The fate of scripted television production is very much in flux as the world grapples with the coronavirus. As of late Thursday evening, NBCUniversal has either suspended production or accelerated the season wrap schedules on 35 shows (scripted, unscripted and syndicated) as a precaution. CBS meanwhile, is taking a similar strategy and has done the same with a fair amount of its series. Other networks and studios are taking things on a case-by-case scenario. While every network, streamer and studio scrambled to make decisions about staffers working from home and what to do with series production, everyone had one thing in common: a sense of uncertainty given the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic.
By mid-Friday, Netflix had shut down all scripted TV and film physical production and prep for two weeks in the U.S. and Canada to comply with government restrictions in the regions. Disney TV Studios had shut down 16 pilots. Apple, meanwhile, has suspended all active filming on projects from outside studios. That includes previously announced The Morning Show and Foundation, as well as See, Lisey’s Story, Servant and For All Mankind. Warner Bros. Television Group followed suit and issued the strongest statement to date about a studio’s response to TV production amid the coronavirus pandemic: “With the rapidly changing events related to COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, Warner Bros. Television Group is halting production on some of our 70+ series and pilots currently filming or about to begin. The health and safety of our employees, casts and crews remains our top priority. During this time, we will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control as well as local officials and public health professionals in each city where our productions are based.”
Among the programs that are being shut down are Warners’ The Bachelorette, Young Sheldon, Supergirl, Batwoman, Claws, All Rise, Lucifer, Queen Sugar and THR hears Pennyworth and The Flight Attendant; at Netflix, this includes hit Stranger Things and Grace and Frankie. Still, given the rapidly changing landscape as the world grapples with how to handle the evolving situation, it’s fair to expect TV production will come to a standstill. WBTV pilots impacted include The CW’s Kung Fu, Fox’s The Cleaning Lady, Pivoting and untitled Goonies re-enactment, which will all push production until a date to be determined. The CW’s The Lost Boys update is currently in production and is scheduled to wrap next week. The CW’s Superman & Lois, which was picked up straight to series, will not shoot now as planned but instead push closer to a more traditional show start date in June or July, pending the state of the world. The same is true for Fox’s Call Me Kat. Additionally, the final season of The CW’s Supernatural has also suspended production.
FX Productions are also hitting pause as Snowfall and new series Y: The Last Man have both been postponed by two weeks, while Atlanta production is on hold and Fargo has been postponed.
WarnerMedia — which includes HBO, streamer HBO Max, TBS and TNT — also said the company would suspend production on series as needed. Righteous Gemstones, which recently began production on season two, is among the shows being impacted. Euphoria season two was also slated to begin production and will also be pushed. “In response to the global emergency related to COVID-19, we are working closely with our creative teams to assess the status of each of our series in accordance with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local health and government officials. We will suspend production on some of our series currently filming and will delay those scheduled to start imminently. The health and safety of our employees, casts and crews is our number one priority,” the company said in a statement late Friday afternoon.
As for AMC and its in-house produced originals, Fear the Walking Dead is in production as of Friday and has a previously scheduled hiatus set for next week. Production will be delayed an additional three weeks from there, meaning the spinoff won’t resume until at least mid-April. Flagship The Walking Dead is in preproduction for season 11 and new series Kevin Can F*** Himself is in preproduction for season one. Production on both shows will be delayed by three to four weeks. Writers room and preproduction activities will continue on with staff working remotely. All other writers room activities will be done remotely for the next three to four weeks.
ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy shut down production early Thursday evening and postponed the remainder of work on season 16, effective immediately. Production on the Shondaland medical drama will be shut down for at least two weeks as a precaution. It’s unclear if the production delay will affect on-air episodes. Showrunner Krista Vernoff and exec producers Debbie Allen and James Williams made the announcement in a memo to the show’s cast and crew. (Read their note, below.) Production just wrapped on episode 21 of the show’s 25-episode season. Netflix’s Grace and Frankie has also suspended filming on its final season “to ensure the safety of our cast and crew,” producer Skydance said in a statement. (Skydance is the same studio behind the also suspended Foundation.)
