Impact of COVID-19

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*[[Crackerjack]] was made in an effervescence of bubbles. Sam and Mark were in one bubble, the ''Crackerjack'' players in another; "Prize Guy" wasn't able to cross between the two bubbles. All of the young players had to keep their distance from each other and from the hosts. The only person allowed to get close to the children was The Terrifying Cabbage Monster, a head-to-toe costume concealing protective equipment. There was no audience shouting "Crackerjack!" at the top of their voices, so do fill in for them at home.
*[[Crackerjack]] was made in an effervescence of bubbles. Sam and Mark were in one bubble, the ''Crackerjack'' players in another; "Prize Guy" wasn't able to cross between the two bubbles. All of the young players had to keep their distance from each other and from the hosts. The only person allowed to get close to the children was The Terrifying Cabbage Monster, a head-to-toe costume concealing protective equipment. There was no audience shouting "Crackerjack!" at the top of their voices, so do fill in for them at home.
*Georgie Mills, the winner of 2020's [[Got What It Takes?]], was unable to take her prize to perform on the main stage of this year's ''Radio 1 Big Weekend'', as the event in Dundee had been cancelled. 2021's contest followed social distancing rules.
*Georgie Mills, the winner of 2020's [[Got What It Takes?]], was unable to take her prize to perform on the main stage of this year's ''Radio 1 Big Weekend'', as the event in Dundee had been cancelled. 2021's contest followed social distancing rules.
*[[RuPaul's Drag Race]] was mid-series when filming was suspended. Episode 4 ended on a cliffhanger: the "next time" trailer for Episode 5 showed the moment that filming was suspended, with a hastily-made announcement video from RuPaul. We do know that the judges will be separated by perspex, and that it took until November for filming to resume.
*[[RuPaul's Drag Race]] was mid-series when filming was suspended. Episode 4 ended on a cliffhanger: the "next time" trailer for Episode 5 showed the moment that filming was suspended, with a hastily-made announcement video from RuPaul, and ''Queens on Lockdown'' showed what the queens were up to during the hiatus. We do know that the judges will be separated by perspex, and that it took until November for filming to resume.
*BBC4's [[Young Musician of the Year]] had recorded its category finals and semi-final before things went awry. The category finals were shown during May; the semi-final was postponed until the final can be shot.
*BBC4's [[Young Musician of the Year]] had recorded its category finals and semi-final before things went awry. The category finals were shown during May; the semi-final was postponed until the final can be shot.

Revision as of 19:27, 11 February 2021

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 inevitably had an impact on the game show world. Series were curtailed, shows were delayed or axed, formats changed. This is a dynamic list; if you think we've missed anything, feel free to use the feedback form below.





