TV Q&A: 'Shark Tank,' 'Conan,' COVID-19 changes to TV and local TV news

Thursday, 26 March 2020 12:00 AM Written by 

Q: Has the Covid-19 crisis forced any current television shows to end their seasons prematurely, or have most taped their episodes already?


Rob: We reported last week it is likely that some series, especially dramas since they are typically in production longer than comedies, are likely to produce fewer episodes than ordered this season. 

This week AMC announced it would be unable to complete post-production on the 10th season finale of “The Walking Dead” so its season will end with what was intended to be the penultimate episode on April 5.

NBC’s “New Amsterdam” shifts to 9 p.m. Tuesday next week, wrapping its season on April 14 after dropping a flu pandemic-themed episode. Production shut down three episodes short of the show’s full-season order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Q: On Sun. March 22, I was watching the live, daily White House Press Conference on the COVID-19 Pandemic.  At 7 p.m., WTAE and ABC, being the responsible news organizations they are, cut away to “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” What the hell?...are ratings more important than a pandemic?

Rob: No, but accurate information is. Many observers have been arguing it would be better not to carry these press conferences live, for which there is precedent. The thinking is it would be better to show the press conference on tape delay so the misinformation presented can be fact-checked in real time while news anchors offer accurate information and offer viewers more reliable sources.

This specific press conference had been going on for quite some time and it didn’t seem like any more useful information would be coming out of it so I can’t fault the networks or local stations for returning to regular programming.



Q: Why did Conan O'Brien's show on TBS go from an hour to a half-hour?  Was any reason ever given?


Rob: Yes, this was covered extensively when the announcement was made in 2018. Basically, there’s a lot of competition in late-night and “Conan” found more success in special episodes – like his visits to foreign countries – than in the regular late-night talk show format. So TBS opted to rejigger the show’s format to the style that was working best for it already.

“I’ve been pushing for this for a while: something that fits the modern landscape, that certainly fits the way I interact with my fans more,” O’Brien said in a conference call with reporters covered by The New York Times. “I was looking for something more lean and agile.”

“Conan” returns from a COVID-19 break with new episodes – produced remotely via iphone – on Monday.



Q: Do you think “Shark Tank” is tanking? The ratings would be a good indicator. Plus I don't hear people discussing the show any more and I quit watching it.


Rob: But others have not. In fact, ABC touted the show’s largest audience in a year for its March 6th telecast and then “Shark Tank” had its biggest audience in two years on March 13.



Q: What happened to MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer?  I’ve not seen her on-air in years and can find nothing online about where she’s gone.

And where is MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts and why isn’t he anchoring anymore?

-Laina, Regent Square

Rob: Brewer left MSNBC in 2011. She joined CNBC as a correspondent and fill-in anchor in 2017. 

Roberts left MSNBC in 2017 and in June 2018 became an evening anchor at the CBS affiliate in Atlanta, a job he left in August 2019.



Q: Was the UPMC ad about responding to a health emergency filmed in a real restaurant? There's a quick glance at a sign that might say Othello's.  It looks like a very nice place, but I realize it may just be a TV set.


Rob: I have tried contacting a UPMC publicist multiple times via e-mail and phone since this question came in Feb. 20th but she never responded.

My guess is the spot was filmed at a real restaurant.



Q: Kym Gable has been substituting regularly on KDKA TV.  She is an excellent newscaster.  Is there a possibility that KDKA may hire her or is she now under contract?


Rob: She is not.

Still part-time freelance and loving the flexibility,” Gable wrote in an e-mail. “And yes, I have been filling on on the anchor desk much more often.”



Q: I'd like to inquire (and if necessary, complain) what happened to Kristin Emery on KDKA-TV? I so liked her pleasant disposition and delivery of the weather.  Besides being more that capable at her job, she has such a folksy, down home feel about her. 


Rob: After a sweeps month (like February) it's often a case of V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N and that is indeed what's happening here.



Q: Do you know why Ellis Cannon is not on every night at 8 p.m. on PCNC!  


Rob: Blame the COVID-19 pandemic.

“PCNC live shows are on hold,” explained WPXI/PCNC general manager Kevin Hayes. “This is a precautionary measure to ensure that we are limiting the number of people in our office each day and doing our part to slow the spread of the virus.”



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