Catchphrase restarts filming after coronavirus lockdown

Catchphrase will be the first ITV entertainment show to restart filming after the coronavirus lockdown, the network has said, as television companies, which are struggling to make new programmes due to physical distancing regulations, turn to old favourites.

Despite the government imploring businesses to get back to work, British television and film companies are still struggling to figure out how to safely get back to work – risking the jobs of tens of thousands of workers, often freelancers, who are employed by the industry.

The BBC recently restarted filming new, shorter episodes of EastEnders after running out of new episodes of the soap opera for the first time since it came on to screens in 1986. Coronation Street, which is vital to the success of ITV, is also hoping to be back on screens in July after filming episodes with a reduced cast and keeping actors 2 metres apart while making them do their own hair and makeup.
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But other programmes such as the reality TV show Love Island, as well as dramas requiring close contact between actors and shows involving audiences, have been hit hard.

Even restarting filming on a gameshow such as Catchphrase, which involves little more than a few screens to show video clips and a handful of contestants, has proved to be a challenge. Producers at STV, who make the show, have had to undertake a complete reassessment of how the show is made before filming restarts next Monday.

There will be no audience and the set has been be changed to ensure contestants are physically distanced. There will also be changes to the galleries and makeup room, while participants will have to fill in online health declaration forms. The studios and filming areas will be cleaned every day and equipment will be assigned to individual crew members, while contributors and crew will all have their temperatures checked on a daily basis throughout the filming period.

Television viewing has boomed during lockdown, although much of the gain was in daytime hours rather than during the crucial peak-time audiences loved by advertisers. There is now the prospect of a perfect storm for traditional commercial television channels as the collapse of the advertising market reduces the funds available to make programmes, while a shortage of new shows means viewers may stay away.

Other programmes have struggled to get around the filming restrictions. Channel 4 commissioned Celebrity Snoop Dogs, in which they attempted to recreate the success of Through the Keyhole and sidestep physically distanced filming by strapping GoPro cameras to pets and sending the animals to do the filming in a mystery celebrity’s home. However, the Kevin McCloud-voiced programme has had lukewarm reviews, with some viewers feeling nauseous after watching the canine camerawork.

Steph McGovern managed to launch her own Channel 4 lunchtime talkshow from her kitchen during the lockdown, with crew positioned outside her house, although this has now been taken off air until she can get to a proper studio in Leeds later this year.

The shortage of shows has also led to a mini-boom in channels and streaming services buying up already produced shows that have been seeking a home. But there is an awareness in the industry of the gaps in the schedules that are ahead. When ITV’s director of television, Kevin Lygo, was asked what viewers would be watching on television in early 2021, he replied: “They will be watching a repeat of Midsomer Murders, I can tell you that now in great confidence.”

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