Covid-19 features in new seasons of shows

NEW YORK • With Covid-19 upending every aspect of viewers' lives, some television shows - from the obvious medical dramas to sitcoms - have woven the pandemic into their latest seasons' storylines, but a handful have avoided it altogether.

In the opening scenes of the latest season of long-running hospital drama Grey's Anatomy (2005 to present), Meredith Grey enjoys a quiet moment alone on a beach. She suddenly emerges from the dream, exhausted, in full personal protective equipment (PPE) in a frantic emergency room.

"I think we have a responsibility to really show what these healthcare workers have been going through," series star Ellen Pompeo said in a recent Deadline interview.

At a time when many Americans are "irritated with wearing a mask" and "disconnected" from the challenges facing hospitals, the latest season of Grey's offers "an opportunity to tell the story of how hard this is for our healthcare workers", she said.

Showrunners for NBC's Chicago Med (2015 to present), Ms Diane Frolov and Mr Andrew Schneider, said that "as a hospital show, we knew we'd have to deal with the pandemic".

"So far, it plays if not a direct then a tangential role in every one of the new episodes," they said about the show's sixth season, which premiered on Nov 11. "Even if we're not doing Covid-19 patient stories, the virus has profoundly changed protocols and procedures in the hospital."

Other medical shows like ABC's The Good Doctor (2017 to present) have already tackled the virus, while New Amsterdam (2018 to present) and The Resident (2018 to present) are ready to follow suit next year.

Outside of hospital settings, US network shows have also incorporated elements of the pandemic's impact.

NBC's hit drama This Is Us (2016 to present) has members of the Pearson family sheltering at home, and matriarch Rebecca having to postpone an Alzheimer's clinical trial, because of the coronavirus.

In addition to existing shows, streaming platforms and cable channels have tried putting together new series centred on Covid-19, like HBO's Coastal Elites (2020) or Netflix's Social Distance (2020) - but with no real success.

At the other end of the scale, many shows have offered a dose of escapism by completely leaving out Covid-19, sometimes because they were shot before the pandemic hit - such as recent Netflix hit Emily In Paris (2020) or CBS' Mom (2013 to present).

Last spring, writers on The Neighborhood (2018 to present), a CBS comedy which revolves around a white family moving into a black neighbourhood, were pondering whether to address the pandemic in season three, recalled actor Cedric the Entertainer in an interview with TVLine.

"And then George Floyd happened, and it just felt like a more important (conversation)."

Mr Floyd was the unarmed black man who was killed in police custody in May.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2020, with the headline 'Covid-19 features in new seasons of shows'. Print Edition | Subscribe