As we're all settling in to the latest government advice on the COVID-19 pandemic – as of 16 March: to adopt social distancing, work from home where possible and avoid mass gatherings and going to pubs, theatres and cafes – it's inevitable we'll be watching more TV. However, coronavirus is also affecting the entertainment industry, with some films already postponed, and sporting events off the cards, too.
British actor, and star of BBC's Luther Idris Elba has tested positive for COVID-19; while filming of upcoming series including Peaky Blinders and The Handmaid's Tale has been postponed. Elizabeth Moss posted on her Instagram on Monday: "We shut down production of season 4 in order to preserve the health and safety of our cast and crew and join the world in an attempt to flatten the curve." Live audience shows look unlikely to continue for the foreseeable, too.
So, which of our favourite TV programmes are likely to be affected? Will we see pandemic storylines reflected in soap operas; or will schedules lean more towards distraction? As we start to draw up a lengthy "to watch" list, here's how British TV is responding to the pandemic.
TV Shows Halting Production
Some UK shows are completely halting production – this has been the case for the new Netflix show The Witcher. Taking to Twitter, World Productions said: “In light of the spread of COVID-19, after much consideration, @worldprods are suspending filming of #LineofDuty S6 with the support of the BBC." Peaky Blinders followed suit, announcing a pause on production via Instagram: “After much consideration and in light of the developing situation concerning COVID-19, the start of production of Peaky Blinders series 6 has been postponed."
TV Soap Scenes Referencing Coronavirus
Widely considered a strong influence on society and behaviours, and often reflecting the current climate, some British soaps will be working coronavirus into their scripts.
The BBC reports that Holby City has filmed a 'topical drop-in' for the first time. By splicing scenes filmed weeks ago with new ones featuring the coronavirus, the hospital drama will be remain relevant as it hits our TV screens.
So far, none of the major soaps have announced they will be stopping production yet, although storylines are being changed due to the health of actors. ITV’s Coronation Street had to rewrite scenes after a member of the cast took the decision to self-isolate after returning from holiday abroad (the unnamed actor has since tested negative for COVID-19).
ITV told Digital Spy they have a contingency plan in place: “We've looked at our procedures and our established contingency plans and we're confident that we're able to continue with our filming schedule.”
No Live TV Studio Audiences
Live studio audiences are largely a no go at the moment, in line with the government's social distancing advice. So far, Loose Women and Jeremy Vine Show have been broadcasting with presenters and guests only, meaning things are a bit quiet in the background. A spokesperson for Loose Women told the Evening Standard: “In order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, ITV has asked all producers to consider whether shows which normally have a live audience can be made without one.” Audience participation, for now, is resigned to the sofa.
TV Sport Postponed
As big sporting matches go hand-in-hand with large crowds, many have been postponed – which means the usual sporting TV schedules are set to change too. According to Digital Spy, The English Premier League will postponed until 3 April. And all football in Scotland has been paused, with Northern Ireland and Wales stopping matches until 4 April. As a result, last weekend, Match Of The Day was – to many football fans dismay – replaced with Mrs Brown's Boys. The World Indoor Championships will be taking place in 2021 instead and all professional tennis has stopped until 20 April.