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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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