Most other years, TV networks would be hard at work right now finalizing their May Sweeps content: superstar guest spots, epic series finales, and cliffhangers meant to keep us guessing all summer. Well, we’ll at least have a few cliffhangers this year—though most of them will be unintentional. The coronavirus pandemic has caused much of Hollywood to shut down, including production of many of our favorite shows. Now THR is talking to industry insiders who provide a sobering forecast of what we can expect from series that weren’t done filming their current seasons before the pandemic.
THR’s Lesley Goldberg spoke to a handful of writers, reps, and executives—all under the condition of anonymity. Here are a few highlights from her interviews.
What happens to my shows that only had a few episodes left to film?
“The outstanding episodes will likely be ‘rolled’ to the 2020-21 season,” Goldberg writes before concluding ominously, “whenever that begins.”
The story did not touch on how shows that were working toward their series finales, like Empire and Supernatural, will resolve their seasons. But Goldberg did note that an abrupt, unplanned ending with no conclusion could severely limit “their ability to sell or stream elsewhere.” So that hopefully means these shows will get special finale movies or final runs.
Why can’t they just get back to work in a month and air the episodes a few weeks late?
They could try filming things in shifts to limit the number of people on set at any given time, but “given the demands of the Peak TV era, soundstages and crews are already booked out several months,” Goldberg explains. An exec she spoke to said “that some projects could be pushed an entire calendar year.... Several studios are already in conversations about extending the options on casts for bubble shows and broadcast pilots from the standard June 30 expiration date.”
What does this mean for the traditional fall TV premiere season?
Goldberg reports that many writers’ rooms had already been hard at work at 2020-21 season scripts in anticipation of a possible Writers’ Guild strike this spring. As long as production can ramp up by mid-May, it’s likely a mid-September launch would still happen. Any longer, a veteran exec tells Goldberg, and “January may become the new September.”
Is there any good news at all?
Yes! This shutdown may bode well for your favorite shows that were on the bubble. While networks will likely pick up some high-profile pilots straight to series, “shows you’d have said ‘no’ to in May are now looking good because it’s stability in a time of change,” one source tells Goldberg.
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