Call for Comments: Television in the Time of COVID

old fashioned TV set with an N95mask attached

From Hannah: In 2020, Voxpopcast talked a lot about the media we consumed during, and partially due to, the pandemic (our comfort viewing, the AMAZING discovery of Marble League, the content that was majorly created pre-pandemic but released after our lives changed). But we haven’t delved too deeply into have the pandemic has changed the content we consume.

cast of Superstore

Perhaps the Fall 2020 network television season gave us the most immediate examples of how these changes have emerged (and develop in other mediums as well). Shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Superstore (one of the most underrated comedies on television) integrated COVID-19 into their storylines — and this made sense to many viewers as both series revolve around essential workers (healthcare and retail professionals). That being said, not every scripted show that incorporated the pandemic into its storylines has been similarly praised. (Some scripted shows chose not to incorporate the pandemic but clearly still follow safety guidelines in production). Talk show hosts turned their houses into sets and conducted interviews with guests through video-conferencing. Political debates looked very different than in the past. Reality shows like The Bachelorette eventually carried on in a modified form, while filming of The Amazing Race season 33 outright stopped (and has not resumed) production.

There are a lot of threads to think about in relation to television being produced in our current moment. How are shows capturing this moment? What creative choices make television that integrates the pandemic meaningful? What does it mean to address a devastating historical moment in fiction in real time? To the contrary, what does it mean to make a television show, particularly one meant to be set in the contemporary, and not address the pandemic? (And, of course, there’s issues surrounding producing television in a pandemic at all.)

We want to know what shows you’ve been watching and how they’ve addressed or ignored COVID-19. Do you think the creative choices were handled well? How have your viewing habits been affected by the changes this past year?

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