By Christopher Lisotta and Jon Lafayette
Several television productions were forced to shut down as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and in the immediate aftermath of the disaster the industry was inspired to review how to most sensitively handle upcoming projects with hurricane-related themes.
CBS’s TV movie “Vampire Bats” had five days of production left in the Louisiana bayous when the hurricane hit, forcing crew members, including star Lucy Lawless, to flee.
King World’s syndicated “Wheel of Fortune,” which taped 10 episodes in New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, was scheduled to tape another five episodes Aug. 28, but hurricane warnings forced the show to scale back production. The shot episodes are scheduled to air during November sweeps.
ABC pulled promotions for its upcoming sci-fi drama series “Invasion,” which profiles the aftermath of a devastating Florida hurricane that serves as a cover for an alien invasion. For now, the network plans to go forward with the series’ Sept. 21 premiere.
“We are currently looking at all our programming and marketing efforts with this in mind,” ABC said in a statement. “Our changes and adjustments are ongoing.”
Fox announced it is canceling its Sept. 5 auditions in Memphis for “American Idol.” The auditions, which typically attract tens of thousands of “Idol” hopefuls, were to take place at Memphis’ FedExForum. Memphis is one of many cities taking in Katrina refugees.
“Out of respect for the city’s citizens, their public services and the need to focus public safety efforts on the victims, this decision was made,” Fox said in a statement.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has its National Show planned for New Orleans in May, is monitoring the situation, a spokesman said. The group is “doing approprate contingency planning,” the spokesman said, adding, “Our intention is to hold it there if we can.”
The cable industry is also considering events that can be held to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina during the upcoming Diversity Week in New York. “There’s discussion about a lot of ways the cable industry can respond, short and long term,” the NCTA spokesman said, adding that it’s premature to disclose some of the options that have been proposed.