How can entertainment shows reclaim their sparkle post-coronavirus?

Will BGT, Strictly and Takeaway still shine post-lockdown?

Britain's Got Talent

It’s already June, and let’s face it, none of us are looking our best.

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Split ends, concealer-free faces and jeans buttons that leave an angry red dent in your skin – it’s a sorry sight.

And it’s not just us viewers who could do with smartening up. Our entertainment shows, which were once oozing with glamour and showbiz sparkle, are like a badly lit zoom call – a glitchy, less charismatic version of their former selves.

But as we ease our way out of lockdown, what lessons can our favourite shows learn from lockdown? And how can they live up to their former glory?

One thing the crisis has taught us is how much we value telly, and the chance to escape reality with a good old small screen extravaganza. Just like 1930s America, where the Great Depression sparked a golden age of cinema, we need a distraction from the doom and gloom. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway managed huge viewing figures even with the two boys knocking around aimlessly in an empty studio. It wasn’t quite the same of course, but we were willing to give it a go. Everyone’s in the same boat, after all.

Shows filmed pre-lockdown have been a particular treat, with series like Love is Blind and Britain’s Got Talent keeping us going through the boring weeks and months. But it will be a long time before it’s business as usual. Social distancing looks set to stay, and the endless hugs and air kissing might need to be put on ice for a while (well, there had to be an upside).

So where does that leave us? Amanda Holden insists BGT won’t be back without a live audience, but compromises will have to be made, and nearly two thirds of RadioTimes.com readers want Strictly back, no matter how different it might look with all the necessary social distancing measures in place.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019 - TX13 LIVE SHOW
We need the glitz and the glamour of Strictly back!

Everyone has gone back to the drawing board – all of the top producers in telly land are racking their brains for solutions, ways to keep the entertainment coming with their hands sanitised and tied behind their back. This is a brilliant thing. Necessity is the mother of invention after all and the top shows in this genre – Strictly, X Factor, Dancing on Ice and Britain’s Got Talent were all dreamt up during a heady three year period between 2004-2007.

Since then new formats are so often ‘ITV’s answer to Strictly’ or ‘the poor man’s BGT’ and new ideas have been suffocated by the success of these juggernauts. Perhaps this odd period will inspire imaginative new shows, breathing new life into a tired TV landscape. The Circle proved addictive when it found its feet, and is a social isolator’s dream, let’s have more ideas like that please.

Of course, that’s not to say we don’t want our old favourites too, and while audiences will cut them some slack for now, there are important things for telly makers to remember. Firstly, glamour and whimsy. Most of us can’t remember the last time we wore heels, or put make-up on, or bought any clothing that wasn’t a direct response to weight gain. Wow us please, judges and stars, bring out your floaty, dreamy dresses, pile on the sparkly eyelashes, plait your hair into oblivion, we want to join in the fantasy, even if we’re watching in PJs. Remember that we want to be entertained, so spare us your looks of concern for those struggling and earnest tributes through dance and song. Let the news deal with the serious stuff, instead whisk us away to a world where the worst thing that can happen is Craig Revel Horwood giving a cricketer a low score for a Charleston.

Too Hot to Handle
Too Hot to Handle has become a lockdown success

And prioritise talent. That’s right. In a stripped back world of video calling, when Graham Norton can’t give his guests a vat of wine and warm up chat before their interviews, the raconteurs, anecdotalists and funny, charismatic charmers are the ones who sparkle. Instagram followers do not translate to entertainment. Being a good clothes horse won’t get you through an episode of Have I Got News for You when the screen is too small to see what you’re wearing. Being able to read an autocue isn’t enough to keep us entertained when the smoke and mirrors are still locked in the cupboard.

It’s a challenging time for entertainment shows, make no mistake. Soap stars are doing their own make up, budgets are non existent, who knows how lockdown has affected the people who make the glittery confetti that falls in studios. But if producers use their imaginations, keep it light and glam, and cast the most irresistibly talented people, there could be some wonderful moments ahead.

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