costumes and looks back at more traditional celebrations from year's past, as well as a virtual version of the show's annual Halloween costume contest. Hosts Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa started the show by dressing as Tiger King stars Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, respectively, with Ripa greeting viewers by saying, "Hey there all you cool cats and kittens." As they chatted at the host table, Ripa and Seacrest had trouble keeping from laughing as their accents took unusual turns. "The only thing more mysterious than my accent is Ryan's accent," Ripa said at one point, accidentally referring to Seacrest as "Ryan" instead of "Joe Exotic."

The Tiger King celebration continued with a pre-taped video featuring Chenoweth as the producer and director of a Tiger King musical, in which Ripa played Joe Exotic, executive-in-charge Art Moore took on Baskin and Seacrest dressed as a tiger and reality TV producer Rick Kirkham.

Returning from the break as Schitt's Creek's Moira (Ripa) and David (Seacrest), the Live hosts cut to a pre-taped segment joking about COVID-19-era versions of popular reality shows, including Love is Blind, with the contestants unable to hear each other due to their masks, and a Survivor quarantine edition taking place with an isolated family of four sharing the same home for months as they're challenged to take a work call without their kids interrupting, teach their kids math and see who can go the longest without rolling their eyes, with the rewards including a 12-pack of toilet paper.

The hosts also dressed as characters from The Mandalorian, with Moore as Baby Yoda, aka The Child, struggling in virtual school; pop stars in a Halloween take on the Disney Family Singalong from the beginning of quarantine; boxes in a Zoom call; and a literal representation of the bubbles around professional athletes, like the NBA bubble.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

On her eponymous daytime talk show, DeGeneres dressed as her "favorite superhero," a nurse, sporting a white nurse's uniform with a white hat and gold "S" on her chest like the one on Superman's suit. She also donned gold gloves and a blue cape, with a bright red lining.

"I think all nurses are superheroes," DeGeneres said. "Their superpower is going 48 hours without sleep. Now more than ever we're realizing who the true superheroes are, people like nurses and teachers, they're all essential workers. They're true celebrities. We should give them awards. We should be putting them on the covers of magazines."

She encouraged nurses to wear capes to bring more theatricality to their work. Pointing out how there were many essential workers in her audience, as Ellen recently resumed having people attend tapings in person, DeGeneres said that she would be spending the month of November showing her appreciation to community leaders and first responders who have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, surprising them in and outside of the studio.

"I want to give something back to the givers because we should give to them for giving to us," she said.

The Talk

CBS' The Talk departed from its tradition of music-inspired costumes with a take on Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, or "Talk-olate Factory," as the show titled the episode. The hosts dressed as memorable characters from the 1971 movie version of the Roald Dahl book. Carrie Ann Inaba took on Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka, with Sharon Osbourne as Veruca Salt, Sheryl Underwood as Violet Beauregarde and Eve as Mike TeeVee.

Guests took on other characters. Jason Ritter played Charlie; Dr. Phil McGraw and wife Robin played Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine; Criminal Minds actor Matthew Gray Gubler played Augustus Gloop; and chef Antonio Lofaso took on Slugworth. Debbie Gibson also joined the show to perform "The Candy Man."