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.





On 12 March, 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 The Bidding Room aired at 3.45. On days when there was no Coronavirus Update, 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.
  • Episode four of the second series of Home Is Where the Art Is didn't air; it was appended to the end of the run, airing a weekend after the rest of the series.
  • 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 and 30 September 2020 premiered on the second channel due to an unexpected resumption 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?
    • 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. When they resumed, the show's guests were spaced two metres apart.
  • 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.


  • The Apprentice will not air this year, as filming has been postponed, and the makers would not have enough time to produce the series quickly enough. 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. We were, however, "treated" to a six-part "Best Bits" series.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The fifty-ninth series of 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. The sixtieth series was recorded in a studio, with half the audience watching in a cinema downstairs; 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.
  • 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. In addition, the live finals had to be delayed after a crew member tested positive for the virus; the episode scheduled for 17 October was replaced by a Celebrity Mastermind repeat.
  • If the end of that year'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 had to leave the show after showing COVID symptoms.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race had only filmed one episode before filming was suspended. Unlike House of Games, Drag Race broadcasts in order, so we suspect it'll be harder to hide the joins.
  • A four-part "best bits" series of Strictly Come Dancing celebrating the best of their movies, Blackpool, musicals and final 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. Two of the weeks 'missing' are the Blackpool and Halloween weeks - the former for Covid reasons, the latter due to the shorter series - plus we won't be getting a Christmas special, as the participants would need to quarantine for two weeks beforehand and it would be unworth it for a single episode (did they not think to prerecord it?). The BBC has said that contestants who test positive would have to leave the competition as it 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). Arguably, we were lucky to get any Strictly at all, since the RTÉ version, having ended a week earlier due to the lockdown, will not be mounting its scheduled January 2021 series.
    • However those who tune in for Bruno Tonioli will be 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'll rejoin the series towards the end of the series, depending on when the latter series ends plus two weeks for quarantine. He won't be replaced, and bizarrely so, since Len Goodman won't be participating in the Yankee version - why not use him?
  • 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.
  • 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 supporters socially distancing.
  • Would I Lie to You? recorded a series with a reduced audience.


  • 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.
  • 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, an idea taken from The Chase Australia.
  • 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 using a virtual audience and perspex screens. Its traditional mid-series break took place during Christmas as a break. We had hoped it would use its extended siesta to review its booking policy.
  • 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.
  • 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 twelve 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. We suspect that this, like Take Off, could be in for a long rest.

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 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. In addition, Simon Cowell broke his back before the finals and had to be replaced by Ashley Banjo. The finals went out in September and October, with a catch-up episode airing on 30 August, and with 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 from an act from each semifinal to advance to accommodate the fact that they were prerecorded. In addition, filming of the Christmas special was paused after a crew member tested positive.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At least the 2021 series of Dancing on Ice will be filmed without an audience.
  • 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 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?) 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.
  • 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?
  • Ken Jeong had to be replaced on The Masked Singer due to travel restrictions, he was replaced by Mo Gilligan. 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 of senior The Voice could resume "towards the end of the year". Either way, Meghan Trainor had to be superimposed from her home in LA.
    • 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.
  • 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, they ended up replacing Ask the Audience with another 'phone a friend'. We guess so.
  • Having been delayed from 2020 by the planned Stars in Their Eyes revival, the 2021 series of The X Factor is now no longer expected to be mounted until at least 2022. From this, we can glean that the Stars in Their Eyes revival scheduled for this year has been delayed until 2021.
  • 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. You'd think given that it moved recording venues from the first series to the second that it could have done so again to accommodate the extra space required, but…
  • …in fairness, a smaller audience was more than Hey Tracey got, which filmed entirely without one. Plus everyone was socially distanced. And many more firms were shut.
  • ITV2 did not broadcast a summer series of Love Island in 2020 and will not air a winter series in 2021, replacing the first with the first series of the Australian version, which was also filmed in Mallorca, and three compilation episodes billed as containing "All the Dramz", "All the Feels" and "All the LOLs". It's been 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.
  • Countdown had to air repeats between 4 May and 7 August. 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. 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.
    • 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 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 Junior Bake Off, as delays to filming resulted in schedule conflicts; she was replaced by Pavneet Gill.
    • Oh, and An Extra Slice forwent an audience.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 later in 2020; good luck with that.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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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