Game-show audiences: In studios earlier, but not now

TV Pipeline

Jimmy Kimmel

Q: I’m surprised to see that on the ABC summer game shows, audiences are still present, and even the players are in close proximity. Don’t they have to observe social distancing? — Shelley Wayne, Flagler Beach, Fla.

A: Though the episodes are airing now, they were taped some time ago, before the coronavirus pandemic made its way to America. In some cases, ABC had to work production around the host’s other commitments — as with Steve Harvey and “Celebrity Family Feud,” Elizabeth Banks and “Press Your Luck,” and Alec Baldwin and “Match Game.” In the case of the latest “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” fronted by Jimmy Kimmel, that was visibly done without a studio audience.

It doesn’t take all that long to knock out a whole season of such summer games. Banks told us that all of this year’s “Press Your Luck” was accomplished in about three weeks, while Adam Scott of the new “Don’t” said he and the crew were doing two of the weekly episodes each day. At the same time, games that weren’t able to start up before the pandemic are absent from the ABC lineup this summer, as with the Joel McHale-hosted revival of “Card Sharks” (which did get a Season 2 order).

Damian Lewis

Q: Since “Billions” has had its midseason finale, will it be back later this year? — George Wade, via e-mail

A: It’s a possibility, depending on when the Showtime drama can go back into production in the New York area. As with so many ongoing series, it had to close up shop when the coronavirus pandemic hit — and with the show doing 12 episodes per year, it had finished seven of those for Season 5 when the shutdown came. All of those have been shown.

Of course, when Showtime can offer the remaining five is reliant on when those can be filmed and made ready for telecast. Axe (played by Damian Lewis), Chuck (Paul Giamatti), Wendy (Maggie Siff) and Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) certainly have active stories going, so “Billions” fans undoubtedly will welcome their return whenever it can happen.

Q: I saw a marathon of “Love, American Style” on Decades recently. I know “Happy Days” was inspired by one of the episodes, but did any other series come out of that show? — Donna Crown, East Liverpool, Ohio

A: Interestingly, an animated sitcom was the other one. “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home” was a syndicated show produced by the legendary Hanna-Barbera company, and it got its start as a rare cartoon on “Love, American Style” titled “Love and the Old-Fashioned Father.”

What’s ironic about that is that the dad on that series was voiced by Tom Bosley — who, of course, was Howard “Mr. C.” Cunningham on “Happy Days” (though Harold Gould played the dad in the “Love, American Style” segment that show was based on). In a sense, then, the anthology brought Bosley two jobs.

A couple of later runs were made at reviving “Love, American Style,” one a short-lived daytime version in 1985 on the program’s original network, ABC. It also thought about bringing back the series at the end of the 1990s, but that never got past the pilot stage.

Q: With all the conversation about “Gone With the Wind” lately, wasn’t that the first movie ever shown on Turner Classic Movies? — Larry Kyle, via e-mail

A: It was. TCM founder Ted Turner often has said that the 1939 Oscar winner is his favorite film, plus it’s considered one of the crown jewels in the MGM library, which TCM’s schedule relies on greatly … so it made complete sense that it would be the inaugural attraction (introduced by Robert Osborne) when the channel launched in 1994.

Over the many times TCM has shown “Gone With the Wind” since, the given host has pointed out that the movie reflects the times on which Margaret Mitchell based the original novel. The lack of such a contextual introduction contributed to the film being pulled from HBO Max shortly after the streaming service premiered, but that is being addressed as the Civil War saga becomes available there again, with the addition of opening remarks by TCM “Silent Sunday Nights” host and film professor Jacqueline Stewart.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

jbobbin has 2448 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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