As the world continues to react to novel coronavirus COVID-19, it seems as though the virus has infected the game show world:
According to Gameshownewsnet.com, Sony Pictures Television, which produces both “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” have gone on hiatus, despite previous plans to tape without live audiences during the month of April. On that note, CBS is delaying the next two seasons of “Survivor,” with host Jeff Probst saying, “This situation is unprecedented and we are learning more information every day. It is out of concern for the well-being of all of you that we have taken this step.” On March 12, “The Price is Right” announced that it is going on a two-week hiatus, and this past week “America’s Got Talent” and “American Idol” suspended production. You know it’s serious when even innocent game shows can’t escape the virus.
This news is what made me decide to share my insight, that and an invitation by Editor Leslie Thompson. As a game show enthusiast, I like to consider myself a bit of an expert on the topic of game shows. Not to be boring to anyone, but for me game shows are more exciting than pro football (Sorry, sports fans). Yeah, I’m sure you have a favorite pop culture thing your friends don’t necessarily share in, too. Anyway…
I find myself in two minds about these decisions:
1. On the one hand, it has me wishing for the whole COVID-19 scare to end, for the related restrictions on movement and interaction to end and for those who are stockpiling all the hand sanitizer and toilet paper to give it a rest. Having lived through the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009 (I experienced what I thought was H1N1 although a lack of insurance prevented me confirming this), I like to believe that life doesn’t end with just one disease, but rather when our Heavenly Father decides our time is up (which can manifest in just about anything and when you least expect it).
I’m not trying to minimize the disease, seeing as it has already claimed over 10,000 lives in the worldwide outbreak. That in and of itself is sad, as I see life as priceless in many ways. It’s definitely no good for our elders, nor those with weak immunity. However, I have to put it into perspective for those reading this: Over 100,000 are estimated to have died of the seasonal flu during the 2019-20 flu season according to worldometers.info. I’m just trying to hold onto belief that when this outbreak subsides, not as many will have died from COVID-19 as the flu. As the Oregon Health Authority has noted, the vast majority of those who will get the virus will be able to recover from it by staying home. In that case, you just make a bowl of chicken soup (with carrots!), get under the covers and turn on “The Price is Right” (or whatever you watch) for a couple of days. I believe allowing ourselves to panic over the virus is just as dangerous as the virus itself, if not more so. I just hope it doesn’t make its way to the Western Treasure Valley any time soon. (Please stay away, please stay away, please stay away…)
2. On the other hand, I can’t entirely blame the studios for responding this way; I see the precautions by CBS and Sony to make sense because of the hosts’ ages. Pat Sajak is 73 years of age, and recently had to have a blockage removed from his intestines. Alex Trebek is 79 and is being treated for stage IV pancreatic cancer, a disease which in and of itself has a much more grim prognosis. Drew Carey, who has had a history of diabetes, is 61 and — based on their age alone — all three hosts are more likely to suffer complications.
While the former two have thus far survived their health scares, it must be admitted that this virus is not a monkey wrench any of these gentlemen need thrown in their gears. That goes for those they work around, too. Each of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” studios holds about 160 audience members at each taping, which doesn’t sound like a lot but in this case I think makes it a fairly decent call. “The Price is Right” tapes at Television City in Los Angeles, in a studio which holds more than 300, and is smaller than it looks on TV (I’ve been there multiple times). Even if the hosts didn’t get the virus, these audiences often attract older fans of their respective shows.
I look forward to when audiences can come back.
As far as the quality of those few shows still taping, I don’t expect that to change just because they’re playing to empty houses; I’ve watched many GSN shows that were never taped in front of a live audience (including Chuck Woolery’s “Lingo”), and enjoyed watching them, too.
I do fear the virus could affect more genres of television than game shows, though. My fears of the reality singing competitions being realized do have me hoping the virus and the restrictions it has brought start to decrescendo really soon, before my whole DVR schedule dries up.
Oh wait, GSN just announced they’re going “free play” through April! And I still have Buzzr channel (re-runs). There’s that, at least.
On balance, all I’m saying is that while this virus is genuinely scary, we all need to stop for a moment as we load up our shopping carts with doomsday prep and realize that there is a possibility of a tomorrow. It may not seem like it to some, but I believe in my heart that this too will pass. I’m looking forward to the day we get to the other side of this obstacle in our path as a human race, and just hoping not to get sick until then.
As I’ve observed, every year there seems to be a new or recurring “in-vogue disease” as I like to call them. As such, I don’t see COVID ending the human race. Whatever we catch in our travels next year probably won’t do it, either. I make no guarantees, just a plea for those reading this to take a breath and realize “the show must go on,” as Hollywood’s producers like to say.
To the virus itself, I make this plea:
LEAVE MY GAME SHOWS ALONE!