Unscripted TV Adapts as Filming Resumes
By Artine Malyan |
As the television industry gradually moves back into production, many unknowns about the fall season are creating obstacles across genres, but unscripted series may have some distinct advantages. The Hollywood Reporter says of the genre commonly referred to as reality television, “Production value is on the rise, and unscripted producers are prepping for even bigger improvements in the months ahead.” The genre seems better suited to times of uncertainty than its big-budget counterparts, because the nature of many unscripted programs allows for a flexibility and ingenuity that mirrors our uncertain times.
Many unscripted shows that are based around a competition, like MTV’s The Challenge or ABC’s Bachelorette franchise, film an entire season in as little as 6-8 weeks. Because of this, homebound viewers have not missed out as much on these kinds of shows since the start of the pandemic. “A lot of our stuff is always being made under constraints,” CAA alternative agent Rosanna Billow told The Hollywood Reporter. In much the same fashion that late-night talk shows during the 2007 Writers’ Strike filmed without production scripts, many series, like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, had their cast attempt to film themselves. Other shows, like American Idol, wrapped up the season remotely, with either live performances via webstream or teleconferenced reunions.
With production resuming, some of unscripted television’s production advantages during Covid-19 have become apparent. ABC’s The Bachelorette proceeded with filming in July with extra safety protocols in place and a quarantine bubble. The new season takes place within one resort, a shift from the series’ typical jet setting to far-flung, romantic destinations. CBS’s Big Brother already films in what amounts to a quarantine house. This show resumed production in June with added precautions and a new role on the call sheet: Covid Compliance Officer.
Here’s a look at where the networks stand with their unscripted properties as the Fall television season approaches:
While much of scripted television is planning its return, unscripted shows have been paving the way to safer practices and a return of television in the fall. The same flexible production constraints that have made the genre popular with networks and studios have been a boon to their productions. At least for the time being, game shows without audiences and competition shows set entirely in a bubble might look something like a new television normal.
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