When news of a new month-long lockdown for England was announced just moments before Strictly Come Dancing was due to kick off on Saturday night, naturally there was one question on many fans’ lips: What will it mean for the future of our favourite show?
Right now, we need a bit of sparkle in our lives more than ever, so we’re pleased to confirm it will be continuing production – but there will be a few more changes along the way.
While many live TV shows were halted during the first lockdown in the spring, along with a number of soaps and dramas, culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said TV and film production can continue when the new lockdown comes into force on Thursday.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “The changes mean people should WFH where possible but where this is not possible, travel to a place of work will be permitted – e.g. this includes (but not exhaustive) elite sport played behind closed doors, film & TV production, telecoms workers.”
The BBC subsequently confirmed the show will go on, and would be continuing to “adhere to government guidelines”.
A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “We have rigorous protocols in place to manage Covid-19 as the safety of all those involved in the production is paramount.”
The contestants have already formed bubbles with their professional dance partners, with many of the pros living away from the rest of their family in order to keep the show on the road.
Bill Bailey recently revealed there’s been an impact on the contestants too, as he is forced to socially distance from his 16-year-old son while at home.
However, with the lockdown enforcing a ban on all unnecessary contact and non-essential travel, it has been confirmed there will not be an audience in the studio – which is located in Elstree in Hertfordshire – over the next few weeks.
So far in the series, audience members have been seated in household groups of four, with each group sat at least two metres away from one another.
This had already reduced the usual capacity in the studio from around 600 to approximately 100 people.
But in a statement on the BBC studio audience website, producers have now said: “We’re sad to announce that we won’t be able to have a live studio audience for Strictly Come Dancing during November.
“No tickets will be sent out for December shows until we are sure it will be safe and compliant to welcome audiences back.”
They added: “We understand how disappointing this will be, but we very much hope we will see some of you later in the series - and in the meantime you can continue to watch all the action from the comfort and safety of your sofa, live on Saturday nights.”
Strictly’s executive producer, Sarah James, had previously revealed there were contingency plans for such a situation.
Prior to the series’ launch, she said: “We’re prepared for any scenario. We’ve made plans for no audience, we’ve made plans for a distanced audience, and we’ve made plans for a full audience. Whatever happens, we’ll obviously just be following the government guidelines.”
Saturday’s live show will see the 11 remaining contestants take part in Strictly’s annual Movie Week, as they perform routines inspired by famous films.
Last week saw former home secretary Jacqui Smith become the first contestant to leave the competition.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 7.25pm on BBC One.