Much of late night is going dark.
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” are all suspending production next week, NBC and CBS said today, making them the biggest daily American television series to go off the air because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The earliest date that the three shows would return with new episodes is March 30, the networks said.
“Saturday Night Live,” which like “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” tapes at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, is on hiatus until March 28. Its immediate future could be in doubt as well.
Earlier today, NBCUniversal’s chief executive, Jeff Shell, “strongly” encouraged employees to start working from home.
The move to cancel new episodes was a reversal from Wednesday, when all the late-night shows that are based in New York — also including Trevor Noah’s on Comedy Central, Samantha Bee’s show on TBS and John Oliver’s on HBO — said they would broadcast without studio audiences.
The move to cancel next week’s scheduled episodes could raise pressure on other talk shows to follow suit. With more and more Americans being directed to stay home, television, particularly daily talk shows, could become a key source of entertainment and comfort during the pandemic. On the other hand, producers and executives need to balance that imperative with the well-being of their staffs.
“God forbid you stay on the air too long and someone in the building gets hurt by this,” Rob Burnett, an executive producer of David Letterman’s former late-night show, said in an interview today. “That transcends anything you might be doing on television. It’s a very challenging situation.”
“The Tonight Show” taped a new episode today, including Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mandy Moore as guests, without a studio audience. “Late Night” did not tape a new episode; a repeat was to be shown tonight.
Colbert’s show also prevented an audience from entering the Ed Sullivan Theater today.
The show explained that it was “in light of recent developments in NYC.” Earlier in the day, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that all gatherings with more than 500 people had to be canceled and that gatherings with 500 or fewer people had to be cut in half. The Ed Sullivan Theater seats roughly 370 people.
Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, was Colbert’s featured guest today.