  • The Apprentice did not air in 2020, as filming was postponed, and the makers would not have enough time to produce the series quickly enough. The series was replaced by compilation episodes.
  • Bank Balance filmed in December 2020, with episodes screened in front of a virtual audience in February 2021, with weeks to spare until broadcast. Likely due to a dearth of content, it also got stripped at 9pm, three days a week - we cannot remember the BBC ever doing this with A Proper Quiz Show. We suspect it was intended for air later in the day, because at least once they had to bleep Gordon Ramsay's swearing in the pre-title spoiler packages but not when the moment aired in the main episodes due to a nonsense section of the OFCOM broadcasting code (1.6) which demanded that the "transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed".
  • Celebrity Best Home Cook kept everybody two metres apart except for Ruth Madeley and her helper, who had bubbled up. Judges were seated on separate tables each with their own plates of food. Bizarrely, Mary Berry was kept an entire floor away from everyone, looking down from a balcony while everyone else got to mill around - surely everybody got tested before filming began, and this approach was surely the producers trying to have their cake and eat it.
  • Blankety Blank's festive special was shot using a virtual audience, and its panellists were sat two metres away from each other.
  • Series three of Catchpoint, a celebrity series, sported four really awkwardly spaced podiums for contestants to stand behind. When contestants were 'in play' they were spaced out two metres away from Paddy. We have no idea if this will affect regular editions, as producers often insist on civilians being bubbled up, although Joel Dommett and Hannah Cooper still suffered said indignity despite living together.
  • By far the biggest felling is Eurovision; neither its song contest nor its young musicians competition took place in 2020. While the EBU considered many options – a series behind closed doors, remote videos from each broadcaster's studio – none of them would deliver the experience. The 41 songs that had been selected for the contest were featured in a non-competitive programme, "Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light", which went out in the same time slot. Graham Norton presented a program called "Eurovision: Come Together" in which viewers voted for their favourite Eurovision song. (SPOILER: It's "Waterloo". Oh.) We also heard that the 2021 contest will relax the "no prerecorded backing vocals" rule.
  • The fifty-ninth series of Have I Got News for You was produced in spring 2020, but within its participants' homes, described by its executive producer Richard Wilson as an 'elaborate video conference'. However, the absence of an audience did really hurt, as it meant the show was missing a necessary layer of quality control. The autumn's sixtieth series was recorded in a studio, with half the audience watching in a cinema downstairs, with the exception of three episodes filmed in November, which used a virtual audience; panellists were separated by perspex screens.
  • Series three of The Hit List was shot without a studio audience. In fact, they actually shot twelve episodes, double the length of the previous series, so that they had extra content in case of another lockdown. These episodes also included an extended opening round to compensate for the loss of the extended introduction.
  • If the end of 2020's Celebrity Masterchef felt rushed, that's because it was - the show merged its semi-final and final weeks so they could complete filming before lockdown was declared. In addition, Gethin Jones left the show after showing symptoms of COVID and wisely so; fellow semi-finalist Amar Latif had to spend a week in hospital with the virus in April 2020.
    • Meanwhile, with BBC One's stock of big new shows getting depleted, Masterchef: The Professionals was parachuted into a slot on the flagship channel for the first time. Four contestants appeared in each heat instead of the usual six (with the exception of one week, which had to expunge one of its contestants), and in the opening Skills Test round, only Gregg and the chef who set the test remained in the room, the other chef watching via video link. Other necessary changes were that two Michelin-starred chefs came to the studio to firstly give the contestants masterclasses in their cuisine and then to sample the contestants' efforts, and the Chefs' Table challenge was also confined to the studio. For the eliminations at the end, the contestants were rather awkwardly distanced - an obvious solution would have been to just have them stand behind their benches but they didn't do that. In addition, quarterfinalists took it in turns to select ingredients.
  • Pooch Perfect had a number of changes: originally commissioned for pairs of dog groomers, they chose to reduce it to single players. As a bubble was impossible (the dogs change each episode, and bring in their owners), a heats-and-finals format replaced the planned one-out-every-week structure. The show also had to cope with restrictions in the Salford and Trafford area where they recorded.
  • A Question of Sport recorded eight episodes just before lockdown. The show moved to Radio 5 for a short series made from the contestants' homes, presented by Mark Chapman and broadcast live. Chapman was replaced by Steve Crossman for the final three episodes, for personal reasons. When the television programme resumed production Barker remained the host for the remaining twenty-eight episodes. Social distancing affected the rest of the series (and indeed, Sue, Matt and Phil's final episodes); no audience was present, and teams were encouraged to discuss out loud rather than quietly, which meant removing the bonus point. In addition, one edition was screened less than three days after filming.
  • Filming of Little Mix's The Search, which would have begun in April and originally aimed to find a supporting slot on their 2020 summer tour, was off, as Little Mix's summer tour did not go ahead; the series eventually began in September, and the winner will support Little Mix on their next tour, if they have another one. Backing dancers wore masks and social distanced from each other, as did Chris Ramsey from contestants and - bizarrely - Little Mix appeared to social distance from each other. The live finals lost two episodes; the episode scheduled for 17 October was lost after a crew member tested positive for the virus and was replaced by extending the billed Garden Rescue repeat and adding in a Celebrity Mastermind repeat, and the episode scheduled for 31 October was rescheduled for 6 November (the day before the final) to accommodate Yet More Waffle. To make matters worse, Jade Thirlwall had to have the episode aired on 24 October off after suffering symptoms.
  • Strictly Come Dancing missed its usual September start, instead we had specials celebrating the best of their movies, Blackpool, musicals and final episodes - all recorded from the homes of the presenters and judges. The series began three weeks late, in mid-October. Two of the weeks 'missing' are the Blackpool and Halloween weeks - the former for Covid reasons, the latter due to the shorter series.
    • All of the professionals' group dances for the series were pre-recorded before the series started - the professionals had bubbled up with each other for two weeks beforehand. Contestants who test positive would have to leave the competition as the BBC would require them to self-isolate for two weeks, which is longer than the Westminster government's requirement of ten days' isolation (as endured by contestant HRVY when he tested positive before the series started). Nicola Adams had to leave the series this way after her dance partner Katya Jones tested positive.
    • The edition on 31 October lost its prerecorded group dance as it had to be shortened - a news special beforehand and live Six Nations rugby afterwards left no room. November editions lost their audience.
    • We didn't get a new Christmas contest, as the participants would need to quarantine for two weeks beforehand and it would be unworth it for a single episode. The edition which aired on Christmas Day was a compilation of the twenty-five most memorable dances of all time. Arguably, we were lucky to get any Strictly at all, since the RTÉ version, having ended a week earlier due to the lockdown, didn't mount its scheduled January 2021 series.
    • The Bruno Tonioli fan club was disappointed, as he lives in Hollywood, and would usually make lots of transatlantic flights during the series to accommodate his concurrent judgement of the BBC and Yankee versions and has picked the Yanks over us. He wasn't replaced, and bizarrely so, since Len Goodman won't be participating in the Yankee version - why not use him? Although Bruno could theoretically have joined in the 12 and 19 December editions it was decided that this would not constitute essential travel. The Anton Du Beke fanclub, on the other hand, were in for a treat, as he stepped in for Motsi Mabuse for the 14 and 21 November editions, as she had commuted to Germany in the middle of the series after her dance school was broken into and had to self-isolate; she also contributed via video link.
  • Take Off was commissioned for a series shortly before lockdown. Although it is currently unknown whether or not this will be produced, we do know it'll be a long while off.
  • Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness recorded their narration of Total Wipeout: Freddie and Paddy Takeover in separate recording booths, and could see each other only via laptops.
  • While it had been suspected that the BBC would move production of The Wall from Poland, the pandemic forced the matter, plus at least one series was shot without an audience. And with social distancing in place; contestants keep two metres away from Danny at all times, while supporters kept two metres away from each other.

The Wall We ain't had a massive row...

