EastEnders and Top Gear to resume filming in June, BBC says

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Kellie Bright in the Queen Vic in EastEnders
Image caption,
Kellie Bright in the Queen Vic in EastEnders

EastEnders and Top Gear will go back into production in June, but the stars will be socially distanced and will have to do their own hair and make-up.

Virtually all filming has been on hold since the lockdown began in March.

The BBC said it would use "strictly limited" crews and stick to government guidelines when it resumes.

BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said: "We're also exploring ways to re-start filming on more dramas and other major BBC shows as soon as possible."

Writing in The Telegraph, she said the broadcaster wanted to "help fire up the engines of British TV production - safely and sensibly".

Image caption,
There will be a socially-distanced Top Gear

She wrote: "We've been looking very carefully at how we can safely put some of our shows back into production, and I'm pleased to announce that we plan to begin filming again on both EastEnders and Top Gear by the end of next month."

She continued: "Cast members will do their own hair and make-up. Social distancing measures will be in place."

Episodes of EastEnders that were in the can before the pandemic have been rationed by BBC One. But when existing episodes run out, there is likely to be a gap before the new ones reach screens.

Coronavirus is expected to be referenced as part of the storylines, although not in a prominent way.

'Creative and technical challenge'

The corporation has been filming one drama series during lockdown. New versions of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues are being made by skeleton crews on the EastEnders and Holby City sets, which is "showing what's possible under Covid-19 restrictions", Moore said.

Friday's VE Day anniversary special from Buckingham Palace and the recent Hospital coronavirus specials "are examples of how well we can rise to the creative and technical challenge", she added.

She did not say when other dramas like Line of Duty, Peaky Blinders and Call the Midwife - which all put filming on hold - are likely to return to set.

She added that the BBC was "determined to do everything we can" to "kick-start the TV industry and support our brilliant production sector nationwide".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Neighbours has resumed filming with cast and crew keeping their distance

Australian soap Neighbours has already returned, with reworked scripts and fewer characters in specific scenes.

Some are being filmed in "smaller components" before being stitched together in the editing room, executive producer Jason Herbison told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

In intimate scenes, a character might "lean in for a kiss, and then the camera pans away and we hear a little bit of a giggle", he said.

"It's just about re-imagining the scene differently, so you don't see that moment of impact."

Herbison said there would be no explicit references to coronavirus in the show, but viewers would see characters doing thing like sanitising their hands in restaurants.

Other British soaps, such as ITV's Coronation Street and Emmerdale and Channel 4's Hollyoaks, have not yet announced how and when they expect to start filming again.

Corrie producer Iain MacLeod did recently say the pandemic would feature in future episodes, but it won't "dominate every single story".

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