Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

From Bold and the Beautiful to Neighbours: how popular soap operas are facing the coronavirus

Some productions have halted, while UK broadcasters halve screening times to outlast the pandemic

Diedre Hall stars in a scene from the long running Days of our Lives. Courtesy: Kathy Hutchins/ZUMA Press. 
Diedre Hall stars in a scene from the long running Days of our Lives. Courtesy: Kathy Hutchins/ZUMA Press. 

Popular soap operas are facing an uncertain future after the coronavirus pandemic, with many shows either halted or developing new work flows.

In the US, some cherished programmes are at risk of running out of fresh episodes in as early as six weeks.

With California governor Gavin Newsom ordering residents to stay at home, the state's vibrant television industry has been severely impacted.

Soap operas ceasing production include favourites such as Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital­ – all of which are shown across the Arab world through various regional broadcasters. While the genre is renowned for its intensive shooting schedule and prolific output, some of these series may not have enough completed episodes to outpace the pandemic.

According to the industry website TV Line, shows such as Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful are in trouble as the only have enough new episodes in storage until May.

The US broadcaster of both shows, CBS, will reportedly decide on how to proceed in two weeks.

UK soap operas to be rationed out

One series in a solid position to weather the disruption is Days of our Lives. The long running show – it is presently in its staggering 56th season – has been shooting episodes up to eight months in advance.

In the UK, some key shows continue to be filmed, while their screening will be rationed out over the coming months. Broadcaster and producer ITV announced that Coronation Street will now air three times a week, instead of six. While Emmerdale has moved from five to one episode a week.

“The continued transmission of both soaps is a priority to all of us at ITV and to our audiences who enjoy the shows,” read the statement from the channel.

“Whilst carefully adhering to the latest health advice from the Government and Public Health England, our production teams are continuing to film episodes in Manchester and Leeds.”

The BBC has also reduced the number of Eastenders episodes shown, from five to two, while suspending filming until further notice.

Neighbours to continue

Meanwhile, in Australia a range of popular shows have also stopped production including Neighbours. Set in the fictional suburban enclave of Ramsey Street, work on the international hit has been postponed and will reportedly resume on Monday, March 23 under a new model. Other programmes closing it sets include talent shows The Voice and Australia’s Got Talent.

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