  • Michael McIntyre couldn't present his usual Big Show, so they got him hosting The Wheel instead. Its audience were in masks behind a wall.
  • Would I Lie to You? recorded a series with a reduced audience. Brilliantly, they picked an episode of this to repeat after an unexpected statement from the prime minister deposed the scheduled episode of The Sheriffs Are Coming. But no-one watched it, because everyone had re-tuned to watch Bake Off's launch episode.


  • An episode of Dragons' Den scheduled to air on 29 March was delayed for two weeks and edited to remove a pitch for a virus-killing air purification unit. The Radio Times preview for the episode put particular emphasis on how the dragons could not have known how big an issue this was about to become when they filmed the show last year, implying it did not receive an investment.
  • Great British Christmas Menu was prefixed with a notice saying "This series was made in accordance with coronavirus regulations current at the time of filming including testing". Contestants competed in a "COVID-safe bubble", porters wore masks and the banquet was held in honour of keyworkers as a thank you for their service during the pandemic.
  • The second series of I'll Get This premiered in its extended version, rather than the familiar half-hour edition. The extra 15 minutes pushed Newsnight back to 10.45pm, allowing it to move into the same studio as the main evening news over on BBC1.

Mastermind Stark.

  • Series 47 of Mastermind forwent an audience, and its contestants were spaced two metres apart. The second and third contenders were seated behind the first and fourth contenders in a U-shaped arrangement, an idea taken from The Chase Australia. In addition, award presentations were done away with, although Scottish viewers wouldn't discover this until two days and nearly three hours later due to a Holyrood announcement.
    • Mastermind Cymru came back on S4C after a decade-long break: the small studio meant they put plastic screens between players.
  • Mock the Week took an extended siesta as it was much more dependent on audience reaction. After it became apparent that restrictions would last until at least March, a series was mounted initially using a small, socially distanced audience supplemented by Zoom, and with its fourth, fifth and sixth editions using only a virtual audience. Panellists were "encased in perspex cubes", and socially distanced during the "Scenes We'd Like to See" round. Its 'halves' wrapped around Christmas instead of the Edinburgh Festival, which did not run that year. We had hoped it would use its extended siesta to review its booking policy.
    • Angela Barnes had to pull out of the penultimate 2020 edition after developing a high temperature; she was replaced by the show's warm-up, Maff Brown. This is at least the second occasion a panellist was replaced due to illness; Frankie Boyle had to be replaced by David Mitchell in the penultimate 2009 edition due to illness.
  • Only Connect managed to avoid undue delays, but the set did incorporate screens between the contestants, everyone had their own buzzer, and only the team captains got to use the touch-screen for the connecting wall.

Only Connect (2) Screens split the players: spot reflections and the edges.

  • The R-series of QI took a break in the middle after episodes ran out; the final six episodes aired four months later. Two episodes had to be shot without audiences, and the final five editions of that series employed social distancing; the first episode filmed after lockdown was filmed in front of 40 people, who wore masks.
  • The production of a celebrity series of Race Across the World had to be postponed as a result of the outbreak; its second civilian series, which had already finished production, aired in March and April. We suspect that this, like Take Off, could be in for a long rest.
  • From the highest scoring losers matches, University Challenge contestants sat with clear screens between them, and wearing earpieces so they could hear each other. They also relaxed the rule that says you can't play if you've finished your degree during the course of the competition.


On 12 March 2020, the Westminster government made an unexpected announcement and abandoned its "containment" policy. From 16 March until 23 June, and occasionally since, BBC One daytime was choked with Westminster government briefings, which meant that shows aired in unusual timeslots.

