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Wholesome family shows top the lockdown TV ratings

A wholesome documentary series about life on a Yorkshire farm has topped the lockdown TV rating charts – after Gardener’s World enjoyed its highest viewing figures in a decade in April.      

Channel 5 show Our Yorkshire Farm was the most-watched programme in a 9pm slot for two weeks in a row, with its ratings surpassing those of rivals BBC One, ITV and Channel 4. 

The programme, which is currently airing its third series, documents the lives of Amanda and Clive Owen and their nine children at a remote hill farm in the Yorkshire Dales.

The couple run the 2,000-acre tenant farm in Upper Swaledale, manage their flock of around 1,000 sheep and run a B&B on the farm while raising their ‘free-range’ children –  whose ages range from 17 to four.   

The fourth episode of the latest series – aired on August 11 and filmed before lockdown – gained 2.23million live viewers, the Times reported.

This surpassed the 2.22million who watched a repeated episode from the first series of Line of Duty on BBC One, with its ratings also topping those of BBC Two, ITV and Channel 4.

A week later, on August 18, Our Yorkshire Farm topped the charts again with 2.19million viewers tuning in to watch the family battle two brutal winter storms at Ravenseat farm.  

Daniel Pearl, Channel 5’s commissioning editor, admitted the show’s success had been helped by its rivals, who were forced to fill out their schedules with repeats after television production was interrupted by lockdown.

‘There is a massive desire for new content, as we know there is less new content out there,’ he said.

He added the show had been so successful as ‘viewers enjoy watching people do things well.’ 

‘At this particular time in history, people have a lot of negativity in their lives. To be able to spend an hour with a family pulling together, being positive about overcoming adversity, is very special,’ Mr Pearl said.

Our Yorkshire Farm is not the only lifestyle show which has seen impressive ratings amid the coronavirus crisis.      

The BBC’s long-running series Gardeners’ World has also seen some of its highest ratings in a decade during lockdown – as people have been forced to spend more time in their gardens.

The BBC2 show has benefitted from people staying at home and tending their plants, as bosses have managed to keep the show on air.

An episode on April 24, which saw presenter Monty Don self-filming footage from his garden, got an audience of 2.7 million, the highest ratings in a decade.  

Broadcasters have been forced to look for innovative solutions to keep the flow of new programming coming through amid the coronavirus crisis.

BBC2 is planning to air Gardeners’ World each week until October after putting in place measures to produce the show while sticking to social distancing rules.

Cameras have been rigged up in Don’s garden for each episode, with the crew able to avoid any near contact with the presenter and his family.

During filming the production team, including a remote camera operator, sit in shipping containers on the presenter’s driveway and Don communicates with his producer/director through a walkie-talkie.

Don, 64, said it was ‘odd’ doing a day’s filming ‘without another human being in sight’ but it was being done in a ‘highly professional’ way.

He said the programme was being made with ‘ingenuity’, ‘skill’ and ‘an awful lot of hard work’, adding ‘I’ve never done anything quite like this’.

The presenter said during the current situation gardening was proving to be ‘powerful medicine’ in helping people deal with the mental anxiety caused by the ‘frightening’ crisis and that a garden ‘resets the button’.

He said: ‘You can sit in your garden, hear the birds, you can breathe clean air, you can watch the blossom or the leaves unfold, or whether it be the tulips or the daffodils or whatever it might be, or you might even do a bit of weeding or plant something. That’s powerful medicine.’ 

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