Thursday, 24 January 2008

"Starring" on tv

I've been on telly quite a bit I suppose. The first time was when I was junior researcher on a show, and had to organise a video game review segment. I had 13 episodes to do in one day, each with 3 games in it, then some spare games. Each was reviewed by 4-5 people, to cut together into packages of 2-3 comments per game and a score.

Some of the games were so far ahead of release we, er, hadn't seen that much of them. Stories of other shows I know reviewing a game from a faxed copy of the cover and a still aren't that wide of the mark... at least I'd managed to get all the games in for the reviewers to play, a first.

It all went champion - the reviewers were (a) on time; (b) concise; (c) funny; (d)informative and (e) accurate (in order of importance for telly). Except one got stuck and didn't turn up*

There was a tradition when this happened. Researcher had to go on.


So it was 5pm, after being up at 5am to organise this thing (tired); boiling hot studio (sweaty); dressed for comfort (scruffy) and without any preparation (stupid) that I made my tv debut. I was labelled as a "games expert" - everyone else had the name of the games magazine they worked for as a credit in exchange for their employer letting them come along for free.

I remember the first game, Jimmy Connors' Tennis. It was poo. I said something to the effect of that but in far too many words. The director teased me and said that I was rubbish, and I needed to think in 15 second soundbites, just like I'd told everyone else. Yeah, yeah, you sarcastic twunt, I thought as I gritted my teeth and smiled into the incredibly bright lights (ow sore contact lenses). The makeup lady came (she was there to take our presenter off to do something else, not for us) and dabbed my swatty brow, looked at me and just kinda shrugged. Oh well. I prepared my soundbite.

"This game is about as playable as a box of used tissues"

Everyone laughed. Brill. Cool.

The next few games were better and I got to be dead fluent and funny, the director even saying how I was a natural at it, great with the camera etc.

And then I forgot about the day totally, working my arse off until Xmas when I finally got some time off. Up North I go, to visit family and friends, and then I get a call from the producer to tell me I'm the undoubted star of the Xmas Eve edition of the show. I'm a bit confused, and can hear laughter and the show's theme music in the background - they must be watching it in an edit.

I excitedly tell everyone I'm on the telly and that. I gather with my family and we sit and watch the show. Obviously my parents are confused ("what's going on here?" they say repeatedly, never having watched the show before) but it finally gets to the review section.

And, yes, there I am! Cheers all round. It's the tennis game and my killer line about used tissues. Hohoho, my family all laugh - apart from Pedantic Brother ("but used tissues aren't in a box", he whines, "they'd be in the bin or on the floor")

Up comes the next game and I shush them all up, saying how I'm better on this one. And... er, oh. Apparently that game is about as playable as a box of used tissues as well. Hmmm. Well, no time to wait, here's the final game. There's me, and I'm not saying that line. I'm looking to camera and asking "well what CAN I say about this one?". That wasn't meant to be used, that was me thinking on my feet. Never mind, I'm sure I said something good - natural, the director said.

Yes, you guessed it, they used my tissue line again. And our lovely presenter made a pithy innuendo about me getting through rather a lot of tissues, something I hope went over my parents' heads.

I was told when I got back to work the boss had gone ballistic with the producer and director. Not about making me look foolish, but about compromising the show's editorial authority.

I realised soon afterwards, by the snarky comments of the Very Unpopular AP on the show (ie never been asked to be on it) as well as my friends on other shows, it was actually a bit of an honour to have the piss taken out of you in that way. Apparently. Allegedly.

Remember, kids, appearing on tv is a double-edged sword. My parents and mates up North genuinely thought I'd said the same stupid thing three times. The rather good games I'd appeared to slag off - well, the companies weren't too happy but realised I'd been stitched up and ended up buying me beers to commiserate. And the director and producer, after giggling like little girls when I first turned up, said my other comments on the other games would play properly (which they did).

Even if at the end of the series I won the 2nd Worst Hairstyle Award Ever. And considering the quiffs and mullets on show, that wasn't fair either. I nearly said "tennis" instead of "fair" but I've had an aversion to tennis comparisons since these events.

Next time: my "acting" debut...

*It turned out the missing reviewer hadn't even been asked to come. He was a mate of one of the other reviewers, who'd been told by our presenter not to bother to get him on as they wanted me to do it. So it was all a set up...

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