COVID-19

Ready or not, Hollywood starts telling coronavirus stories

Jasmine Garsd May 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Hollywood producers are developing shows that involve the coronavirus pandemic. Some wonder how to strike the right tone. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Ready or not, Hollywood starts telling coronavirus stories

Jasmine Garsd May 8, 2020
Hollywood producers are developing shows that involve the coronavirus pandemic. Some wonder how to strike the right tone. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A virus that is not fully understood. A global pandemic. Countries shutting down.

A few months ago, this would have sounded like a not-so-creative Hollywood movie. But now, it’s real life. Several major production houses have announced COVID-19 themed shows — about love, loss and social distancing. 

But does anyone want to watch that?

Netflix has just signed on for a series called “Social Distancing” produced by Jenji Kohan, creator of “Orange Is the New Black.” And Disney’s cable channel Freeform plans to produce a romantic comedy called “Love in the Time of Corona,” filmed using remote technology.  

But Hollywood is divided, according to Peter White, television editor at Deadline Hollywood magazine. He said creators are unsure that audiences will show up to watch what they’re already living through. 

“People are trying to work out whether they are going to want to lean into this or whether they are going to try and avoid it,” White said. “Tone is the thing that a lot of people are talking about.”

Tone, meaning do you make a comedy about a pandemic? 

This is not the first time Hollywood has had to figure out how to keep Americans entertained through rough times. During the Great Depression, films showcased Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tap-dancing into American hearts.

But Emily Carman, associate professor of film at Chapman University, said that in those hard times, Americans also wanted to see films about underdogs, working-class heroes and gangsters. 

“There was an allure with those kind of outlaw-rebel figures,” Carman said.

Like, the original “Scarface” — it was graphic and controversial, but people loved it. Now, Hollywood is forced to innovate again. The few productions moving forward will be inventing a genre with some pretty experimental, untested technology. 

And, we will see how it goes. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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