Special Report

04.19.13

Networks Go Wall-to-Wall With Boston News Coverage

As the Boston manhunt continues, TV networks blanket their primetime lineups with news specials and pull violent episodes of Hannibal, Castle, and more.

With the nation and most of the world rapt on wall-to-wall coverage of the manhunt for the second--and only living--suspect of the Boston Marathon attack, a pursuit so wild and harrowing it’s as if it was concocted in Hollywood, networks are revising their primetime lineups on Friday night to air special news broadcasts focused on the Boston events.

ABC, NBC, and CBS will all replace their planned programming with specials aimed at providing the latest developments and human interest stories from Boston. Scott Pelley will anchor CBS News Special Report: Boston Bombings at 9 p.m., preempting a new episode of the drama Vegas, which will be moved to Saturday at 8 p.m. Elizabeth Vargas will anchor a special live edition of 20/20 from Boston at 10 p.m., while Nightline will also go live later in the evening, hosted by Juju Chang.

Rock Center with Brian Williams on NBC will devote its hour to the Boston events, with special reports from Harry Smith, Natalie Morales, and others. This replaces a planned segment from Ann Curry, who was originally scheduled to air her interview with Jackie and Warren Hance, the parents of the girl killed in the 2009 car crash on the Taconic Parkway, during the hour. The special will cap off a marathon day of newsreading for Williams, who signed on early Friday afternoon to relieve Savannah Guthrie, who had been covering the manhunt for seven straight hours for NBC. (For NBC news junkies wondering where in the world Matt Lauer was through it all, he was in Texas, covering the deadly factory explosion there.)

Williams and Guthrie aren’t the only anchors putting in long hours to cover the event. Stephanopolous signed on for Good Morning America at 4 a.m., and will join Sawyer for a special hour-long World News this evening. Sawyer herself has been reporting all afternoon as well. Pelley has also been manning CBS coverage for most of the day.

For its part, CNN is converting all of its Friday night programs to two-hour specials: double Anderson Cooper, double Erin Burnett, and double Piers Morgan, all live. Cooper is flying back from Texas to man the Boston coverage. Fox, which doesn’t have a news bureau, hasn’t announced plans to revise its schedule, though local affiliates have the option to cut in with their own local news coverage.

Friday’s primetime coverage isn’t the only programming being affected by the action in Boston. NBC decided to pull Episode 4 of Hannibal, which was supposed to air next Thursday, out of sensitivity to the tragic events. It was show creator Bryan Fuller himself who phoned execs and asked that the episode not air, as it features a storyline about children-on-children murder. Episode 5 of the Hannibal Lecter series will air in its place. And earlier this week, ABC pulled a new episode of crime drama Castle, as it focused on attempts to disarm a bomb that main character Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) steps on. That episode will air on April 29 instead. (Controversially, a repeat of Castle featuring another bomb storyline aired on TNT on Thursday night; the cable network apologized for airing the episode earlier today.)

Fox also decided earlier this week to pull a previously-aired episode of Family Guy from streaming sites on the Internet as it, eerily, featured references to bombs and a scene in which Boston Marathon runners are run over. The network also opted against airing a repeat of New Girl on Tuesday that found the roommates suspecting that a student of Jess’s (Zooey Deschanel) was plotting to murder her.

Does all this coverage sound like too much to handle? Perhaps. If that's the case, then follow Amy Poehler’s wise, incredibly poignant advice from the recently-released entry of her web series "Ask Amy. "

Video screenshot

“I wonder if we can give our eyes break,” Poehler says. “Be okay with letting some things rest in peace...I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but it’s been a weird week, hasn’t it?” Yes, it does. And yes, it has.