Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Watching Me Watching You Watching Me...

Watching your own shows go out is a very important thing to do. Obviously, not so easy if you work in live tv, but otherwise I encourage everyone who works in telly to tune in when their shows are broadcast.

When I worked on shows that went out at 6:00 or 6:30 that was easypeasy. Working day over - hey, it's the meeeeja, we do 10 'til 6 - sit down and watch the show on air. But there was usually an issue. The Boss.

Bless my first telly boss, I got to call her Aunty after a bit (but not to her face), she looked after me and gave me all the opportunities I could ever dream of. The justification for the first aspect was that she specialised in hiring newbies to telly and to That Big London, so she had to look after us otherwise we'd bugger off in the middle of something important, leaving her high and dry.

The justification for all the opportunities, I like to think, was that she really wanted us all to learn a lot, get further and progress as tv employees. Not that we'd do everything dead cheap 'cos we were young and enthusiastic.

Anyhow, watching the shows being broadcast with the boss there was always a rollercoaster ride. On one daily series, each night was a different show. I made the comedy one, and as the boss had no sense of humour it was always a nightmare to watch with her. Especially as the show was made on the extreme cheap with bad sets and with scripts bursting full of innuendo that passed by her Antipodean sensibilities.

So just me and her watching a show was a dreadful experience, as she'd crumple her face up, bury her face in her hands, and snort derisively at the (rare) proper gags. But watching the show go out, alongside 15 other staff who all loved it and thought it was "Rentaghost for the 90s" (and that was praise?) had a different effect. As everyone laughed at the knob gags she'd look round smiling and join in. When people guffawed at the innudendo from the lady out of Gladiators in a rubber dress, she'd howl.

And at the credits rolled, she'd think I was a genius. After one especially good episode, she promoted me AND said she wanted me to produce the company's flagship new show for terrestrial telly.

But one of the problems with watching shows was she'd call me in to sit and watch the ones my contemporaries produced. This was usually OK - the shows were well-made in the main and the weeny budget wasn't quite as apparent as on my show - but the weekly live show was a different kettle of fish. The first presenter was a cheesy DJ, and he was fine if, er, cheesy.

The second presenter is now a telly exec and a great guy, but the odd format and convoluted scripts meant he was hamstrung. The boss hated the show, and - in her everything-is-shit-or-brilliant way, blamed the presenter. She tried to make him look cool, in a leather jacket and trendy trousers, and told him to relax. He just appeared to be drunk. She actually rang the control room up and asked if he WAS drunk, at the commercial break, as me and my writery mate sat in her office horrified. He wasn't, he was trying to be "laid back and cool", as instructed.

Oh well.

Now I make shows that go out at 7.20am, and I do force myself up out of bed to watch 'em. It's a lot easier than when I made little inserts that went out from 12.30am to 4.30am at night, inbetween hour-long shows. I only caught a full night once. It ruined how I thought our lovely comedy things worked. They did on a tape of twelve minutes, but nothing can carry a story over four hours of other stuff.

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