Impact of COVID-19

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 will not air this year, as filming has been postponed, and the makers would not have enough time to produce the series in time. This year's series will be replaced by compilation episodes. It is currently unknown whether it will be transmitted at the start of 2021 or whether it will skip a year.
  • 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.) In addition, the 2021 contest will relax the "no prerecorded backing vocals" rule.
  • Have I Got News for You was produced, 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.
  • Filming of Little Mix's The Search, basically a BBC version of The X Factor: The Band which aimed to find a supporting slot on their summer tour, is off, at least for the time being, as Little Mix's summer tour will not be going ahead.
  • If the end of that year's Celebrity Masterchef felt rushed, that's because it was - the show merged filming of its semi-final and final weeks so they could complete filming before lockdown was declared.
  • A three-part "best bits" series of Strictly Come Dancing celebrating the best of their movies, musicals and Blackpool episodes was recorded from the homes of the presenters and judges. On 24 June the BBC announced that this series will be slightly shorter this year and will begin three weeks later, in mid-October. One uncertainty is how many judges the show will have, as Bruno Tonioli lives in Hollywood, and current legislation means that UK arrivals must quarantine for at least two weeks.
  • Take Off was commissioned for a series shortly before lockdown; it is unclear whether this will be produced or not.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The R-series of QI was supposed to contain eighteen episodes. However, a number of episodes had to be shot without audiences and a number of them weren't able to be shot at all, resulting in the series only containing eleven episodes.
  • 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.


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

  • The Bidding Room's first twelve episodes aired at 3.45. After the Coronavirus Daily Update ended, the show bunched up to 4.30.
  • 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 House of Games. The final Eggheads were eventually transmitted from 25 May.
  • 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, except in Wales where that day's new episode aired 5:45 on Sunday.
    • 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. Filming of new episodes had to pause; they had made five out of one hundred episodes before lockdown.
  • The revival of Ready Steady Cook was by far the worst affected; the first ten 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.


  • A Question of Sport 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. We doubt a permanent takeover is on the cards: the TV job is surely Sue Barker's for as long as she wants to do it, and there would be complaints if Chapman took over, as it would then become yet another male-host-two-male-captains panel show which most panel shows are nowadays.
  • Brain of Britain aired the six heats recorded in March, then came to a stop. It was replaced by My Generation, where all the players stay safe at home.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The News Quiz and The Unbelievable Truth both returned with the host and panellists contributing from home.
  • 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 will be postponed until the autumn, so it airs just before the grand final.

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".

  • 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 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 and air the series in one block?
  • A series of Catchphrase was recorded without a studio audience.
  • Epic Gameshow itself was unaffected, but a number of its promos had to have their dates and times recorded in a noticeably 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 you can't really run a TV quiz over the internet as 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?)
  • It has been suggested that I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! could film this year's series in the UK if international travel remains problematic, which poses an interesting question; why wasn't this done last year during the Australian bushfires, which happened hazardously close to the set?
  • 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, with In for a Penny brought forward by two weeks. Still aired more footage than the previous series; its previous series lost an episode as a result of the rehabilitation of Ant McPartlin.
  • 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.
  • ITV has said The Masked Singer the next series will film this autumn but may forego a studio audience. Good. They can do away with the "take it off" chants while they're at it. It is not known who would vote though, since that is the job of the audience. (One inefficient solution would be that every celebrity records a series' worth of performances, get the audience to vote, and just cue inserts as appropriate.) 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. (Why series 2? Donny Osmond was a guest judge on our version, and viewers will already know that he came second in the first series. Plus the results of the third series only recently made the papers, so people would already know the result.)
  • 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 It was suggested by Emma Willis that production could resume "towards the end of the year"; from this, we can gleam they haven't yet shot Stars in Their Eyes, and may well not bother with it at all.
  • Probably the biggest delay to filming any show as a result of the pandemic will come from Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, as the show requires an audience for one of its lifelines, and carrying out a pre-show survey would incur revealing the questions before broadcast, which would risk the questions getting in the hands of the contestants. Unless of course they carried them out live. The great Don't Ask Me Ask Britain revival starts here!
    • Or, more accurately, on 18 May 2020, about a month after we suggested it, when ITV decided to repeat Don't Ask Me Ask Britain at 3am. Maybe someone from ITV reads these pages? Anyway, the French version ran a series called Qui veut gagner des millions? - À La Maison, literally "Who Wants to be a Millionaire At Home", which replaced the audience lifeline with 'phone another member of your household'. We guess so.

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. This is likely to mean no more Celebrity Countdown.

  • Or any more new Countdown after 1 May for that matter. 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. From 4 May the show aired repeats, including 95% of the 30th Birthday Championship (two episodes were replaced by anniversary episodes after one of the contestants asked that their episodes were not repeated) and two Championships of Champions.
    • From 1 June, More4 began repeating episodes from Series 78, originally broadcast from May and June 2018. We had hoped they weren't 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 12:05 and another five at 12:05.
  • 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.
  • Filming of The Great British Bake Off usually takes place from late April to early July, this year's series may yet make its traditional late-August start.
    • Junior Bake Off is almost certainly off for at least the year, as the UK's strict child labour laws give the show a very limited window in which to film and the priority will almost certainly be senior Bake Off.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Comedians Giving Lectures and Hypothetical have had their recordings postponed. This is likely to affect Comedians Giving Lectures more acutely than Hypothetical, as both of its series went out in February, and Comedians Giving Lectures involves voting by the audience which could very well be impossible. (In fact, it's hard to see how any stand-up shows can go ahead given current social distancing guidelines.)
  • ITV2 did not broadcast a summer series of Love Island in 2020, replacing it with the first series of the Australian version, which was also filmed in Mallorca. It's been a particularly bad year for the show, regular host Caroline Flack died earlier in the year.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race had only filmed one episode before filming was suspended.
  • 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.


  • As well as the aforementioned Tim Brooke-Taylor, sometime Gag Tag team captain Eddie Large died in hospital with coronavirus on 2 April.
  • Georgie Mills, the winner of 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.
  • Tom Moore, who appeared on Terry Wogan's last edition of Blankety Blank, was knighted after raising over £33,000,000 for the NHS.


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