When a day contains a first, it has to be a good day.
Monday was the first time I saw a TV show being filmed – at BBC Television Centre nonetheless. Splendid Ronni had signed up for tickets for the new series of Genius with Dave Gorman, and was duly offered 4 tickets – tickets which stated we should be at the studio for 6 o’clock – for the audience entry, these shows apparently send out more tickets than there are seats, and it is first come first served basis – just because you have tickets doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in. We were meant to be there at 6pm, trouble is we finish work at 5.30pm in Greenwich, and Television Centre is all the way over at White City – definitely more than half an hour away. And the London tubes at that time of day and in this crazy heat are anything but fun. If Ronni hadn’t pulled me on to an already overcrowded train (which a moment before she took one look at and asked should we wait for the next one!) we might not have got there in time, in fact despite all logic and the dictates of comfort a man in suit pushed in behind me - at least there was a buffer between me and the closing door. We made it there for 6:40 and luckily were still allowed in, caught up with my splendid husband and our good friend Daren and duly filed into the filming studio itself just after 7pm.
I freely admit at this point I was a little over excited in the manner of a small child – not really helped by the fact we had just seen the TARDIS by the entrance to the BBC and a life size Dalek in the bar – already the evening was exceeding my expectations.
Now I don’t plan to spoil the show by giving away the ideas muted by the potential genii (or geniuses depending which you prefer) or the jokes and capers cut by Dave Gorman and his guests, that would be unfair – you’ll just have to wait for the show to be aired.
We were lead out of the bar area, across the round courtyard and into the studio – my first thought was it looks a lot smaller than on TV- and a lot less solid. No photography (stills or video) is allowed inside the studio unfortunately, but it was fascinating. The ceiling was divided into lots of runs, orientated from the back of the audience to the stage, each with various rules and scales – some obviously were measuring in feet and various increments of such. There were lots of rails, hanging from which were a myriad of lights & filters, microphones, monitors and lots of other technical stuff I have no idea what it is for! There were also lots of bits of prop – industrial tubing – and the like. As I said before the set looked a lot less stable and solid than it does on TV – the magic of TV trickery transforms it even on the large monitors to a coherent whole, where as we could clearly see the balsa bits and pieces which wobbled slightly when people moved!
The whole room is lined in thick heavy black curtains – I guess these have sound as well as light insulating properties and allow all the ‘minions’ to run around back stage with no risk of being caught on camera. It was deliciously cool when we first entered – especially after the horrid heat and running across London. And then the lights fired up, you could feel the heat they emitted almost immediately. It wasn’t uncomfortable – certainly not where we were at the middle back – but you can imagine it must be very hot directly under them, and if you had to work there for too long. As it was the filming for this show ran for about – 2 1/2 hours I think.
For anyone who is a filming newby like me- the order of events is something like this the audience enters and is told where to sit – the audience crew ask people very firmly to put their cameras away, the health and safety spiel follows, and then as this is a comedy show comes the warm up guy – who gets us to practice laughing – big sustained belly laughs, little titters, and cheering & clapping. Canned laughter to fill in the bits later I guess. Then the show – filmed straight through – and no I am not going to spoil it. ‘Excellent, all done’ I think, ‘time for a drink and some food’ (I am very hungry at this point – not having eaten since 11.30am) – but no. Then come the pick ups and re-shoots of bits that didn’t work quite so well, or where the sound was unclear… try laughing at the same joke three times – it’s a little wearing. I guess if I’d thought about it, I would have realized this was an essential part of the process, but used as I am to live performance events, I hadn’t thought. And it all looks so slick on TV – turns out that is a trick of the clever editing people. The need to pre-record laughter becomes apparent – to bolster the laughter that wasn’t quite there on the third and final take.
So was the magic of television destroyed for me? Yes and No. It was fascinating and great fun. Am I a little disappointed that these shows aren’t filmed in one go, that it isn't as spontaneous as it appears on tv? – just a bit maybe, I was a little naïve before – it certainly doesn’t spoil it for the viewer does it? And who would watch a program where the sound dives in and out, and people fumble for props? Not me. Would I go again ?– Definitely!
A big thanks to Ronni for getting us the tickets. I shall look forward to watching the episode when it is finally aired, it will be interesting to see how it is edited, and what if anything is cut out – and also to watch for Daren who was near the end of our row and you should be able to spot him as Dave Gorman walks down the steps in the audience doing his opening spiel!