TORONTO — When TV viewers tune into “Entertainment Tonight Canada” these days, they might see a Goldendoodle dog named Murphy pop into the picture, or an excitable young child.
And instead of speaking from the slick set, the on-air talent are now in their own homes, where they do their own hair, makeup and wardrobe.
Such is the scenario for several Canadian daily or weekly TV programs forging ahead during the COVID-19 crisis, with some hosts working from their abodes while crews stitch the show together remotely or in-studio.
“ET Canada” host Cheryl Hickey co-anchored Monday’s first at-home episode on Global from the master bedroom of the Toronto home she lives in with her husband and two young children.
On camera, she was seen sitting in a chair wearing a casual red top, guiding viewers through the day’s celebrity news segments with other hosts.
Off camera, she was wearing yoga tights and slippers, using an iPhone and ring light to film, and resting her computer on a stack of boxes.
The aforementioned Murphy made a quick cameo, and Hickey did interviews with singer Jann Arden and Michael Buble via Skype and Zoom.
“I think it takes some of the glam down and lets people see who we really are, which is a great thing,” Hickey says.
Hickey also plans to dye her own hair and do her own manicure. If her roots grow in, she’s “figured out a way to criss-cross” her part so they don’t show.
“We’re just like everybody else. We’ve got bumps and scrapes, and our kids running around like crazy…. I think it’s good for society as a whole to see how everyone is coping.”
Despite the challenges of working from home — and a longing to comfort her dad who’s in a long-term care facility, and her sister who’s a nurse — she’s finding the humour in it all and is excited to bring levity to audiences.
“We already have a really close team but I think it’s brought the team even closer together and I think people will see that on TV,” Hickey says.
Melissa Grelo, co-host of CTV’s “The Social,” is shooting segments for the daytime talk show using an iPad and studio lights in an area between her kitchen and living room.
It’s not an ideal location — “Open-concept homes, we’re realizing, really suck for this era,” she says with a laugh — but it has optimal natural lighting and is close to an electrical outlet to plug in all the gadgets she needs.
It’s also a relatively quiet space away from her six-year-old daughter, whom she tucks away upstairs in her room while she’s shooting.
“Today was not a success, depending on how you look at it, because she totally crashed my shot, which ended up to be amazing,” Grelo says, laughing.
“My plan was working great for about five days until today and that went sideways. She was hungry and she wanted to make sure I heard her.”
“The Social” is currently shooting the first two segments of the daily series with their hosts from home. The remaining three segments have comprised of previously aired material. The show is aiming to eventually have a full show of new segments.
“It’s actually very exciting,” says Nanci MacLean, vice-president of Bell Media Studios and president of Pinewood Toronto Studios.
“It’s a lesson in innovation, quite frankly.”
Grelo is also a contributing host for CTV’s news program “Your Morning,” which now has two hosts working from home and two in-studio maintaining a physical distance.
She says she now gets up an hour early so she can work out, do her hair and makeup so it’s suitable for broadcast, tend to various duties and shoot her segments for “The Social” in “athleisure” outfits from her closet.
“It’s been a really fascinating journey for me to be watching creative people just not be stopped by any boundaries,” Grelo says.
CTV’s “ETalk” also has its hosts shoot some new segments from home, with the aim of eventually having a whole show of fresh content.
Other Canadian programs with some hosts or anchors working from home include Global’s “The Morning Show,” “Global National,” and the overall Global News TV operation.
Citytv’s morning program “Breakfast Television” is also broadcasting some live content filmed remotely in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.
Most of the CityNews teams across the country have also been working from home, as have many CBC News hosts.
CBC TV is also launching a Sunday night culture show called “What’re You At? With Tom Power,” hosted from Power’s home.
On CBC’s “The National,” Andrew Chang is working out of the Toronto studio while Adrienne Arsenault is in remote locations, including her home (last week she shot her segments from her backyard).
The titular Canadian host of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” has also been broadcasting from the wooded area behind her home for the late-night series on TBS and CTV Comedy Channel.
“We’re trying to model the same system that we had with an in-studio show — in a forest,” says Hamilton-raised Allana Harkin, who’s a producer and correspondent on “Full Frontal” in New York.
“We just have to keep our fingers crossed that the network doesn’t go, ‘You know what? We actually want to keep it.'”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press