When 'Ninja Warrior,' 'Love Island' and more reality TV contests return with COVID-19 protocols

Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
·4 mins read

More than five months after Hollywood shut down production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reality TV competitions are beginning to return with a big new addition: detailed health and safety protocols.

Many shows have switched filming locations, adjusted formats, changed contestants or shortened seasons to adjust to the coronavirus era.

NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" filmed a shorter Season 12 (premiering Sept. 7, Mondays at 8 EDT/PDT), at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, the former home of the NFL's Rams. However, the show likely will have to make adjustments after contestant and last year's champ Drew Drechsel was arrested Aug. 4 on federal child sex charges.

CBS announced an Aug. 24 premiere date for Season 2 of the American edition of "Love Island," which moves from its Season 1 Fiji villa to a less glamorous quarantine "bubble" at a Las Vegas hotel.

And CBS' "Big Brother" returned Aug. 5, switching to an all-star edition after postponing its June premiere. NBC's "America's Got Talent." which taped an outdoor episode in June that aired last week, plans live quarterfinals beginning Aug. 11 (8 EDT/PDT), but not at its traditional Dolby Theatre home.

NBC's 'America's Got Talent' moved to an outdoor location to film its Judge Cuts episode in mid-June in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Live quarterfinals episodes are scheduled to begin Aug. 11.
NBC's 'America's Got Talent' moved to an outdoor location to film its Judge Cuts episode in mid-June in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Live quarterfinals episodes are scheduled to begin Aug. 11.

Arrested: 'American Ninja Warrior' champ Drew Drechsel faces child-sex charges, two weeks after taping new season

As most scripted entertainment – TV and film – remains sidelined, only remotely produced talk shows, along with daytime soap operas including CBS' "The Bold and the Beautiful" and "The Young and the Restless," have resumed shooting. NBC's "Days of Our Lives" is scheduled to restart production Sept. 1.

A status report on other broadcast competition shows, including those with delayed premieres, that are following established COVID-19 safety protocols as they resume production:

"Big Brother" (CBS) – The ultimate quarantine show – a bunch of people trapped in a 'house' for a month – isolated and tested its contestants ahead of Wednesday's delayed season opener. Julie Chen Moonves returns as host, but without the studio audience that has been a staple of each week's eviction show. The all-star cast will be revealed in the season opener.

"America's Got Talent" (NBC) – The top-rated summer talent competition was in the middle of auditions when the pandemic shut down Hollywood in March. It conducted remaining auditions with no studio audience, before returning to production in June with an outdoors, socially distanced and abbreviated Judge Cuts round. Live shows start Tuesday at the Universal Studios lot, rather than the usual site, Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.

"Love Island” (CBS) – This adaptation of a popular U.K. dating format, originally scheduled for a May premiere, is shooting its new season in Las Vegas under quarantine and testing protocols. Production is "sequestered in a “bubble” at Caesars Entertainment’s boutique hotel, The Cromwell," CBS said. The cast will be announced closer to premiere.

ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' will return with a new host, Tyra Banks.
ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' will return with a new host, Tyra Banks.

“Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) – The popular dancing competition made its biggest off-season news in July when co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews were fired and replaced by Tyra Banks. The plan is to begin production on the fall season by late August, but a return date is fluid.

"American Ninja Warrior" (NBC) – A shortened season brings 50 competitors to St. Louis, as each choose two team members from their communities. The winner gets a $100,000 prize. (Drechsel will be edited out of the season.)

“Shark Tank” (ABC) – For Season 12, the entrepreneurial competition, which shoots multiple episodes in a pair of annual two-week bursts, will move from its Culver City, California, studio, to Las Vegas. The premiere date has not been announced.

"American Idol" (ABC) – The long-running singing contest, which finished its spring season with remote episodes, has scrapped plans for its traditional in-person auditions around the country. Instead, "Idol Across America," a "live virtual audition tour" allows singers to perform remotely but face-to-face with a producer for real-time feedback.

“The Masked Singer” (Fox) – Fox's top-rated series is scheduled to anchor the network's patchwork fall lineup. The network hopes to begin production in the near future, but neither the timetable nor the premiere date has been announced.

"The Amazing Race" (CBS) – Season 32 of the Emmy-winning travel competition, which was filmed in 2018, was pushed from May to this fall, when it will lead off the network's Wednesday primetime lineup. However, Season 33 stopped production after filming three episodes, with stops in England and Scotland. "Survivor," another popular, long-running competition, also is on hold due to the pandemic.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Ninja Warrior,' 'Love Island' set return dates for pandemic seasons