When the coronavirus lockdown is over, can we keep Zoom cast reunions?
Commentary: Zoom cast reunions have been a joy to watch during the coronavirus lockdown. Let them long continue.
Jennifer BissetFormer Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
ExpertiseFilm and TVCredentials
Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
While most of this year's biggest
have been delayed by the coronavirus lockdown, Hollywood has been coming up with new ways to keep fans entertained.
cast reunions, table-reads, Q&A's and quarantine watch-parties have popped up on YouTube and Instagram over the past few months -- and they've been a total joy to watch.
We've seen the casts of The Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and even Tom Hanks' Splash reunite for chats. Often they start by looking back at the time spent on their respective show or movie. Things get loose; we see a side of performers we don't usually get access to.
Zoom cast chats are the best part of the extra content that's showing up online, and they need to stick around once lockdown restrictions lift.
Take the Q&A aspect. Instead of run-of-the-mill interviews, we get questions from the cast members themselves, people who are legitimately interested in the answers. The actors are more comfortable, literally in their own homes, sweatpants hidden offscreen. It's self-directed reflection on a show by the people who know it most intimately. It's awesome!
This is the way interviews about TV shows and movies need to be conducted from now on -- by the actors and creators themselves.
Community did it perfectly last month. The NBC sitcom, which ended in 2015 after six mostly superb seasons (season 4 is known as the gas leak season), brought together its main cast for a table-read and Q&A to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts.
Everyone, except for Chevy Chase (who left the show controversially in season 5, the final blow in a rocky relationship with showrunner Dan Harmon) set up their webcams, microphones and Zoom backgrounds. In revealing a small square of their respective homes to the internet, they attempted to re-create some of the magic of the beloved show.
Here's where things get deep.
The table-read, directed by Harmon and reenacted with unfaded comedic precision by the actors, eventually transformed into a platform for the actors to reflect on how special it was to work on Community. Glover shared a story about how cast mate Danny Pudi spent a day helping him move into his new apartment in downtown LA.
And Gillian Jacobs said this: "I've always been a loner. I'm an only child. I always just assume everybody hates me. And I think that this show and this cast gave the viewers what their vision of friendship could be. It gave me personally the real life feeling of feeling like part of a group in a way that I don't think I'd ever felt before."
Community had one of those lightning-in-a-bottle casts, from Glover, who also went on to write and star in Emmy-winning Atlanta, to Alison Brie, Joel McHale, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash. They're gifted people, with chemistry built over a years-long working relationship and friendship. Not all casts could entertain on that level while stuck on a glitchy, grainy platform in a Brady Bunch formation.
But there's something intimate about the actors logging on from their own devices to communicate with one another. Unlike the typical press junket set up to promote a new show or flick, the actors don't have to park it in a hotel room or lobby and sit for hours while a stream of strangers come in one-by-one to ask the same questions over and over again. Instead, the performers can wear PJs and drink wine.
The fun, intimacy and comfort that actors have in Zoom cast chats strips away the seriousness of press junket interviews. Junkets are monotonous, awkward, cringe-worthy and -- worse -- create a weird barrier between actors and audience.
Let the Zoom cast chats, directed by the actors and creators themselves, be an integral part of a show or movie's promotion and fan service from now on. When this is all said and done, and we return to whatever level of normality is possible, let's keep the Zoom cast chats going.
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