Here’s How Coronavirus-Forced Production Delays Could Impact the TV Season

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“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Law and Order: SVU” and countless other shows are pumping the brakes because of the pandemic

Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order SVU, Riverdale
"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC). "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC), "Riverdale" (The CW)

The current TV season has been thrown into disarray, as the coronavirus pandemic has forced Hollywood into a near-total shutdown and left networks and studios faced with the conundrum of how to move forward. As of Friday, more than 30 broadcast series including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Riverdale,” “Law & Order: SVU,” as well as the “Chicago” and “NCIS” franchises, have all halted production for the time being. With the 2019-2020 TV season initially set to wrap up in a couple of months, networks are left in a state of uncertainty as to just when they’ll be able to finish out their seasons. Each network and studio is making its own decision about how to proceed with filming and production on current seasons on what many are calling a “case-by-case basis.” As one network insider put it: “This is all uncharted territory.” A network insider told TheWrap that a stoppage of only a few weeks — if it caps there — would create minimal noticeable changes for TV audiences. At this point in the season many shows are wrapped, especially sitcoms, shows with smaller episode orders, and alternative programming that tapes in bunches. Of the shows that have not yet wrapped, only physical production has been shut down. That means that solitary endeavors like preproduction, which involves writing, and postproduction, which involves editing, are both still ongoing. If two or three weeks were to turn into a month or a month and a half, however, then some May finales may get pushed to June — but not all, as many shows have already been wrapped for some time. Another network insider said that in terms of series currently airing, those with shorter episode orders are in better shape than longer ones. “We’re in the very early stages,” the insider said. A studio insider added that right now not much more is known beyond the fact that productions are delayed. Down the road, the studio will go through where each series is and determine how many episodes are ready to air. Before that, however, there are logistics, like whether production crew members need to return home have to be considered. A third network insider added that plans are being actively discussed to lessen potential losses in original programming due to production delays. The hope is that shows that still haven’t wrapped production will be able to finish shooting remaining episodes in a few weeks and put post-production on a fast track to prevent delays in airing. The effects of coronavirus pandemic on Hollywood spread across the entire industry. Many cable and streaming outlets have suspended pretty much all current series production. Film studios have pushed back major releases, some of them into next year, and all industry events including the TV upfronts have been scrapped, and sporting events are non-existent while the world tries to stop the spread of the disease. You can find a full list of every show affected so far here. Tony Maglio and Jennifer Maas contributed to this story.