EXCLUSIVE: British networks ITV and Channel 4 are trying to battle through the near-blanket television production shutdown in the UK to make documentaries on how people are coping with the coronavirus.
In one of the bleakest weeks in history for the British television industry, program makers are still trying to find ways to tell human stories about a virus that is creating unprecedented chaos globally.
MasterChef producer Shine TV is working on an ITV film about COVID-19 in the hope of documenting “changing lives in these unprecedented times.” The Shine documentary has the working title Coronavirus, Isolation & Me and was commissioned by Tom Giles, ITV’s controller of current affairs.
Over at Channel 4, filming is taking place on the fast-turnaround documentary Coronavirus: How to Isolate Yourself, produced by Channel 4-backed production company Parable. Parable is chaired by Undercover Boss creator Stephen Lambert.
Scheduled to air on Sunday, it will feature BAFTA-winning presenter Dr Xand van Tulleken and psychologist Kimberley Wilson providing a no-nonsense guide on how to survive weeks of self-isolation. van Tulleken has been attempting to find participants for the film through Twitter, promising that he and the crew will not enter people’s homes.
“Channel 4 has such an important role to play in these scary times to help people understand the whirlwind of information they’re caught up in,” said Siobhan Sinnerton, Channel 4’s commissioning editor for news and current affairs.
Deadline has reported extensively on production grinding to halt in the UK, with shutdowns sweeping through the industry like wildfire in the past four days. Most major drama production has been suspended, including shows like Peaky Blinders, Britannia and soaps, such as EastEnders. But there is life in other genres, with the BBC and ITV persevering with entertainment shows like Have I Got News For You and Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway — albeit without studio audiences.