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The spread of the coronavirus has largely brought the entertainment industry to a standstill, with production on TV shows and movies coming to a stop. While this isn't as big of a deal for ongoing television series that have the option of simply pushing story arcs from the end of the 2019-2020 spring season to the 2020-2021 fall season, other series like Empire and Supernatural are facing some greater complications. Both are currently airing their final seasons, and production delays may mean the series finales could air a lot later than expected.
Empire on Fox and Supernatural on The CW are 1.5-2 episodes short of completion on their final seasons, according to Deadline, with their final run of episodes already airing. With no new season coming in the fall, these shows don't have the option of just adding their last couple episodes to the front of next season or scrapping the stories and starting fresh in the fall.
Scheduling for the two series suggests that both will run out of new episodes before production can begin again on their final seasons, assuming production can restart in the foreseeable future. While some shows, like Grey's Anatomy and The Blacklist, are reportedly hoping to finish their current season orders, others have given up on production in the 2019-2020 season.
So, if Empire and Supernatural don't have the options of pushing their finales to become fall premieres or just scrapping the storylines in the event of production remaining halted, what's going to happen? It seems likely that the final two episodes of Empire and Supernatural will have to air as special events, after their completed stock of episodes for the 2019-2020 TV season runs out but without coming back for another season.
Even if another season was feasible for the networks, some actors have already made decisions about the next stage of their careers, including Terrence Howard with his dramatic announcement and Jared Padalecki with his Walker, Texas Ranger reboot. Of course, shows returning with a finale special isn't unprecedented. CSI did it back in fall 2015, and I would say that Empire and Supernatural have pretty justified reasons for not releasing their series finales as originally scheduled.
Interestingly, other major shows ending in 2020 won't be affected like Empire and Supernatural likely will. Criminal Minds on CBS already wrapped earlier this year, and both Modern Family on ABC and Hawaii Five-0 on CBS had already finished production by the time networks started putting shows on hold due to the coronavirus. The CW's The 100 also wrapped, although its seventh and final season hasn't even premiered yet.
For now, TV fans should probably count on shortened and/or incomplete seasons of some of their favorite shows in the 2019-2020 TV seasons. While most series might not be as drastically impacted as Empire and Supernatural, there may be far fewer intense cliffhangers by the end of the spring season than usual, with seasons ending multiple episodes shy of their planned finales.
For now, however, many shows have a stock of completed episodes that can release before primetime begins running out of original content. If you're in the market for some streaming options, check out our 2020 Netflix premiere schedule.