Reinvent and remain relevant

TV producers would definitely have to figure out how to make their storytelling realistic while adhering to the SOPs

pic credit: gempak.com

FRANKLY, it’s not looking too good for those who are in the television (TV) production business.

While the economy is slowly being rebooted as the world wakes up after a long slumber due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, people in the TV industry are still trying to figure out how the changes and “new normal” affect the way things work in the business.

In previous years, the last week of Ramadhan would see various Hari Raya special programmes that would be shown during the festive month being promoted.

This year, there’s none. There’s no promo on special Raya programmes on any station. Chances are, we’d be watching quite a number of old programmes and repeats that might not be as relevant or as current.

Changes in the industry amid the pandemic are certainly imminent and adjustment needs to be made accordingly, and it is already happening in various parts of the world.

For instance, “The Voice” — one of the most popular talent search programmes in the US known for its great performances and live audience energy — is now presented in a very different and muted format.

The NBC’s reality singing competition live rounds are currently being shown worldwide with the implementation of social distancing measures.

Carson Daly now hosts from the show’s iconic four-chair set with no audience present, while the contestants sing from their homes, and the judges deliberate in the comfort of their abode.

Apparently, Daly’s segments are recorded on two Universal Studios sound stages with around 30 crew members instead of the usual 450.

“Reinventing the live shows has allowed us to create innovative ways to bring ‘The Voice’ to life in a fresh and intimate way,” Audrey Morrissey, “The Voice” executive producer, said in a statement. “It has been an incredible team effort…we are excited to share a unique ‘Voice’ experience that will feel both new and familiar.”

According to reports, all on-set employees wear filtered masks. They also have their temperatures taken twice a day and wear bracelets to show that they’re healthy.

Even the mentoring sessions between the contestants and coaches are pre-recorded. The coaches offer their remote assistance from their homes — Kelly Clarkson from Montana, Nick Jonas and John Legend from Los Angeles, and Blake Shelton from Oklahoma.

For their home performances, all contestants earlier received state-of-the-art production kits with professional cameras and audio equipment, so that they can pre-record their performances.

After their pre-recorded performances play on-air, their subsequent interactions with the coaches and hosts will be recorded live-to-tape, so the audience can see them as they play out without any post-recording edits.

While die-hard fans would tell you that the show does not feel as grand as the previous format, one has to admit that changes had to be made according to the current standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The series’ semi-final rounds were shown on May 11 and May 12, while the live finale results will be announced today (May 19).

The same conundrum is expected to haunt Malaysia’s TV production and broadcast industry.

Now, if everyone is expected to keep a safe distance of at least one metre at all time, how would you shoot an intimate bedroom scene or a family dinner in a small space?

Drama and film producers would definitely have to figure out how to make their storytelling as realistic as possible while adhering to the regulations and SOPs imposed to curb Covid-19 infection.

What would “Gegar Vaganza” be without its loud and aggressive audience? How funny can Nabil Ahmad be if there’s only one person cheering for him on “Meletop”? One could only imagine the producers’ task for huge annual programmes like “Anugerah Juara Lagu” or “Anugerah Bintang Popular”.

These are among the new challenges that await the local TV and film industry.

One also suspects that with the current limitations, producers might just get more creative to survive.

Viewers could perhaps expect more programmes that involve talking heads, cooking demonstrations, home improvement and DIY, travelogues, as well as documentaries which might employ not as many crew members as one would expect in a drama or film production.

There might be more live streaming efforts as more and more people would opt to work remotely. Post-production people would also be pushed to come out with well-edited and packaged programmes.

Drama series? Producers now might have to think of more artistic shots that don’t involve too many cast members, while fitting everything in a neat storyline.

For Malay drama lovers, let’s just say scenes like reading of a will or family squabbles where everyone screams at the same time might soon be a thing of the past. Hopefully.


Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor at The Malaysian Reserve.