Art imitating life. When the most popular first responder shows return in the fall (or for some, even later), things will look very different. Earlier this week, Grey’s Anatomy boss Krista Vernoff revealed that season 17 of the ABC drama is set to dive in head-first to the pandemic when it returns, and it’s not the only one.
New Amsterdam, NBC’s series based on New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, has “a responsibility to address the pandemic head-on,” executive producer and showrunner David Schulner told Us Weekly exclusively, as revealed on the latest episode of the “Watch With Us” podcast.
“The target of ‘how’ is constantly moving. New York City was once the epicenter of the outbreak and now it’s one of the few cities in the country headed in the right direction. What will it look like when we start shooting? What will it look like when we air? We don’t want to depict a reality that has already passed, nor do we want to predict a future that never comes,” Schulner said. “What we decided to do is to write now, even though now is already gone. As we get closer to shooting we’ll make adjustments to whatever the new now may be.”
While nothing is set in stone, many other issues will be addressed in the upcoming seasons of the medical series, including racial inequalities in health care, anti-vaccine movements, violence against health care workers and stigmatization of mental health disorders. “Because we have capitalized health care, because we have politicized health care, those issues will always be now,” he added.
Elsewhere at NBC, Chicago Med, Fire and P.D. are also tossing around different ideas about how to cover the pandemic. An insider confirms that the shows will “try to reflect the world as it will be when it airs,” which means working to incorporate how those in Chicago may be living “in the fall and winter of 2020.” Will they be wearing masks and social distancing? Will there be discussions of treatments and vaccines? Additionally, it’s likely that on Chicago Fire, fewer civilians will be allowed into the firehouse.
In April, Chicago Med showrunners Andy Schneider and Diane Frolov told Us that there will be a time jump when the series returns “to portray the new reality in hospitals and ERs, once we’re on the other side of the current situation.”
At Fox, The Resident plans to tackle the pandemic at the top of season 4.
“Our premiere deals with the early days of the outbreak, focusing on the effect on our hero doctors and nurses as they risk their lives daily. Long-term, sadly, the after-effects of COVID-19 will go on, even after we have a vaccine, and we’ll be there to show that as well,” cocreator Amy Holden Jones told Us exclusively. “The Resident didn’t need to bring in outside consultants to learn about the pandemic as we have a doctor and nurse on our writing staff who have lived it firsthand.”
Dr. Daniela Lamas wrote the premiere episode with M.D. Eric Lu, Jones told Us. Lamas works in an ICU in Boston. Additionally, the show has an on-set nurse who has been volunteering in New York City and Texas. “Their stories are moving, deep and tragic and continue to accumulate to this day. We hope soon to share all we have learned.”
As for 9-1-1, which has moved to midseason, plans are still up in the air. One source tells Us that there have been discussions about the show taking place in the middle of the pandemic, which means the cast would be wearing masks in scenes. That, of course, would help keep the entire cast safe. There has also been an idea thrown around about a time jump so that the show will take place in a post-COVID world. However, no final decision has been made just yet.
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