The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to be spending a lot more time at home. In the initial days of quarantine and social distancing, the time at home meant you could catch up on things gathering dust on the DVR or the stack of programming in your various streaming service queues. However, it's been months since the initial social distancing guidelines were put into place in the U.S., shifting the perception of what "normal" will be when it is safe to socialize again. It seems the pandemic is also going to affect what "normal" is when it comes to TV shows as well.
Obviously, many shows have been shut down or placed on indefinite hold because those who make them are not allowed to gather in close quarters, as they normally would on a typically busy set. But, beyond merely being able to film, lots of shows are already thinking about how to incorporate COVID-19 storylines into their upcoming seasons. (It should be noted that plenty aren't thinking about incorporating coronavirus too; count American Horror Story among those that plan on staying way more than six feet away.) For a healthy segment of other shows though, COVID-19 might as well be a new guest star or a new big bad next season, because it's going to play a significant role. Here are all the shows we know of so far that are putting coronavirus storylines into their next season.
As Season 2 was concluding, creator and executive producer David Schulner told TV Guide that COVID-19 will absolutely be a part in Season 3. Especially since the virus impacted this show like no other — some cast members got infected, such as Daniel Dae Kim, and an entire episode devoted to a separate pandemic was scrapped. "All our plans have been blown out of the window," Schulner said. "In Season 3 we have to rethink everything. Their priorities are going to change after this pandemic. I don't think we can force storylines on a new world we're living in — it would ring false. They're going to change."
NCIS New Orleans isn't shying away from COVID-19 — and it's hitting close to home. In an interview with TV Line, CCH Pounder, who plays Dr. Loretta Wade, says her character will come face-to-face with the virus when someone she counseled on how to avoid it becomes infected. "It reflects on the first part of the [pandemic] situation with masks and people saying, 'No, I'm fine! I don't need to wear a mask.' All of those things you hear in the community. So it's quite a shock to her that she wasn't listened to, or that it wasn't that important to this person."
Executive producer John Wells told The Hollywood Reporter, "It's impossible to do a satirical comedy about the working poor without addressing what happened and what is going to happen to that community." So you can expect the Gallaghers to be dealing with some heavy problems in the series' final season.
Entertainment Weekly reported that Grey's executive producer Krista Vernoff said in an Emmys panel, "We're going to address this pandemic for sure. There's no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes." Vernoff expanded on that quote during THR's "TV's Top 5" podcast, revealing that the show's upcoming COVID storylines won't be all bleak. "There's joy and fun to be had in people who are quarantining away from the hospital...Many of [these doctors] aren't going home to their families; they're getting Airbnbs and living together," she said. "There's a lot of story to tell that is sort of COVID-related but not about death and despair." Series star Giacomo Gianniotti told ET Online in August that Season 17, which hasn't started filming, will open a month and a half into the pandemic as the doctors adjust to the new reality of COVID-19.
Season 4 of the ABC drama will open with a COVID-19 storyline, TV Line reports, in a two-part season opener.
Executive producer on the creepy love story Greg Berlanti told THR we can probably expect to see COVID-19 in a new season, though it would probably happen in between seasons. "You're in a pact with your audience where you have to deal with real-life sh--," he said.
Of course noted germaphobe and master of awkward situations Larry David is going to make the pandemic part of a new season. Showrunner Jeff Schaffer told THR, "There's still plenty of aberrant behavior to look back on, like who said they were social distancing but clearly got a haircut every few weeks. Just because people were supposed to be in their houses and everyone says they were in isolation, were they really?"
Considering how many of the insane cases on 9-1-1 and and its spin-off are based on real headlines, it makes sense that COVID-19 would factor into future seasons.Tim Minear, the boss on Fox's explosive procedurals told THR, "If we pretend like it's an alter-universe where this thing hasn't happened, we'd quaint ourselves into irrelevance."
"What seems likely," Michelle King told THR, "is that regardless of when we broadcast, people are still going to experience the economic aftermath, so my expectation is that we'll at least touch on that."
Tim Allen told TV Guide earlier this year that there was no way LMS wouldn't make COVID-19 a part of the Baxter family story. "We kind of have to," he said. "We try to keep it as real as we can. The virus would have impacted the [Last Man Standing] universe. I'm going to have to look at, what happened to pot shops? What was that experience like? I guarantee you Outdoor Man will be facing the repercussions of the economy. How did lockdown affect outdoor equipment use? How are they going to re-open? We will ask ourselves all those questions to see how lockdown affected all of that."
Showrunner Dan Goor told THR at the end of Season 7 "The question is how they have been affected by the virus and the pandemic as New York City residents and as first responders in New York City." The comedy reportedly had to start over on Season 8 after the start of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd to address the current climate.
Creator Kenya Barris told THR that he was sure the show, set in a fictional college, would incorporate the pandemic but he isn't currently sure how, "It's like, 'Do we start the year off, like, 'Senior year, bitches!' and then kids are at home studying online?" Online classes aren't the only dilemma to decide for the comedy. Last season ended with Zoey (Yara Shahidi) deciding to drop out of school to begin her fashion career — but how can you style people in the current social distancing conditions?
Creator Dan Fogelman answered in the affirmative when asked whether the NBC drama's upcoming fifth season would incorporate coronavirus on Twitter. "Yes on COVID," he confirmed simply. "We've decided to attack things head on. Very proud of @ThisIsUsWriters." That was all he had to say about the matter, though he also said that he wasn't yet sure when production will start, or when the season will premiere. Either way, you can probably expect a lot of tears as usual.