BBC explores quarantining drama casts as appetite for UK shows soars

Line Of Duty

The BBC will order more UK dramas to avoid a content shortfall caused by Covid-19 restrictions on production, while quarantining casts and crews is being explored as one way to get cameras rolling again.

BBC drama chief Piers Wenger, speaking on the second controller session organised by the Edinburgh TV Festival, said the Coronavirus had impacted much of the pubcaster’s slate for the end of 2020 and next year.

With production on shows such as Peaky Blinders and Line Of Duty paused, alongside popular soaps including EastEnders, Wenger admitted work-arounds were being explored.

Piers Wenger

That could include putting cast and crew in quarantine “to allow actors to interact in the same space,” he said, with the set-up designed to ensure staff abided by social distancing regulations.

Wenger highlighted that delays would be likely for the foreseeable future, with the practicalities of shooting – such as ensuring hair and make-up artists do not touch actors – inevitably causing a prolonged production cycle.

He also said UK-based shows would be a key focus for the BBC over the coming months, with international travel remaining unfeasible, repeating similar comments from Sky’s drama chief Cameron Roach made yesterday.

“We will be, without a doubt, spending more on shows that are shot within the UK because of the restrictions that are going to go on way beyond lockdown,” he said.

BBC content chief, Charlotte Moore, also said that there would be a greater need for British shows “because we’re not going to be able to go abroad as much, so we will be looking for stories all over the UK.”

Wenger also revealed that he had been in touch with broadcast and streaming colleagues around the world – from HBO and AMC to Hulu and “even some of the SVOD’s” – during the pandemic about partnerships.

He added that the much-talked about demise of co-productions was now “not going to be the case”, reiterating comments he had made previously, and said dramas with “a sense of fun, mischief and provocation” were required in the longer-term, rather than fast-turnaround dramas.

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