CBS, Paramount TV Studios and Showtime — members of the ViacomCBS fold — said in a statement Thursday night that they have postponed production on some pilots and current shows. While they declined to list specific shows, sources tell THR that the three series in CBS’ NCIS franchise, each of which has a few episodes left to film, will pause. The comedy The Neighborhood has one episode remaining and will film without a live audience, sources say. CBS All Access’ The Good Fight has also been shut down for the time being. Drama pilots that haven’t yet started filming are also being put on hold. A specific number of the conglomerate’s affected programming was not immediately available.
Late Friday morning, Disney Television Studios — which comprises ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox TV, among others — postponed production on National Geographic scripted anthology Genius: Aretha, and postponed pilot production for at least three weeks on the following: Adopted, The Big Leap, The Big Sky, The Brides, Harlem’s Kitchen, Home Economics, Kids Matter Now, My Village, Ordinary Joe, Prospect, Rebel, Thirtysomething(else), the untitled Kapnek/Holland, Valley Trash, Work Wife and Wreckage. (Click here to see filming locations for each.)
For NBCUniversal, the 35 tally includes scripted series, unscripted and syndicated daytime talk shows. Sources say shows from Universal Television, Universal Content Productions, Universal Television Alternative Studios and First Run Syndication productions are either pausing production for two weeks as a precautionary measure or expediting production in a bid to quickly wrap up production on a specific season. Sources say unscripted series World of Dance, for example, was set to wrap Saturday with production moved up to Friday in a bid to release cast and crew as early as possible. NBCU will, like others, monitor the global pandemic and make further decisions when necessary as everyone across the world puts the health of their colleagues front and center. Like ViacomCBS, NBCU declined to provide specific titles that are being impacted given the volume of those impacted. Sources say NBC’s untitled mayoral comedy starring Ted Danson and from exec producer Tina Fey is among the programs that have suspended production.
What remains unclear is if cast and crew members will continue to be paid as the number of programs hitting pause continues to grow.
Other TV studios, sources say, are in the midst of discussions about whether or not to suspend productions and those decisions are likely to be made on a case-by-case basis. It’s worth noting that, given the time of year, many broadcast shows are either at or near the end of their seasons and at work on finales. Some series, like ABC’s Modern Family and Black-ish, have already wrapped for the season.
Meanwhile, TV writers rooms are discussing ways in which they can break stories and work remotely. CBS’ MacGyver, per sources, has already made the decision to work remotely. Other sources say Warner Bros. sent its writers rooms sign-ups for Zoom, a web-based video conferencing app. That is but one option that many rooms are mulling as they, too, look to limit social interaction. Warners, those sources say, is deferring to individual writers rooms to make decisions on if they want to allow their staffs to work remotely.
Multiple showrunners that The Hollywood Reporter spoke with — none of whom wanted to go on record, given the speed with which decisions are being made in the wake of the pandemic — say that remote rooms will pose a challenge for traditional comedies as well as dramas that are in the “blue sky” portion of breaking stories for new seasons. Still, other rooms are said to be staying open with some splitting in half in a bid to create additional social distancing. By late Thursday, sources say many writers rooms had shifted to working remotely.
Postproduction appears unaffected — at least for the time being. For now, directors and actors are continuing to fly to sets. Casting directors, already taxed with the heavy burden of finding actors for the nearly 60 pilots in the works at the broadcast networks, were, as of Wednesday, still seeing actors on tape and in person. At the same time, many network and studio meetings are no longer being done in person, and several talent agencies are already requiring their staffs to work remotely. May’s upfront presentations to Madison Avenue ad buyers are also being scrapped in favor of video presentations.
Elsewhere, sources say some studio execs have handed down notes on scripts to avoid writing scenes that call for a large number of extras in a bid to mitigate the number of people coming to set or at one location. Other outlets, like Amazon and NBC’s East Coast operations, are giving staffers the opportunity to work from home.
On the unscripted side, some global productions — including CBS’ Survivor — have also halted production or been scrapped. Daytime talk shows, game shows and late-night shows have already made decisions to bypass live studio audiences (for the time being).
Further complicating matters is the possibility of a Writers Guild of America strike that could shut down all production should an agreement with the studios over streaming residuals (among other issues) not be resolved when the current deal expires May 1. That puts an added strain on decisions about whether or not production should be shut down now. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, a number of shows had been quietly stockpiling scripts at the studios’ request.
THR will update this story as more information becomes available about how the coronavirus is impacting scripted series production. Here are the shows that have also been impacted:
• All Amazon Studios productions, including Lord of the Rings, have been shut down.
