EXCLUSIVE: After TV production went dark at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the lights are slowly being switched back on for studio shows in the UK, with the BBC and Channel 5 among those restarting entertainment shoots.
Deadline understands that the BBC’s Fulwell 73-produced Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer is among the first entertainment shows to return to the studio after the industry-wide shut down in March. Filming has taken place at London’s Riverside Studios ahead of the program’s premiere on BBC One this Saturday.
Channel 5’s The Gadget Show is also heading back to the studio on Tuesday after Season 31 was postponed on March 26. The ViacomCBS network’s show will return to television on June 12, with All3Media’s North One TV putting in place protocols to help make the set coronavirus-proof.
These first steps back into studio production will pave the way for other big shows to return later this year. Deadline hears that Have I Got News For You is planning for a late October return to its Riverside set after Hat Trick Productions gamely experimented with video technology housed in a CGI studio to keep the show on TV during the pandemic.
The Graham Norton Show is also planning to return to some sort of normality in the autumn, when So Television hopes to move the show back into its Television Centre home. Norton has remained on-air, with the Irish presenter interviewing guests remotely from home.
The producers are working with the BBC on their plans and safety protocols, and each show is being assessed on a case-by-case basis. One of the biggest question marks will be whether audiences will be allowed back into studios, while a lack of insurance is another issue for many producers.
Intense work is also underway on the UK’s most ambitious studio entertainment shows. Syco and Fremantle still hope to stage the Britain’s Got Talent finals for ITV in the autumn, while ITV will also be hopeful it can return to The Voice, which was halted mid-season, but has resumed production in other territories, including Australia.
The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing is another show targeting autumn. Deadline understands producers have considered quarantining cast and crew on the show so they can work in a bubble, while other ideas that have been floated in various press reports include theatrical masks for performers and sitting audience members around tables to help with social distancing.
These are not concerns for The Gadget Show, which will be filmed at a remote studio in Hartlebury, on the outskirts of Birmingham, without an audience. North One has put in place protocols to ensure that the presenters and crew do not use public transport to reach the DRP studio, while social distancing will be strictly enforced on-set.
The studio will be built and rigged the day before each shoot, while two cameras and one sound recordist will be stationed on the studio floor. There will be no gallery operation — instead, directors and producers will watch on from isolated areas of the studio, and editing and voiceover work will be completed remotely.
Other protocols include the studio having a strict one-way system for movement, and presenters having to apply their own makeup. The safety regime was drawn up using the UK broadcaster and producer coronavirus guidelines published last month.