Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune ditch audiences due to coronavirus
"What is a pandemic, Alex?"
TV game show staples Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are ditching their studio audiences due to the novel coronavirus threat.
Starting Tuesday, the CBS Television Distribution programs will be performed to empty seats, sources confirm.
According to TMZ, which first reported the news, there were multiple reasons producers were concerned about the spread COVID-19 on the sets, from the fact the shows' audiences tend to be older (and therefore more vulnerable to the virus) and visit from a wide array of out-of-town locations, and also that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is currently fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer (and has a compromised immune system from his treatment).
Jeopardy has previously had limited audiences for high-profile tournament shows to protect the secrecy of the outcome, but it's not clear if either show has ever been shot without a live audience before.
The move comes as the entertainment industry wrestles with how best to handle the coronavirus outbreak, which includes several confirmed cases in California. Earlier Monday, the four major pro sports leagues currently in action (MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS) jointly announced they were closing locker rooms to the media over the coronavirus concerns, and the NBA has asked teams to prepare for the possibility of playing without fans in the future. In addition, at least one major film release, the James Bond title No Time to Die, has been pushed from April to November, and several major festivals have been canceled (such as Austin's South by Southwest film and music festival, which normally kicks off this week).
There's no indication how long the audience ban (or any of this) will last.