• According to Disney, Empire, Pose, American Housewife, Big Shot, The Resident and Queen of the South have all been shut down. On Sunday, Disney also shut down Hulu’s The Orville and ABC’s Last Man Standing for three weeks.
• ABC’s The Goldbergs and spinoff Schooled have suspended production before the completion of their season finales.
• Power spinoffs Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book III: Raising Kanan have shut down production in New York.
• American Idol is on a scheduled production hiatus; continuing to monitor the coronavirus to determine how it may impact production in April. Fellow unscripted series The Masked Singer, which airs on Fox, has already completed production on its season.
• America’s Got Talent is wrapping early on Season 15 Audition Rounds and will then go on scheduled hiatus.
• Disney+ shows including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Loki have halted production.
• CBS All Access has delayed the launch of its new daily animated variety series Tooning Out the News, from exec producer Stephen Colbert. “CBS All Access is delaying the previously announced March 16th launch of its new daily animated variety news series, Tooning Out the News, and production of the series will be temporarily postponed out of an abundance of caution,” the streamer said in a statement Friday. “The welfare of our teams is of utmost importance and we will continue to monitor the situation, informed by health experts and government officials.”
• Production on Amazon’s Carnival Row in Budapest has been shut down for the time being. Star Orlando Bloom announced the news in an Instagram video in which he noted he was returning to the U.S.
• Amazon’s highly anticipated fantasy drama Wheel of Time has shut down production in the Czech Republic, which, effective March 16, is instituting a travel ban as a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus fears.
• The CW’s Warner Bros. TV-produced DC Comics drama The Flash has also shut down production in Vancouver.
• The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers have shut down production. The earliest both NBC late-night shows could resume is March 30. CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has also postponed production on the three original episodes that were to air next week — without a live audience. That will lead into a previously scheduled hiatus. New episodes are currently slated to resume March 30.
• Syndicated daytime talk show The Wendy Williams Show has put production on hold indefinitely. The following memo was sent to staffers late Thursday afternoon: “The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority. Considering the current escalation of the coronavirus, production will be put on hold, indefinitely. However, the office will remain open for you to pick up any materials or personal items. In place of live shows we will air repeats and we will continue to monitor the situation with the CDC and city officials to determine the best time to return and produce live shows again. Thank you for everything you do and please stay safe!”
• ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy has also been shut down for at least two weeks. “To Our Incredible Cast and Crew: Out of an abundance of caution, production is postponed on Grey’s Anatomy effective immediately. We are going home now for at least two weeks and waiting to see how the coronavirus situation evolves. This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of the whole cast and crew and the safety of our loved ones outside of work, and it was made in accordance with Mayor Garcetti’s suggestion that we not gather in groups of more than 50. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay hydrated, stay home as much as possible, and wash your hands frequently. Please take care of yourselves and each other. As updates come in, we will keep you informed. Thank you for all that you do! Krista, Debbie, & James”
• All three NCIS shows at CBS have also hit pause on production as scripted and unscripted programming across the ViacomCBS portfolio is examined. Some series that are close to wrapping production on the season will continue on in a bid to complete work and wrap as quickly as possible.
• ABC’s late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live will shut down for the weeks of March 16 and March 23, and the network’s daytime soap General Hospital is suspending production through April 10. For the latter, ABC doesn’t anticipate any interruption in new episodes.
• HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight will suspend production after their March 13 and March 15 episodes, respectively. Those episodes will tape without in-studio audiences.
• The Ellen DeGeneres Show has also suspended production until March 30.
• Comedy Central’s late-night series The Daily Show and Lights Out With David Spade are suspending production for two weeks starting March 16.
• “Following the news that the CBS production offices and studios where Full Frontal with Samantha Bee tapes had been compromised, the show has gone on hiatus and will be dark the week of March 16,” TBS said in a statement. “This move is being made out of an abundance of caution regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus and production is monitoring the situation closely to determine how quickly and safely the show can return.”
• The Late Late Show With James Corden will also suspend production for the time being.
March 12 10 p.m. PT: This story has been updated throughout.
March 13, 12:50 p.m. PT: This story has been updated with additional shutdowns.
March 14, 2:14 p.m.: Updated with Disney+ shows halting production.