  • From 27 March to 16 July, Welsh viewers were able to watch Bargain Hunt half an hour earlier than in the rest of the country at 11.45, as the Senedd produced its own daily update at 12.30. This arrangement was due to end on 17 July, but an announcement from Westminster took precedence, and that day's Bargain Hunt didn't go out in Wales.
  • Episodes 1-12 and 19-20 of series 1 of The Bidding Room aired at 3.45. On days when there was no Coronavirus Update, the show bunched up to 4.30. When episode 25 of that series was preempted as a result of an Update, BBC1 aired it on Sunday, at 3:50. However, after episodes 27 and 29 were both bumped, it was decided to air them on Tuesday and Wednesday the following week; that Monday's episode was a repeat of episode 25.
    • When episodes 2 (5 January 21), 4 (7 Jan 21), 6 (11 Jan 21), 10-11 (15 and 18 Jan 21), 14-17 (22 and 25-27 Jan 21), 20 (1 February 21) and 22 (3 Feb 21) of series 2 were bumped… no weekend slots were allocated, so between 8 and 19 February 2021, second attempts were made to broadcast previously bumped episodes in the following order: episodes 2, 6, 11, 14, 4, 25, 16, 17, 15 and 10. However, when they tried to repeat episode 2 on 8 February 2021 and episode 11 on 10 February 2021, they again got bumped, so they tried again on 22 and 23 February. Episodes 22 and 11 are planned for 24 and 25 February. All of this begs the question: if they could delay episodes by a day for NBC's The Apprentice: You're Fired on 20 January 2021, why couldn't they delay any of the others?
    • Outside of BBC Wales, which never intended to carry it, the first episode of the first compilation series, originally planned to air the same day as series 2, episode 3, aired on the second channel to make room for a Question Time special to discuss the previous day's update.
  • Eggheads was originally set to air its final episodes at 6pm from 13 April. This date was pushed back and pushed back, the schedulers preferred to air repeats just in case productions never resumed. The final Eggheads were eventually transmitted from 25 May.
  • A repeat run of Head Hunters was disrupted by BBC Two carrying Lockdown Learning during the third lockdown, which meant those who had missed the series on first broadcast missed out.
  • Episode four of the second series of Home Is Where the Art Is didn't air, as that day's "The Repair Shop: Fixing Britain" had been shoved back by 45 minutes to make room for an Update; it was appended to the end of the run, airing a weekend after the rest of the series.
  • Transmission of series seven of !mpossible was delayed by fourteen weeks, for the same reason they delayed Eggheads; the first twenty five episodes of series three were repeated in its place and ironically so, given that that series was originally split in two (20 episodes, followed by a week of repeats, and with the final 10 episodes backing on to series four). The first two weeks of series seven aired at 1.45, rather than 2.15, to accommodate the absence of Doctors. In addition, episode 13 premiered on the second channel due to an impromptu Update.
    • Although the first-run airings of series two of The Customer Is Always Right aired in a consistent slot (3.45) and so did the first ten of its shortened repeats (2.30), premieres of the shortened repeats of its last five episodes aired weekly, at 1.45 on Fridays, to accommodate the fact that Doctors was only airing four days a week, and we cannot remember the last time episodes of anything aired weekly in BBC Daytime.
  • Lightning spaced its contestants two metres apart, in a semi-circle, and shot without an audience - not that one would want to be there with the constant threat of being hit. (The show had been commissioned in February 2020 but shot in August 2020.) Contestants also social distanced during the physical round. It begs the question: how difficult would a series of Fifteen-to-One be to mount?
  • With BBC1's afternoons given over to news coverage, Pointless temporarily moved to BBC2, retaining its regular 5.15pm slot with only the repeat on 12 March pushed back to 5.45pm. From 30 March 2020, and for the first time since 2011, new episodes of Pointless premiered on BBC2. Only three weeks of new editions appeared before going back to repeats; there were plenty of unaired shows on the shelf but presumably it was felt a waste to debut them on the second channel. Viewing figures were less than half those achieved on BBC1. Those who wished to record them were stymied by the fact that episodes were still officially scheduled on BBC1 and moved on an ad-hoc basis each afternoon, and automatic recordings on PVRs failed.
    • Pointless returned to BBC1 on 24 June, after the Westminster press conferences ended. New episodes resumed on 26 June. (The new episode aired in Wales at 5.45 on Sunday because they'd aired a sports repeat on BBC2 on Tuesday.) Episodes on 2, 3 and 9 July, 30 September and 20 October 2020, 5, 7, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 26 and 27 January and 1, 3, 8 and 10 February 2021 premiered on the second channel due to unexpected resumptions of waffle from Westminster. All of this raises the question - why not schedule two different episodes for the two channels, so that when episodes air on BBC One, they're new and when they don't, they aren't?
    • Social distancing affected series 14 of Pointless Celebrities, starting with the 2020 Christmas special; celebrities stood either side of perspex. This may not be necessary on civilian Pointless; many shows insist on couples being in bubbles. The "audience" was also obviously canned. And an odd quirk... although players did not need to change places at the beginning of the second pass, some form of punctuation was apparently deemed necessary, so the musical sting and lighting cue at that point appeared in an abbreviated form.
    • Pointless moving to 5.45pm on 12 March meant that the penultimate episode of the third series of Richard Osman's House of Games was displaced to 6.30pm. Guests on the latter were spaced two metres apart, and answers for some games were sent to the contestants' tablets rather than passed out on little cards. The trophy was also not passed down the line to the winner. Oddly enough the show did retain the swapping of positions for pairs rounds (although you could argue that none of the games really required it) but cunningly cut away at that point so that we didn't see the production staff in masks and gloves physically move the chairs, allowing everyone to stay in the same literal seat throughout. Filming of new episodes had to pause; they had made one out of twenty weeks before lockdown. When production resumed, it moved from BBC Scotland Street to Riverside Studios.
  • The revival of Ready Steady Cook, broadcast between 2 and 27 March, was by far the worst affected; the first eleven daily briefings had varying start times, and as a result the show was shuffled about the schedules. Episodes 1-8 and 10 went out at 4.30pm, episode 9 (broadcast on 12 March) went out at 4.40pm on BBC2, episodes 11, 13 and 14 aired at 3.45pm, episode 19 aired at 3.30pm and episodes 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20 aired at 3pm.

Ready Steady Cook 2020 series transmission times The 2020 series changed transmission times as often as Akis Petretzikis changed kitchens.

  • Strictly: It Takes Two, which Zoe Ball and Rylan Clark usually each host solo two days a week and cohost once a week, was instead hosted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by Ball and Thursday and Friday to accommodate social distancing. That's with the exception of 12, 13, 19 and 20 November, due to Rylan needing to self-isolate; Gethin Jones covered for him.


