From Grey's Anatomy to This Is Us, Covid-19 infects TV plots

In Grey's Anatomy, Meredith suddenly emerges from a dream, exhausted and in full personal protective equipment.
In Grey's Anatomy, Meredith suddenly emerges from a dream, exhausted and in full personal protective equipment.PHOTO: GREYSABC/INSTAGRAM

NEW YORK - With Covid-19 upending every aspect of viewers' lives, some TV 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, 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 health care 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 health care workers," she said.

Showrunners for NBC's Chicago Med, Ms Diane Frolov and Mr Andrew Schneider, told AFP 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," said Ms Frolov and Mr Schneider about the show's sixth season, which premiered on November 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 have already tackled the virus, while New Amsterdam and The Resident are ready to follow suit in 2021.

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

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

In addition to existing shows, streaming platforms and cable channels have tried putting together new series centred on coronavirus, like HBO's Coastal Elites or Netflix's Social Distance - 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 or CBS's Mom.

Last spring, writers on The Neighborhood, 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)."