NEW YORK – The couch is still in storage, but the morning team on “Fox & Friends” returned for the first time Monday to the midtown Manhattan studio vacated in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A few blocks west, there was a similar welcome for two-thirds of the “CBS This Morning” hosts, who had taken brief trips to Washington and a New York theater before settling in at home after being chased out on March 18.
“I can't even tell you how good I feel today,” said CBS' Gayle King, who made little secret of her distaste for working at home.
Monday represented a key phase in New York City's reopening, with many offices bringing employees back for the first time. Despite the CBS and Fox moves, most news employees continue to work remotely, and the television programs that originate here have a patchwork of approaches that have quickly become familiar.
For instance, ABC's “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir has remained in his upper West Side studio, since he has no guests to interact with on-set. NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt works from home, while “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O'Donnell works out of the network's Washington bureau.
Although journalists are exempt from stay-at-home orders, most networks have a skeleton crew of behind-the-scenes workers in the office.
CNN's evening lineup, including Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, do their shows from “flash studios” in New York's Hudson Yards office complex, where they are the only people in the room as they work. Chris Cuomo is similarly back after several weeks confined to his basement with COVID-19.
A majority of the show hosts on MSNBC — including Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist of “Morning Joe” — work remotely.
Fox News' prime-time anchors — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — work out of home studios. Martha MacCallum returned to Fox's offices last week, while daytime hosts Bill Hemmer and Ed Henry never left.
While Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends” were in the same studio Monday, they may as well have been in different zip codes: they were stationed behind different desks.
“To be in the building, you need to have a mask on,” Doocy said. “We're free not to wear it on the air because we're socially distant.”
Doocy last month said that he and his colleagues were not in the same room “because the government won't let us.” He later corrected himself to say Fox was simply following government protocols and guidelines.
Other morning shows have varied approaches. ABC's “Good Morning America” has been back in its Times Square studio, but without a live audience and without the immune-compromised Robin Roberts, who works out of her home. Hoda Kotb of NBC's “Today” show has worked out of that show's Rockefeller Center studio, but most of her colleagues are at home.
“CBS This Morning” isn't fully back. Although King and Anthony Mason sat at the same desk on Monday, colleague Tony Dokoupil remained in Brooklyn, where he shares a home studio with his wife, MSNBC's Katy Tur.
“We're all being extra, extra, extra safe,” King said. “But we are really thrilled to be here.”