What To Gossip About In A Quarantine? Virus Changes TMZ

NEW YORK (AP) — Just like the rest of us, celebrities are largely confined to their homes to wait out the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike the rest of us, however, many of them still have that need for the spotlight. And for that, Harvey Levin is grateful.

The impresario of an online and television infotainment empire is navigating a stay-at-home world without bold-faced names on red carpets, coming out of airports (a regular source of TMZ ambushes), or getting into fights at nightclubs.

In the first few weeks, it wasn’t always easy — one story on the TMZ site was about lounging squirrels that had overtaken a park abandoned by foot traffic.

Yet it turns out the technical challenges that come with quarantine have occupied more of his time than filling space on his programs with things to talk about.

“There’s just so much content,” he said.

Those who’ve tuned in to TMZ the past week have seen video of Oprah Winfrey cooking salmon and pasta, sipping red wine and singing along to Harry Belafonte. Lizzo used cell phone video to highlight a favorite body part. Rapper Blueface hosted a social distancing party that was undermined when two drunk women traded punches.

“We miss you guys,” Donnie Wahlberg told Levin in a Skype interview. “We miss seeing you in that studio with all your crew and just being part of our everyday life … You guys are underappreciated.”

Levin produces three television shows regularly. “TMZ on TV” is essentially a comic pop culture half hour, available through syndication in virtually all of the nation’s TV homes. “TMZ Live” trends a little more serious, an hour-long newscast available in 80 percent of the nation’s homes, and “TMZ Sports” is on the Fox Sports 1 network.

It doesn’t take much to get the “TMZ on TV” tongues talking. Viral videos, like the newscaster whose at-home report accidentally showed her husband showering in the background, invites snark. Sofia Vergara sent in a picture of herself and a younger niece, both in bikinis facing away from the camera, to prompt a guessing game of who was who.

“TMZ Sports” isn’t harmed by the lack of games. More likely, it’s enhanced because the players have more spare time, Levin said. Tom Brady’s workouts in Tampa Bay have produced their share of stories.

Monday’s sports show featured stories about an NFL draftee with a controversial tattoo, and some amateur marriage counseling prompted by the breakup of Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari, among other topics.


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