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Pass Me The Remote: How COVID-19 is affecting Televised Media

There has been an age old saying that life imitates art. However, the ongoing pandemic presents an argument for the opposite. Television content has continued to evolve during the darkest periods of history and the current health crisis proves the industry remains resilient. 

According to Johns Hopkins Universities Coronavirus Research Center, the virus has claimed the lives of over 30,000 individuals in the UK and 300,000 worldwide. Series have found their production halted due to quarantine and social distance guidelines put in place to flatten the curve. Flattening the curve is the intended goal of distancing strategies to slow the spread of the virus and therefore prevent hospital systems from being overwhelmed all at once. 

In an industry where much of the work traditionally entails contact with multiple individuals, a majority of network episode series have understandably ended mid-season with no return date in sight. Some creative teams on the other hand, determined to march on, have accepted the heightened challenges of producing work during these times. Most notably, the season finale of CBS’ court drama “All Rise” was filmed remotely at each actor’s respective home.

The cast members, lead by Simone Messick’s titular character of Judge Lola, were responsible for their own hair, makeup, lighting, set design, and wardrobes. The episode “Dancing At Los Angeles” was filmed entirely on each actor’s own computer or cell phone. With the premier of the virtual episode on May 4th, “All Rise” became the first scripted drama to return to production in the US. 

Initially, I was worried having each “All Rise” character restricted to a tiny box would impact the plot’s usual ebb and flow of tension. However, as a viewer that enjoyed the first season, I found it refreshing that the creators decided not to circumvent but embrace the current pandemic. The plot explored how each character reacted to being quarantined at home away from the usual hustle and bustle of the court house. The cast found togetherness in their continued fight for justice and in moments video chatting with their family members and significant others. The episode even touched on how people are continuing to date during these difficult times and featured a budding couple dressing up and having a virtual yet romantic candle-lit dinner date.

According to Morning Consult, 53% of adults who were using online dating apps had an uptick in their usage as social distancing guidelines were put into place. The study shows that even though we are in the midst of a health crisis humans still crave attention and intimacy. “Love in the Time of Corona”, an upcoming limited series from FreeForm will follow characters as they continue to navigate dating through the pandemic. According to Variety, the series will follow a similar production format to “All Rise” and film remotely with the actors safely distancing in their homes. 

Netflix has also decided to throw its hat in the ring to produce content surrounding quarantine with the upcoming production of “Social Distancing”. “Orange Is The New Black” creator Jenji Kohan will be leading the team that will be bringing the show to our screens. While little information is widely available on both projects currently, “Love In The Time of Corona” is scheduled for an August release. 

While you wait for these new shows, you can watch Cornwall based actor Jason Gregg’s short film “Closed Until Further Notice”. Also set in the present day, the short film examines life in lockdown from a comedic perspective. In an interview with CornWall Live, Gregg reported how he cast the production, filmed, and edited the short film with zero budget. From relatives and their conspiracy theories, to the fear of appearing on video calls looking less than perfect, the film encapsulates the essence of this new tumultuous life. 

The film and television have always had the ability to move society forward or backwards. In today’s time, where streaming platforms make works more readily viewable, it is important for artists to continue producing works that are relatable. Especially in a time where a majority of the content reminds us of what is outside of our homes, it is imperative that the art we consume continues to imitate our daily lives. For as we all know, the show must go on.

By Amie Mbye

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