How Monkey Got The Real Housewives of Cheshire On Air During COVID-19


The Real Housewives of Cheshire returned to our screens last week on ITVBe for an all-new series and even more fun, frolics and fabulousness. We caught up with David Granger, Executive Producer on the show and Creative Director at Monkey, to learn how Monkey, which is part of NBCU International Studios, managed to get the hit show on air during the current COVID-19 crisis…

How Has Filming For Series 11 Of The Real Housewives Of Cheshire Been Impacted By The COVID-19 Pandemic?

When the lockdown was introduced, we had just finished filming a trip to Greece with the Housewives, for the new series. Everybody had gone to Athens for a fashion launch and then, the following week after they had returned to the UK, the lockdown measures were announced.

There are two key components to the series, there’s a combination of reality footage that we shoot and master interview sections, which are filmed later with the housewives, direct to camera and dropped into the show.

So, with the health and safety of our cast and crew being the biggest priority and the new measures in place, we had two hurdles to overcome: one was editing the show and the second was how to film the master interviews, because we hadn’t yet captured that footage. Our broadcast partner, ITV was brilliant in being really patient with us, because we just needed a bit of time to figure everything out.

How Did You Tackle Editing Of The Series?

We had to think about how many episodes we could realistically cut, in light of the circumstances. Series 11 was meant to consist of ten episodes. Luckily, we were in a good position and had enough footage for seven episodes, so that’s how many we’re delivering for the new series. Our post house – the Farm in Manchester – has been brilliant, too. All the edits have gone into editors’ homes, with edit producers also working with them from their homes, so that was a big deal and achievement to get all of the equipment out, set up and sorted. It’s fair to say the edit was certainly a challenge, but we made it work.

What About Capturing The Master Interview Content?

This was the biggest challenge. Again, with health and safety being a priority, we couldn’t have any of the production team in the Housewives’ houses and we couldn’t share equipment across houses. We had to think about how to produce the interviews remotely and how to keep the quality up; we couldn’t have people filming on iPhones and sending it to us!

After a lot of great work by the team, we put together a package of equipment for each housewife, which enabled them to set up a camera and plug themselves into a closed network, which allows us to operate the camera by remote. Then our producer is able to talk to the housewife and produce, to get the footage we need from the interviews.

The Housewives have been fantastic and so accommodating. It’s truly an amazing set-up and I’m pleased to say it’s working really well!

One Of The Most Popular And Beloved Parts Of The Show Is The Epic Reunion. Can We Expect To See One For This Series?

We hadn’t planned for it but, yes, we are now doing a reunion episode! We’re keen for the Housewives to communicate what life is like for them in lockdown with their fans and the viewers.

There’ll be interviews with them about what life has been like and how they have been coping during this tough period. They will also look back and reminisce about the series just gone. Brian Dowling will be back to host, so he will also get his own camera kit and will be hosting from his home. I think we’ll go off and do some individual packages, too, but broadly speaking it will be as much like the reunion show as we can make it.

The Show Has Been A Staple On ITVBe For Years Now. What Makes It So Successful Do You Think?

People like and follow the Housewives because their lives are aspirational, and they are funny. But the wives also share the same everyday issues, which lots of other people experience in terms of family, relationships, marriage and friendships. That is why the show is such a hit. It’s like a soap; people feel like it’s part of the fixtures and fittings and I think if it’s not around, we feel people will really miss it. The viewers’ relationship with our cast goes beyond the TV show; it is a constant and that’s why we are so thrilled to have been able to put the show on air.

Do You Think It’s Important To Keep Providing Entertainment For People During A Time Like This?

Definitely. People need distraction and lightness and humour and escapism. All of those things are really important. Entertainment can be informative and chart the ongoing developments during the lockdown, while everyone is pulling together, and it can also do another job – which to me is more relevant – by providing escapism and a window into what someone else is doing and what their life is like.

As it is for everybody, it really is so hard working in these conditions and there might have been a world where we couldn’t have got the show on air. But I’m just so delighted that we have. It’s brilliant for a team to be able to pull together, pull that stuff off and to carry on working safely and remotely in the current climate. Quite frankly, it is a joy and I’m so proud of everyone’s efforts and determination to make this work.

There are viewers out there, who do want to watch things and do want to be entertained. The Real Housewives of Cheshire has some really loyal fans who love the girls and want to watch them during this time, so we were determined to be there for them and be on air. We’re also working on other projects and ideas to keep people entertained during this time. We recently filmed a short segment with the Miranda show cast for BBC One’s Big Night In. It was such a great opportunity to be part of the show and help bring some light relief to the British public with the beloved cast.

So, What’s Next For The Real Housewives Of Cheshire Post Lockdown?

We are now starting conversations about the phase post lockdown. In a world where measures might be relaxed a bit, but not entirely, what does filming look like? Health and safety will remain our top priority, but we are keen to try and honour our commitment to produce the next series later this year.

How will that look and what will we be able to do? Who knows! I imagine some of the technology we are using now, we will be using in the near future. Everything is changing so rapidly, and we are learning a lot, so I think some of the methods and techniques we are using, we may well want to use going forward too. We have to find the positives!

Tune In To Series 11 Of The Real Housewives Of Cheshire, Mondays At 9pm On ITVBe