It does not seem all that long ago that TV content and commercials flipped a switch and went into COVID-19 overdrive seemingly overnight.
But today, all of those commercials made up of home video clips made by ordinary folks quarantining at home, and the TV shows that took up similar pandemic-related themes are either completely gone or exceedingly rare.
One of the latter was the sitcom called “connecting …” (spelled with a lower-case “c”) which came and went last fall on NBC.
The show (pictured above) centered completely on a Zoom-like get-together of friends who felt isolated and sought to reconnect on a virtual videoconference (the brand-name Zoom was never used).
Give the makers of this show some credit for coming up with it in the first place. But not surprisingly, it was all talk and no action, just like real Zoom meetings.
The first TV Blog referring to the onset of the crisis that contained either the word “COVID” or “pandemic” appeared here on March 6, 2020, in a column about some of the news stories that week.
They included Chris Matthews’ abrupt resignation from MSNBC following allegations that he made lecherous comments to female co-workers and that week’s Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primary.
A distant third on the list: A pandemic that “appeared to be accelerating.”
Searching through the “pandemic” columns, I came across one published three months before the pandemic upended our lives.
This column from January 2020 reported on a new drama series premiering then on Fox called “The Passage” that turned out to be prescient (and also short-lived).
One of the show’s storylines had to do with “the spread of a lethal disease that so far has broken out only in China.” Coincidence? Probably.
But after mid-March, the TV Blog began its deep dive into all things COVID and their impact on television. As of this past September, 86 TV Blogs published since then contained either the word “COVID” or “pandemic” or both.
Among the recurring topics was TV’s reliance on video that in almost any another era would have been deemed unfit for broadcast.
This category comprised several forms of this kind of video that became commonplace during the pandemic.
These included the aforementioned home-made video clips shared on social media by ordinary people who were cavorting in their homes and backyards in an effort to fend off quarantine boredom; the shows that began to originate from the homes of their hosts, most notably the late-night shows; and the reliance on Skype, Zoom and other forms of virtual one-on-one communications for TV news interviews and cable news talk show appearances.
Concerning the latter category, this means of conducting interviews for TV news stories with commentators and experts appears to be here to stay even if the video quality of this kind of imagery is so substandard that it can actually repel viewership.
But for TV news, remote interviews like these mean that news crews need not be dispatched to interview these people with broadcast-quality cameras and other equipment, thus giving TV news departments another way to cut corners and save money. Always the dollars, right?
Columns on the shift of the late-night shows to the homes of Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel pointed out that the shows, at least at first, came across as slapdash and below par.
One TV Blog had a photo of Colbert doing a show from a bubble bath. On NBC, Fallon hosted “The Tonight Show” from a “desk” that had been built by his young daughters -- like Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help” stand in an old “Peanuts” cartoon.
The eventual return of the late-night shows to the well-equipped studios and theaters where they belonged was a welcome occurrence.
As for the motherlode of commercials that relied on all of that home-video footage in 2020, those are practically all gone now. In fact, when I happened to actually see one on TV recently, I asked myself: Are we really still doing this?
Hopefully the answer will soon be no.