Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Thinking on your feet...

Live telly is something quite, quite different to working on recorded stuff. I've mainly done the latter but when I have worked on the former it's really got my juices going. As in I've been (a) shit-scared; (b) adrenaline-fuelled; and (c) absolutely exhausted afterwards.

The old maxim is the audience love it when a live tv show goes wrong - and they do - but as a producer you hate-hate-HATE it when everything goes moobs up.

Some of my toppermost and bottomest live tv experiences:-


A tiny-rated gameshow for Sky where viewers would control tacky games I'd produced by shouting instructions. Satellite tv had a 3 second time lag - to get the picture up to the satellite then back down to 12 Acacia Avenue - so the games had to be, er, helped along a little to make sure they worked at all. And before the TV Honesty Police look up my IP address and throw me in jail, we only ever helped the viewers, we never hindered, and did it all equally for everyone. Isn't that nice and fluffy?

Anyway, my first experience of live tv and jolly thrilling. Even if it was presented by Mick "Mick" Brown off of Capital Radio (who used to have to record his afternoon radio show and pretend it was live tsk tsk) from a bright pink gypsy-caravan-style 'set'.


A slightly-less tiny rating gameshow for Sky where I'd been promoted to be "games producer" - ie I sat with the guy in charge of running the video games live on air and we tried to make sure they actually worked at all. Now the kids pressed the number buttons on their phones to control the games, all via some big grey box that had a phone socket at one end and a joypad-replacement socket at another.

Things worked fine with two-player games as each had the same hindrance, even if they looked like they were being played by people with no fingers. Or brains. Or eyes. But the one-player games needed help. My main role was to stop the show's Actual Producer melt with nerves every week, as he was rather highly-strung, had fallen out with my mate who did the games (to the point of lawyers being involved) and was wound up to the point of explosion every week. My mate getting drunk with me the night before, sleeping in someone's shed and turning up just before airtime didn't help matters.


The bizarrest of the lot, a live Sunday afternoon 'yoot' show from a little boat in Docklands. I was in charge of coming up with something live to do inside the show's 40-celsius hull each week, fitting with whatever stupid arsey theme the show had. I didn't like the show at all - it was interactive, in that the viewers chose the feature content (after picking the presenters in the first place, in a live show where the wrong winner was announced - so the show ended up with an extra, really useless, presenter from the get-go).

My live bits were, er, a bit crap to be frank. The best one was the last instalment of a feature where we were putting a band together. We had to pick a drummer, but whatever Z-list actual pop drummer man we had booked to do the deed didn't turn up. Cue panic all around. As someone who didn't care, and really would've loved to be fired, I was totally calm. I said to leave it to me and went off to the office. Cue screaming and shouting and that. I said, again, give me three minutes on air and it'll be fine.

(My boss, by the way, was loving this - she thought fights between the staff were A Good Thing)

I came back armed with three phone numbers. The show started and I got the telephony guy to get the three people I'd selected from the phone book lined up. The Actual Producers said they trusted me (except I could see them lining up an emergency video bit just in case).

And so it was that three drummers played solos and the 'best' was picked by three totally random blokes called Phil Collins. One was deaf and saying "what?" loudly. It was a top piece of telly. My boss said I was a genius. The Actual Producers smiled and thanked me profusely. I went home to bed early - hey, it was a Sunday afternoon and I worked six days a week...

I still wouldn't let them put my name on the show though. On the final episode they put me down as 'Token Male Producer', which I found totally, yeah, sexist, mmm?


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