  • Yung Filly first presented BBC3's Lockdown Showdown from his flat, which later morphed into Celeb Lock-In which he presented from a studio. All other contributors participated from home.
  • Crackerjack was made in an effervescence of bubbles. Sam and Mark were in one bubble, the Crackerjack players in another; "Prize Guy" wasn't able to cross between the two bubbles. All of the young players had to keep their distance from each other and from the hosts. The only person allowed to get close to the children was The Terrifying Cabbage Monster, a head-to-toe costume concealing protective equipment. There was no audience shouting "Crackerjack!" at the top of their voices, so do fill in for them at home.
  • Georgie Mills, the winner of 2020's Got What It Takes?, was unable to take her prize to perform on the main stage of this year's Radio 1 Big Weekend, as the event in Dundee had been cancelled. 2021's contest followed social distancing rules.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race was mid-series when filming was suspended. Episode 4 ended on a cliffhanger: the "next time" trailer for Episode 5 showed the moment that filming was suspended, with a hastily-made announcement video from RuPaul, and Queens on Lockdown showed what the queens were up to during the hiatus. We do know that the judges will be separated by perspex, and that it took until November for filming to resume.
  • BBC4's Young Musician of the Year had recorded its category finals and semi-final before things went awry. The category finals were shown during May; the semi-final was postponed until the final can be shot.

Commercial channels

Commercial channels are at the mercy of the advertising industry, which completely collapsed in the few weeks leading up to the lockdown; advertisers are reluctant to plough money into promoting goods you can't buy and services that are suspended.



It was announced that ITV would be reducing their programme budget by £100 million, which "reflect[ed] savings from sport, including the postponement of Euro 2020, the late delivery of commissioned programming and active decisions to reduce [thei]r spend".

  • Lee Mack's The 1% Club was delayed twice, having been planned for April 2020, and having had its planned January 2021 recording sessions pulled.
  • A celebrity series of Britain's Brightest Family was pulled forward in the schedules, filling the gap left by Euro 2020. Originally made to air in July and August, Anne Hegerty's show began its run at the end of May.
  • Britain's Got Talent - ITV made the decision to go ahead with airing its series 14 auditions as planned, despite knowing they would almost certainly have not been able to finish the series as a result of the pandemic. It's not for us to tell ITV how to run their business but really… would it not have been better to wait until the rest of the series can be filmed before airing the series in one block? Granted, the BBC were unsuccessful when it came to The Search but they at least tried.
    • The finals went out in September and October, with a catch-up episode airing on 30 August, and without Simon Cowell - he'd broken his back before the finals and had to be replaced by Ashley Banjo. The format of the semi-finals changed to the judges picking an act from each semi-final to send through, and then asking the public to put through another act from the semifinal - these semi-final shows were prerecorded. In addition, filming of the Christmas special was paused after at least three crew members tested positive.
    • Filming of series 15 was delayed from January 2021, first until April 2021, and then again after it was decided not to air a series in 2021 - it was thought too risky to have large groups traipsing the length of the island just to make television. If we interpret the press release correctly, Britain's Got Talent is not prepared to sacrifice scale or its participants' health.
  • A series of Catchphrase was recorded without a studio audience, and bizarrely so, given that - at the time of lockdown - they had an entire celebrity series in the can, so they definitely could've waited.
  • Participants on The Big Quiz were spaced two metres apart and bizarrely so, since the cast are in bubbles anyway.
  • The Cube's revival forwent an audience; supporters not in a bubble socially distanced.
  • At least the 2021 series of Dancing on Ice will be filmed without an audience. Like on Strictly Come Dancing, couples formed cohorts; unlike Strictly, the judges sat with perspex between them - even Torvill and Dean, who are surely in a bubble. Group dances were prerecorded, and Karen Barber wore a mask while coaching. Bizarrely, Phil and Holly stood two metres apart despite the fact that they work together every blinking day on This Morning. Rufus Hound had to be replaced by Matt Richardson after week 3 after testing positive for the virus; he had previously had to isolate during weeks 2 and 3 after interacting with a positive case, and was very lucky to survive that long as he only skated in week 1 due to Yebin Mok sustaining an injury.
  • Epic Gameshow itself was unaffected, but a number of its promos had to have their dates and times recorded in an audibly lower quality than the rest of the promos. In addition, one ad break for the second episode consisted of just one, three and a half minute advert.
  • Clearly buoyed by the success of repeats of Vernon Kay's series on Challenge and Pick, and by the fact that running a TV quiz over the internet runs the risk of contestants can look up answers, ITV decided to commission a lockdown version of Family Fortunes, with Gino D'Acampo in charge. (Perhaps Channel 5 may wish to take the opportunity to put out the remaining episodes of Win Your Wish List?) When it was eventually produced, the audience was smaller (50 in a venue with the capacity for 350); both the stupid answer squeal and the winners' scrum were much missed.

Family Fortunes While the contestants celebrate, Gino keeps away.

