Considering The Bleak, But Safe, Pivot To Live TV With No Live Audiences

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
With concern over the novel coronavirus growing, some TV shows are doing their part to combat its spread  — even if it makes things a little bit awkward.
Many shows are moving forward without their standard studio audiences, according to Deadline, in order to avoid the person-to-person spread of the virus. Given that many people who attend these tapings are visitors from outside of the city where these shows are filmed, it’s a valid concern. 

New York City-produced daytime talk shows like The View, Live With Kelly and Ryan, and Tamron Hall have already filmed programs sans audience. In a clip shared on Twitter, Whoopi Goldberg can be seen “welcoming” an MIA audience to The View.
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Many shows are moving forward without their standard studio audiences, according to Deadline. This includes New York City-produced daytime talk shows like The View, Live With Kelly and Ryan, and Tamron Hall, who have already filmed programs sans audience. In a clip shared on Twitter, Whoopi Goldberg can be seen “welcoming” an MIA audience to the show.
Meanwhile, NYC-based late night programs The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, and Comedy Central's, and The Daily Show With Trevor Noah will reportedly commit to filming without an audience starting Monday, according to USA Today. It’s unclear whether Saturday Night Live will follow the example set by these programs and perform their sketches and musical numbers sans crowd. 
It’s not just New York-produced programs that are making a change. Sitcom reboot One Day At a Time, which is produced by Sony and recently moved from Netflix to Pop TV, will film on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif. stage to empty chairs as well, per USA Today. Game shows Jeopardy! And Wheel of Fortune, also filmed on the Sony lot, will do the same. 
Though it will continue to have a studio audience — at least, at this moment — The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has a home on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, is creating a more rigorous protocol for who can and cannot attend a taping. Now, audience members must confirm they have not been to an area given a Level 3 Travel Health Notice by the CDC within the last three weeks, per USA Today.
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Removing a studio audience due to the potential spread of disease is one the entertainment industry hasn’t seen before. It’s easy to see how, at least for the talk shows on this list, it will be challenging to put out the same kind of content under this new order. After all, the studio audience doesn’t exist just to entertain the dozens or so people who are there live — it also acts as a surrogate for the people at home watching, allowing the hosts to relate to and engage with their viewers. 
The View, which discusses controversial topics, is often spurred into conversation by the audience’s reaction to certain comments. Occasionally, audience members are invited to weigh in and become a part of the dialogue. Without a studio audience, the women of The View are still talking to one another, but something about the conversation feels a little bit emptier. It now lacks the reflective, outsider perspective. 
It’s worth wondering if the audience-free programs will find new ways to incorporate audience members into their shows remotely. As more and more offices utilize tools like video calling so that their employees can work from home safely, it’s possible that TV shows could find a way to follow suit. Technically, would-be “audience members” could view these show via livestream, and make comments via video call — all so it doesn’t seem like these shows exist in the bubble.

The thing is, though, that these shows will exist within a bubble, at least temporarily. Ignoring a lack of audience won’t work, especially when everyone knows coronavirus fears are changing up the status quo. How television will adapt remains to be seen.

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