ITV has pre-emptively pulled the plug on this year’s season of “Britain’s Got Talent” due to production complications arising from the pandemic.
The entertainment show is one of the country’s biggest primetime programs, and normally airs from April to June. The 2020 season was disrupted due to COVID-19 and aired in two parts, with the first half, comprised of auditions filmed pre-pandemic, broadcast from April to May, and the second half aired from late August to October, and featuring the remaining episodes produced under COVID guidelines.
The 2021 season, however, proved to be logistically impossible given the U.K.’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis and third national lockdown, which kicked off in the new year. The show, which features Simon Cowell as one of its judges, traditionally films auditions from January. Production was postponed earlier this month.
A spokesperson for “Britain’s Got Talent” tells Variety: “Despite everyone at ITV, Thames and Syco doing their best to make it happen, and with our absolute priority of safeguarding the well-being and health of every person involved in the program, from judges, hosts and contestants to all of the crew and audience, the decision has been made to — unfortunately — move the record and broadcast of the 15th series of Britain’s Got Talent to 2022.”
In explaining the rationale for canceling the 2021 show, ITV suggests that preparing for auditions proved to be especially challenging given the program generally draws large groups of performers from all over the U.K. and occasionally also features international acts.
“BGT is known for its diversity of talent with big dance groups, wonderful choirs and lavish orchestras at its heart, and it has become clear that not only is it not possible to film auditions with these types of acts in a secure way but also that they are not able to adequately rehearse and prepare safely,” said the spokesperson. “Safety has to come first and, as a result, the recording of the show can’t currently go ahead as planned.”
The show’s most recent iteration was the “Britain’s Got Talent Christmas Spectacular” hosted by Ant & Dec and featuring judges Alesha Dixon, David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Ashley Banjo.
“Britain’s Got Talent” is part of the global “Got Talent” franchise created by Cowell. However, he was replaced last year by Banjo after breaking his back in a bike accident. The show also ran into controversy in the fall when a Black Lives Matter routine inspired thousands of complaints to U.K. media regulator Ofcom.
The U.K. has rigorous guidelines in place for film and television production, but the ongoing COVID-19 crisis means the most recent lockdown will be in place until March. To date, the country has recorded 103,000 deaths from the virus.