  • In April, as it became apparent that international travel was likely to remain problematic for some time, ITV Studios floated the idea that I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! could film this year's series in the UK instead. This was officially confirmed on 7 August when it was announced that the setting would be Gwrych Castle in Wales. Which poses an interesting question: why wasn't this done last year during the Australian bushfires, which happened hazardously close to the set? Participants quarantined for two weeks beforehand and crew wore proximity monitors, which bleeped at them if they got within two metres.
  • Ken Jeong had to be replaced on The Masked Singer due to travel restrictions, he was replaced by Mo Gilligan. The judges had "giant bit[s] of perspex" between them, while Joel kept two metres away from everyone. Audience members sat in socially distanced bubbles. In addition, to help fill the gap left by Euro 2020, ITV bought the second series of US Masked Singer, to be broadcast in June. Obviously The Masked Singer US being American, they had to cut out a number of superfluous ad breaks. Unfortunately, someone got a little too enthusiastic with the scissors, and ended up cutting out the third-place reveal. (They actually licensed series two and three, but didn't need series three, so they put it to slaughter on weekend afternoons at 3.50 on ITV2, after Ellen's Game of Games repeats, effectively against new episodes of Tipping Point.)
  • The Real Games was planned for summer 2020, with Adam, Ryan and Scott Thomas facing each other on separate teams; due to the pandemic, only single events were run, which prevented their participation. In addition, the show was delayed until 2021.
  • Saturday Night Takeaway was in the middle of a series when the outbreak became an inconvenience. The first three episodes went out as usual, the fourth went out with a disclaimer that the intended finale in Florida had been cancelled due to travel restrictions to and from the self-proclaimed United States, the fifth episode aired without a studio audience and the last two were hour-long compilation episodes filmed from Ant and Dec's houses, separated from each other. Still aired more footage than the previous series; its previous series lost an episode as a result of the rehabilitation of Ant McPartlin. The entirety of the 2021 series was filmed without an audience.
    • As a result of the shortening of the episodes, In for a Penny was brought forward by two weeks.
  • Panellists socially distanced on Sorry, I Didn't Know; the pandemic may have been a factor in commissioning, as panel shows are cheap to make.
  • Starstruck, the planned Stars in Their Eyes revival, was delayed by an entire year.
  • The Voice UK was also mid-series when the pandemic was announced, having already filmed the pre-recorded episodes for this and a series of The Voice Kids. They finished airing the battle rounds, as they had already started, but they could not film the live semi-final and final, which were replaced by two The Voice UK: Most Memorable Moments compilation episodes, presented by Production resumed in October; like Britain's Got Talent, there was a catch-up edition, The Voice UK: The Semi Finalists, which aired on 31 October, and when live shows resumed the following week Meghan Trainor had to be superimposed from her home in LA. None of the judges would have been allowed to celebrate on stage had their act won.
    • The Voice Kids finals did air as planned, as restrictions had calmed down enough for filming to resume, but the final was prerecorded, and used a virtual audience.
  • Contestants on Paul Sinha's TV Showdown were separated by perspex, and were a long way away from the host. It also lacked an audience, due to being shot during the second lockdown.
  • Who Wants to be a Millionaire? replaced Ask the Audience with another 'phone a friend'. They also separated the contestants using perspex and bizarrely so; given that the show used to have ten contestants and now has six, there was clearly room to situate the contestant two metres apart.
  • Having been delayed from 2020 by Starstruck, the 2021 series of The X Factor is now no longer expected to be mounted until at least 2022.
  • The Chase had a number of filming sessions postponed; Bradley Walsh estimated in late April that they were about 100 episodes behind schedule. The show aired repeats from mid-March, about ten weeks longer than recent years. That said, due to the erratic way new episodes air it is impossible to know whether or not anyone actually noticed any difference. They definitely noticed the massive desk used in civilian editions screened from 1 January 2021, with the contestants sitting between perspex, which frankly there was no need for since in the Australian version (and indeed, Winning Combination, made by the same company!) two of the contestants sit behind the other two - indeed, this longer desk wasn't used in the celebrity editions, as the celebrities were tested beforehand and formed a close contact cohort.
    • The second series of Beat the Chasers also forwent an audience, due to it being shot during the second lockdown. The Chasers formed a close contact cohort.
  • Pairs on Lingo were in bubbles and were socially distanced from each other.
  • Series two of SuperClarket Sweep also lacked an audience, although more obviously so than many other shows due to the contestants moving about the set. Once you've seen where the audience used to be, seeing Rylan gesturing at where the audience should be, and hearing a non-existent audience scream irrelevant instructions becomes downright irritating.
  • From the 2020 Christmas Cracker, Tenable stacked its contestants three in front of two, in a W shape. It has to be said that Warwick sounded breathless during that episode.
  • Tipping Point also went into repeats in late March; it was 18 episodes into a 165 episode series, with the remaining 147 episodes and a Lucky Stars series featuring social distancing; the latter also lacked its usual audience.
  • Winning Combination arranged its nine contestants in a WW shape, which frankly looked prettier anyway.

Winning Combination Today, you are… socially distanced.

