How COVID-19 is Reflected in TV Shows

Image courtesy of Rebecca Elliott.

When the pandemic began in March 2020, the world shut down and took some of our favorite TV shows along with it. Fortunately, this didn’t stop them from adapting to this new life just like we have. Some of the big drama shows like  “Greys Anatomy,” “Black-ish,” “Good Doctor” and many more incorporated COVID-19 into their storylines and future episodes. At the same time, the entertainment industry may also be depicting the false reality of life amid COVID-19. 

As we continue to fight this global pandemic, there have been questions on whether bringing the pandemic into TV is a good idea. Hannah Fontanaos, district nurse and COVID-19 liaison for Emery Unified School District said, “I have a mixed opinion on how certain shows are showcasing the pandemic. It’s good in the sense that shows are reflecting current affairs in the real world, but I also feel that it’s bad because people get enough exposure to information about COVID-19 in the news, work, and daily life.”

On the contrary, Ivy Tran, senior nursing student and nursing assistant said, “I think it is awesome that they can incorporate the pandemic into their TV show because it makes the pandemic feel real and it gives us an aspect of what is happening outside of our houses.”

Most medical shows seem to be coming up with different perspectives on how their plot progresses while remaining in continuity with the storylines before the pandemic. For instance, the popular series “Greys Anatomy” started their seventeenth season with “stories of loneliness, fear and bravery that their healthcare workers and patients are going through,” according to Hollywood Reporter. Also, viewers will see a lot of familiar characters return to screen as Meredith Grey fights for her life during COVID-19. 

Tran said, “Since ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is a TV show about doctors and what happens inside a hospital, I think they are doing a great job in depicting the costs of the pandemic. They did great in hitting the hard topics like overworking the team, missing loved ones, having to live away from family due to being a healthcare worker and the rules on restricting visitors.” 

However, the entertainment industry often fails to accurately portray realistic safety guidelines or  protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing. According to USA Today, “Would the doctors and nurses of Gaffney Chicago Medical Center, the setting for ‘Chicago Med’ really remove their masks when inside the hospital, as if their front-line co-workers were less likely to have the virus, and not among the most exposed members of the population?” 

In response to this, Fontanos said, “I understand that many shows are supposed to be visually appealing, so only wearing masks occasionally or taking masks off to talk to someone may seem necessary for directors to make sure their show still looks pleasing to the eyes.” 

We don’t know when the pandemic will end, and there is no easy way to predict how the latest TV series will continue. For now, we can assume the prevalence of day-to-day life during COVID-19 will be reflected in future storylines.

By: Taylor Nakaoka