Coronavirus pandemic alters, inspires new ABC primetime schedule

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Coronavirus pandemic alters, inspires new ABC primetime schedule
Sandy Kenyon speaks with ABC's head of primetime programming about new challenges, and opportunities, presented by Coronavirus

As the nation continues to re-open from the COVID-19 pandemic, most film and TV production remains shut down. And that has altered plans for networks like ABC that usually spend the summer getting primetime series ready for the traditional start of the new season in the fall.

Scripts can be written for dramas and comedies, but reality shows have had to stay on hold.

Clare Crawley was just about to begin her journey for love on "The Bachelorette" when pre-production had to stop due to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, her show could be among the first to resume.

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke outlined the stringent measures necessary to ensure the safety of all involved.

"The producers and the crew will be living together with the cast in a quarantine fashion in one location," she said. "There won't be travel."

Burke typically locks in her primetime schedule for the fall in the spring, presenting it to the nation's advertisers in May at a glamorous venue like the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center. But this year, a virtual presentation had to suffice.

"We're calling it our premiere schedule, out of respect for the work that still has to be done to make sure we're getting safety back to production," she said.

Each show will have to adapt to new ways of working in the aftermath of COVID-19.

"'Big Sky' is a show that takes place in Montana, so lots of outdoor scenes," Burke said of one of three new shows she has commissioned. "And it's a thriller, so there's a lot of intimate scary scenes that just take place with two people talking."

Visual effects may be used because crowd scenes are obviously problematic.

The series "For Life" can't start up again because it's made in New York City, but it was renewed in part because recent events have made it so timely. The series about a man fighting for justice after he was falsely imprisoned has more resonance after the recent protests.

Also, Burke brought back "Black-ish" as part of her mission "to raise up black voices, and to create spaces for black storytelling and storytelling for all under represented groups."

She calls this "an inflection point" and quotes the musical "Hamilton," saying, "This is not a moment, but a movement," and she determined the network will reflect this.

"And so I am hopeful that out of this comes really just important and wonderful and more relevant storytelling than maybe we've seen in the past decade," she said.

CLICK HERE for more on the ABC 2020-2021 primetime schedule.