  • Celebrity Juice got halfway through filming a series before having to stop; two lockdown specials were produced, and the series only consisted of six episodes (including one compilation episode) whereas the previous year's spring series contained eleven. They claim they will be back in the autumn; we suspect for fewer episodes than its eight-episode autumn 2019 series.
  • The third series of Don't Hate the Playaz had a smaller audience as a result of social distancing and bizarrely so, given that as it moved recording venues from the first series to the second it could have done so again to accommodate the extra space required.
  • The pandemic forced everyone on Don't Unleash the Beast to keep a distance from each other. The games were designed to keep people apart as much as possible: when one player retrieves bags, they throw it a short distance to another player, who relays it to the third player. There's no hugging, no high-fives, no fist-pumps, none of the closeness we'd expect from any television contest. Social distancing wasn't total, however; successful adventurers congregated outside the entrance.
  • Hey Tracey, as one of the first shows back after the first lockdown, which filmed entirely without an audience. Plus everyone was socially distanced. The average call centre agent was ruder towards the celebrities than in the previous series.
  • On Love Bites, the contestants cooked on separate worktops, with Scarlett Moffatt social distancing when milling around talking to them. In addition, the contestants social distanced when discussing the pickers, and dates were socially distanced.
  • ITV2 did not broadcast a summer series of Love Island in 2020 and did not air a winter series in 2021. The summer series was replaced with the first series of the Australian version, which was also filmed in Mallorca, three compilation episodes billed as containing "All the Dramz", "All the Feels" and "All the LOLs", the 2020 version of the American version and three "Where Are They Now?" episodes, whereas the winter 2021 series was replaced by the prerecorded The Cabins. 2020 was a particularly bad year for the show, regular host Caroline Flack died earlier in the year.

Channel 4

Channel 4, with no studio arm, was even more badly hit; the publisher-broadcaster announced in March that it would be reducing its content budget by £150 million, about 25% of its entire expenditure. It looks like the entertainment channel E4 will be badly hit, and there may be fewer commissions on More4.

  • Mo Gilligan's All Star Happy Hour was a late-evening commission, starring stand-up comedian Mo Gilligan. Initially a live show, it will perhaps be remembered as much for the inevitable technical problems as for the entertainment.
  • The Big Fat Quiz of the Year kept its panellists two metres apart and its teams separated by perspex. In addition, guests who would normally come into the show to ask questions prerecorded them from home.
  • Participants on Chef v Corner Shop kept two metres away from Chizzy and from each other; viewers in Scotland, who had previously watched Corner Shop Cook-Off, would have found this sterile. Rather than have several members of the community congregate, the contest was judged only by the corner shop staff, as they were already in bubbles. Frankly, compared to hewing off five eighths of the running time, these are tiny changes.
  • The new celebrity series of The Circle was delayed until 2021 and bizarrely so, as its participants are in isolation anyway. We would question whether anyone would want to be reminded of quarantine after all this is over though.
  • Countdown, for the first time since Series 61 in 2009, had to take a non-sports related break in the middle of Series 82, airing repeats between 4 May and 7 August, including 95% of the 30th Birthday Championship (two episodes were replaced by anniversary episodes after one of the contestants asked that their episodes not be repeated) and two Championships of Champions. Already a couple of months behind schedule as a result of Rachel Riley's pregnancy, Countdown was forced to film ten episodes without an audience, and drop a further five episodes set to include Michael Whitehall as guardian of the dictionaries. One episode had to be replaced last minute due to a comment Nick Hewer made that could have been perceived as insensitive, another episode lost one of its teatime teasers and another had Hewer's introductory chat with Al Murray cut due to possible association with the pandemic. This last episode, incidentally, was one of ten episodes critically affected by an administrative error. Bizarrely, they bolted the two series together as one roughly nine-month series despite the fact that Series 81 had enough room to accommodate nine octochamps, which meant one dipped out on the finals. Surely that was a sign that they needed to shorten the length of their series. In addition, the final dispensed with the awards ceremony.

Countdown Not shown: everyone's loudhailers.

    • In addition, several changes were made to the set. Nick moved to the right, and the left-hand sloped edge was extended to accommodate social distancing. Contestants briefly wrote with bold markers until everyone agreed they could read a normal biro at two metres perfectly well so let players hold up their solutions at their shoulder instead of passing across the table. Contestants used tabletop microphones rather than clip-on mikes. Plus they introduced a CGI conundrum instead of using eighteen physical tiles, which for the first 57 episodes back used a thicker font. Three of Phil Hammond's eight anecdotes were cut also, as Channel 4 opted not to mention COVID-19. The show only allowed contestants from within a 50-mile radius of MediaCityUK, and the finals were shot on separate days to heats.
    • When it became apparent that viewers were struggling to keep up with contestants, from 1 June More4 began repeating episodes from Series 78, originally broadcast from May and June 2018. We had feared they were warming the slot for a move - the other half of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown spent a series on More4 before moving to E4 - but it turns out we had nothing to worry about, since it survived ten episodes at 6:05 and overnight at 12:05 and another five at 12:05.
    • Oh, and editions filmed during the second and third lockdowns (i.e. the December 2020 special episodes, regular episodes between 13 January and 9 February 2021 and regular episodes from 3 March 2021 until further notice) had Colin Murray hosting rather than Nick; his forced break from the show contributed to his decision to leave the programme in 2021. Given that they'll need a black host for Black Takeover Day, they may wish to get one in now to save themselves a third head hunt.
    • Everyone on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown kept two metres away from each other with the exception of the guardian of the dictionaries, who was bookended by perspex, which looked weird.
  • Filming of The Great British Bake Off was delayed from its usual late April to early July shooting period, and ended up beginning in early July; instead of it taking place across twelve or thirteen weekends, contestants lived in a biosecure "bubble", and took up to six weeks off. Broadcast of the series was delayed by exactly four weeks and fifteen minutes, to accommodate an announcement of increased restrictions.
    • We do know that Prue Leith will not be participating in series six of Junior Bake Off, as delays to filming resulted in schedule conflicts; she was replaced by Ravneet Gill. Broadcast was also delayed, by two months.
    • In addition, An Extra Slice forwent an audience, and debriefing contestants were not given the opportunity to reattempt a bake that hadn't gone so well for them, as had been customary during previous series.
  • The Great Pottery Throw Down took the "bubble" approach as well, but still succumbed to an unplanned suspension of filming during episode 4. As acknowledged on screen, a week separated the judging from the judges' chat and announcement of the results - and it was as a direct result of this that they decided not to make an elimination that week.

