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Select Daytime Talk Shows And Game Shows Allow Audiences to Slowly Return

As the delta variant surges worldwide and COVID-19 positives are up and down, daytime shows haven't opened the floodgates to let audiences back in all at once. Broadcasting + Cable has the scoop on how and why some audiences are rejoining the shows they love.

New York City permitted audiences to return as of June 1, but at that point, most talk shows weren't in production. Los Angeles' fluctuating COVID numbers have meant that the city is being extra-careful. One talk show that has allowed small groups of fans back in the studio is The Wendy Williams Show

Lonnie Burstein, executive VP, programming and production, Debmar-Mercury, stated:

Wendy [Williams] has very devoted fans, which speaks to her popularity in New York. We didn’t anticipate problems and so far we haven’t had any.

The Debmary-Mercury program began by seating one-third of its audience capacity (about 40 fans); as of July 1, the show had increased that to about 75% capacity (about 90 fans) and hopes to increase that to full capacity, public-health and union guidelines permitting, before production wraps this month. Fans must show proof of vaccination and their IDs on arrival; host, staffers, and crew have all gotten their jabs, testing is available, and most wear masks, per union guidelines.

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Burstein added:

I’m very proud of Wendy’s below-the-line staff, they did a tremendous job. We didn’t have to shut down one day.

Debmar-Mercury will launch Nick Cannon and the You Bet Your Life reboot this fall. The company plans to film Nick Cannon's self-titled talk  show in front of a full, in-person audience, as long as that's fine by union and public-health standards, in New York City. L.A-based You Bet Your Life will have a smaller audience of about 60 fans.

Some game shows have alternate plans. Game show 25 Words or Less won't welcome viewers into the studio, according to Stephen Brown, executive VP, programming and development, Fox Television Stations. Pictionary's test run premiered July 12; the program followed pandemic filming guidelines for crew and talent alike, although it lacks an audience. All of its 20 episodes were taped in one week in June.

What about other talk shows usually filmed in front of live audiences? On July 1, the unions in charge of production had planned to issue revised guidelines for pandemic production, but these were delayed as talks continue; these discussions were expected to resume as of July 6.