NBC Suspends Production on Fallon, Meyers Late-Night Shows

NBC said it would suspend production of its two flagship late-night programs for a period of at least two weeks, the latest bit of fallout around wee-hours TV related to the spread of coronavirus.

Starting Friday, “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” will suspend production through a previously planned hiatus, which had been scheduled for the week of March 23. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make decisions about future shows as we get closer to the start of production,” NBC said in a statement.

Both shows had planned to start broadcasting Monday without a live, in-studio audience, a nod to the new requirements of life under the spread of coronavirus. All of the nation’s late-night programs had made similar decisions, which means every national late-night program will proceed without one of the format’s bedrock elements – a live crowd that can react to all the jokes and sketches, and even influence the host’s actions and tone over the course of a segment or a night.

“Tonight” will tape an original episode for Thursday night without an audience, NBC said. Guests include Dr. Oz, Mandy Moore, and Dane DeHaan. “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will air an encore tonight, but post an original “Closer Look” segment – one of the show’s signature features – for digital consumption. The show had previously booked actors John Krasinski and Regina Hall as well as Bones UK for Thursday’s broadcast.

The lack of audience can change the shows’ energy. On Wednesday night, Samantha Bee held forth without a full audience on TBS’ “Full Frontal,” the first of the programs to broadcast without a studio crowd. With only a handful of her own staff in the studio, she seemed looser, laughing at different points in the show’s various segments – almost as if she was just trying out jokes on her friends. It made for a more relaxed presentation, one in which the show may not be everything, but at least it could go on.

“Saturday Night Live,” which depends on the reactions of its audience to help guide the program, is on hiatus until March 28. No decision about having a live studio audience has been announced.

More to come…