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Tara Lachapelle

Covid-19 Builds Suspense for the Fall TV Lineup

Networks are having to get creative in how they film and where they find content to fill prime-time holes.

“Filthy Rich” with Kim Cattrall was finished before the pandemic.

“Filthy Rich” with Kim Cattrall was finished before the pandemic.

Photographer: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Somewhere in a desert, a group of young, swimsuit-clad singles have spent their summer trying to find love in the time of Covid — or at least score some cash and a little fame. They are the latest contestants on CBS’s “Love Island,” an American take on the saucy British reality-TV show of the same name — a name that implies anything but social distancing. They’re also a long way from any islands. Season one was filmed in the tropical oasis of Fiji, but because of the virus, this latest group has instead found itself under strict quarantine in a hotel on the Las Vegas strip. The crystal waters and soothing scent of an ocean zephyr have most likely been replaced by pool water and the unmistakable sting of fresh ethanol or bleach. Nothing takes romance out of the air quite like a nasal swab, but this is what it takes to film during a public-health crisis. The show must go on.

The lengths to which ViacomCBS Inc. has gone to safely deliver new seasons of both “Love Island” and “Big Brother” to stir-crazy viewers highlight the challenges facing TV networks this year. “Love Island” premieres next week, while “Big Brother” returned to air earlier this month. “Big Brother” host Julie Chen Moonves, in a recent interview with a CBS station, described flying that show’s 16 contestants to Los Angeles so they could each isolate for weeks while being tested regularly before entering the so-called “Big Brother” house; some tested positive for Covid and were sent packing.