The Great Pottery Throwdown I suppose they'll just have to... potter about?

  • Series 10 and series 11 of Taskmaster were filmed without a studio audience, with audience reaction filmed later, and with the contestants 2m apart and with Greg switching places with his head so him and Alex could do the same. Channel 4 had previously claimed that they wouldn't change the show after pilfering it from Dave, the liars. This is the actually the second time the show's been impacted by disease outbreaks; one task in series four, intended to involve herding chickens (get three on a mat), had to be repurposed after an avian flu outbreak after which chickens were put under lockdown, and everyone other than Lolly Adefope had to instead herd dogs. In addition, social distancing disrupted the last few team tasks.


  • A League of Their Own resumed filming without James Corden due to his commitments to his Yankee talk show and without an audience, but did at least use a studio.
  • Artist of the Year ran a miniseries in April-May, Portrait Artist of the Week, involving celebrities sitting live from their homes behind a video camera, and its judges selecting highlights of each week. A highlights series was aired by Sky Arts at the end of the series. When Portrait Artist of the Year returned in October, there was no audience, everybody social distanced, and Joan Bakewell didn't partake.
  • The pause allowed for some Welsh-language quizzes recorded at people's homes. Television quiz Be' Ti'n Gwylio? had fixed cameras, like on Gogglebox or The Button, while sports quiz Gêm Gartre used webcams and Zoom.
  • Comedians Giving Lectures had its recordings postponed; given that it features voting by the audience, it's hard to see how this can go ahead given current social distancing guidelines.
  • The Comedy Central/Channel 5 game shows Comedy Game Night and Guessable were shot with social distancing and without an audience. The latter was made up to look like someone's loft, so it might have been a bit of a squeeze for an audience.

Guessable What do you mean, you have no other rooms big enough?

  • Hypothetical also had its recordings postponed. When recordings resumed, half of the audience watched in the studio and half watched via a screen in the Pinewood cinema. The plan had been to broadcast the new series in late 2020, but instead it had to wait until February 2021. In addition, James and Josh kept two metres away from each other; panellists were already spaced that far apart anyway.
  • S4C withdrew from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, explicitly citing health concerns due to the pandemic.
  • A Richard Ayoade pilot had to wait more than six months before it could be filmed, and changed its name from "Who's Asking" to "Question Team".
  • There's Something About Movies resumed filming without an audience. We're surprised it couldn't wait, since most new movie launches apparently can.
  • Unforgivable was delayed from the day after the first lockdown was called to just before the second lockdown, and thus sported a small audience. Panellists were two metres away too.


  • Brain of Britain was caught short when things came to a halt. The show aired the six heats recorded in March, then went off air for twelve weeks. It was replaced by My Generation, where all the players stay safe at home. The 3rd Degree had been recorded in universities early in the year, and aired five weeks earlier than expected. Brain of Britain resumed on 10 August.
  • Breaking the News, a Radio Scotland show whose recordings are normally also filmed for broadcast on BBC Scotland, returned on radio as scheduled with the guests appearing from home, but no TV version. Like the other topical panel games on this list, it suffered for the lack of a studio audience. It did manage to get panellists in to the studio for an end-of-year special broadcast on both radio and TV (all at separate, appropriately distanced desks), but still without an audience.
  • Counterpoint started its 2020-21 series with three contestants and host Paul Gambaccini keeping their distance in a BBC studio, with no audience. With restrictions tightening, a further block of episodes was made with Paul in a BBC studio and the contestants at home; by the last heats, everyone was recording from home. Perhaps anticipating this necessity, the final round had changed from a buzzer race to a one-minute solo sprint.
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue lost four of the six episodes it was due to record in March as a result of the pandemic. Regular panellist Tim Brooke-Taylor died in April after contracting the virus — we have an obituary for him here. The spring series was replaced by a tribute to Tim, and compilation episodes from the series' past. Those two episodes from March, and four new ones recorded with the panelists at home, were aired in December.
  • The News Quiz, Quote... Unquote, and The Unbelievable Truth all returned with the host and panellists contributing from home.
  • Stuck without any live sport to talk about, radio station Talk Sport gave us a sports quiz. The Talk Sport Quiz had no budget and plenty of charm.


  • Tom Moore, who appeared on Terry Wogan's last edition of Blankety Blank, was knighted after raising over £33,000,000 for the NHS in response to the COVID crisis. Matt Lucas's "Thank You Baked Potato", from Shooting Stars, was rereleased to raise money from the NHS; both his song and Moore's version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" spent separate weeks at number one on the UK Singles Sales Chart in April 2020.
  • As well as the aforementioned Tim Brooke-Taylor, sometime Gag Tag team captain Eddie Large died on 2 April 2020, Cannon and Ball's Casino co-host Bobby Ball died on 28 October 2020, and Tom Moore died on 2 February 2021, all in hospital, and all with COVID-19. We have an obituary for Bobby Ball here.


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