ITV prioritises the return of soaps but without older cast members

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Kevin Lygo ITV’s Director of Television is planning to bring back Emmerdale and Coronation Street, admitting that ITV isn’t ITV without soaps.

He was talking at an online version of the Edinburgh TV Festival, where he said they were “terribly important to get back up and running.”

Production on both series had been halted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and Emmerdale will run out of episodes by May, and Coronation Street by June.

“They are working really hard now as to how, when, if and when restrictions are lifted a bit, how can we make the soaps in a safe way,” he explained.

“They are being inventive and creative about rejigging storylines, I think we have got to accept there will be no more than two people talking in a room, and looking at ways of shooting where people don’t appear to be six feet apart.”

He added:

“The zoom, the lockdown programming that has been on air all over the place, I don’t think with drama and soap, you can’t expect them. You need make-up, you need wardrobe, people will not be able to stay six feet apart and so how can that be done in a safe way.

“We won’t go back in shooting until we are convinced it is safe, we don’t want to put any of our staff, our cast and our crew, at risk.”

However, it would most likely mean that older and at risk cast members won’t return in the short term:

“I don’t want Ken Barlow to get sick on my watch. We will be very careful and mindful about that sort of thing.”

Lygo stated that overall ITV had to up its game, because of the delays in production, plus the cancellation of major sporting events, including the football. This meant there would be “a lot of repeats” this summer.

Although he did fear that this could push people away from traditional television and onto streaming services.

“We’ll just have to be better at what we do because audiences now are technologically more adept and there is more choice than there has ever been at any time in broadcasting history.”

One of the solutions is a number of UK-based factual entertainment shows.

He also talked about Love Island, which is in doubt, particularly because he said he would feel uneasy about producing a show where people were “slathering over each other” while the rest of the country was socially distancing.

The show is a major commercial success for ITV and recent plans to film it in Cornwall, rather than overseas, have been shelved.

Speaking at the same event, ITV’s Head of Entertainment, Katie Rawcliffe stated that studio shows could also return.

She said they’d “had enough” of programmes broadcast on video conferencing platforms, but that the whole experience had “brought out more creativity in people.”

Studio shows would be filmed without an audience.