Strictly Come Dancing is the “hardest” show to film under current circumstances, the BBC’s head of entertainment has said, but the professionals are already rehearsing the group numbers for when it returns later this year, with altered sets and changes to hair, make-up and costuming.
Kate Phillips, entertainment controller at the BBC, offered an update on the flagship entertainment shows to the virtual Edinburgh TV Festival, saying the dancing competition will be more special than ever.
She said: “Strictly is probably the question we get asked more than any other show.
“I can say it absolutely is coming back – it is a slightly shorter run, but apart from that I don’t think it will be a lesser show at all. If anything I think it will be special this series, there will be heightened emotions and a lot of the dances will have real poignancy.
“The pros have been isolating together for the last couple of weeks, they are now rehearsing together, the big dance numbers, it looks so good seeing them dance.
“We will announce the celebrity line-up at the end of this month, we are planning it now but they are all on board and very excited.
“We are having to adapt, the set is having to be altered, we are not quite sure at this stage how much audience we will be able to have in and we have to look at Dave Arch and his band, how hair and make-up and costume will work backstage.
“It’s probably the hardest show to do in the current circumstances, a live weekly show that relies on body contact quite a lot. Having said that, I think Studios (BBC Studios, which makes the show) have really risen to the challenge and there is that old line, necessity is the mother of invention, and I would say across all the entertainment shows we are seeing constant good ideas.”
Phillips confirmed that The Apprentice has been postponed until next year because it would be impossible to film some of the most popular elements of the series.
She said: “The Apprentice was a really hard call because we all really love The Apprentice. We had long discussions with the production team.
“We felt in the end the compromise that would have to be made, a lot of things that people love, the running around the streets, the living in the house together, we just couldn’t do it, and with the increasing costs, we thought we would rather bring it back when we can do it properly, so that is paused until next year.”
However, she added: “Top Gear is very much up and running. The big difference is we won’t be able to do all the foreign trips, although a couple were done before lockdown.
“The inventiveness they have brought to the table, they are very, very funny, proper belly laughs.”
The panel, which also featured BBC head of content Charlotte Moore and head of drama Piers Wenger, also showed a clip from Freddie Flintoff’s documentary about his battle with bulimia.
Ahead of showing the clip from the documentary, which has a working title of Freddie Flintoff On Bulimia, Moore described the programme as an “extraordinary watch”.
She added: “I absolutely admire the fact that he’s been so open and honest, and this is a film about the fact that he lives with bulimia, and in the past it’s been very serious and at the moment, he talks about it in the film, but he feels it’s still something he has to live with – it’s not done and dusted.
“And he really, he says at the front of the film, I’ve never really talked to anyone about it, I’ve never really opened up, I’ve never even gone to speak to a medic about the condition, and he goes on a very personal kind of exploration of what it is that he’s living with and how that affects many people.
“There’s something about, when you know Freddie who is just such great fun, who is this massively warm figure, who has a laugh and one moment is in Top Gear… and then you meet the man and he’s really honest about what’s going on and I think the courage that he speaks with is really, really extraordinary, but I’m hoping and I know one of the reasons he wants to do it is because he thinks the impact this will have on other young men.”