REVIEW: Live TV shows losing impact during COVID-19


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JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE – “Jimmy Kimmel Live” airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EST and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Monday, April 11, 2016 included Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd (“Captain America: Civil War”) and musical guest White Denim. (ABC/Randy Holmes) CHRIS EVANS, JIMMY KIMMEL

With COVID-19 effectively shutting down the entertainment industry, television shows that are traditionally filmed in a studio have been forced to relocate to the hosts homes or end filming for the time being. Several scripted television shows have opted to end their seasons early in order to comply with quarantine orders in their respected filming locations.

Several talk show hosts, including John Oliver, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, have begun to shoot and air episodes of their talk shows from their homes so that they could continue working without risking themselves or members of their cast and crew potentially getting infected. Other shows that air live have also moved their content to being aired online so that their audience can still see new episodes.

Recently, I watched the latest episode of “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. The show contained Oliver’s usual theme, spending the episode on a single subject that has been in the news recently or is controversial. This most recent episode focused on misinformation being generated by the coronavirus. The subject is one that has not been in the news as much because most of the focus has been on the number of people who have been infected, those who have died and how countries are dealing with the pandemic. 

While the episode did follow the usual format of a typical Last Week Tonight episode, the jokes did not come off as funny as they usually do. Without a studio audience or laugh track to help break up Oliver’s rants, they seem to feel longer and angrier than they usually are. Despite the punchlines of his jokes not hitting as hard as they usually do, Oliver has still been able a very good job at driving the point of his episode to the audience. He makes several good points about how many people are believing every rumor they hear about the coronavirus and ignoring legitimate facts that are released every day. 

The techniques that have been used to carry on these shows  despite the restrictions and quarantines, are the same that many people are using to do their jobs and stay in touch with friends and family. While Oliver did not have any interviews for this episode, other live shows have been using FaceTime and Zoom to conduct interviews with celebrities and guests that had been scheduled to be on the show. This can prove to be an issue because the internet connection could cut out or, during one of the most recent episodes of the Tonight Show, having a member of the family interrupt the show. 

“The Tonight Show,” hosted by Jimmy Fallon, is another live show that has managed to continue production, in this case from Fallon’s home. One of the differences from “Last Week Tonight” to “The Tonight Show” is that “The Tonight Show” has music performed live by different artists every night. 

In the episode that took place on Friday, April 17, Kesha was able to sing her song “Resentment,” with the instrumental version of the song prepared for her to sing the lyrics to. While the song was good, the performance was not as entertaining as it could have been. Again, limited resources means that performers and hosts have to cut some corners. But, it was nice to be able to hear the entire song without having the audience cheer over the performance and drown out some of the lyrics. 

It is refreshing to see that during these challenging times that live television shows are continuing to make new episodes. They have been able to continue many of their shows segments at home without too many problems and encourage people to make donations to those in need during the quarantines. But the humor falls short some of the time, with the lack of an audience making it difficult for a viewer to identify what is supposed to be the joke. It can make the host speaking feel like they were ranting instead of entertaining or informing the public like they are supposed to. 

Despite these challenges, live television shows are still able to entertain their audiences.