Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Terms and Conditions Apply

At the tail end of my post about the brilliant Stanley Kubrick exhibition, I wrote that I would have stayed for longer had I not been up against the clock to get to a TV studio on the other side of the city. I added, somewhat cryptically, "...but that's another blog post, for another day." Well, today is that day, and this is that post.

Specifically, I had to get to the BT Studios in Here East, Stratford. In their own words, Here East is "a unique campus where creative businesses growing in scale join businesses of scale growing in creativity." In reality, it's a concentration of very fancy new buildings that have sprung up in the Olympic Park, close to the Copper Box Arena, where lots of very fancy, high-tech companies have set up shop. That's where I had to be... and I was going to be late. For I had a free ticket to watch the filming of Dave Gorman's new TV show, Terms and Conditions Apply. Doors opened at 3pm. I rocked up at 4.15...

I almost didn't bother. The only other people in the queue when I arrived were a couple who had turned up too early for the evening recording. Still, I waited my turn and spoke to the guy on the reception desk. And fair play to him, he didn't hang about. "Let's see if we can sneak you in," he said, before slipping a BT Sport wristband on me, and leading me through a maze of corridors. "You haven't been through security," he said, as we walked, "so I'd better just look in your bag." Which he did, just as we arrived at the studio.

The house lights were already down. The audience were all in their seats. Dave Gorman was on stage, having a conversation with whomever was on the other end of his ear-piece. Guest panellists Rose Matafeo, Phil Wang and Marcus Brigstocke were also on stage, quietly waiting for proceedings to start. I had clearly missed the warm-up. But filming had not started. My receptionist friend had a quick word with who I assumed to be the floor manager and I was ushered through to the audience, stepping over cables and weaving between cameras to get there. I took the nearest available free seat, to minimise any disturbance or inconvenience, and settled down to watch, laugh and learn.

Dave's new show looks like it's going to pretty much pick up where the lauded Modern Life Is Goodish left off, except this time Dave - who famously ended MLIG after revealing he spent 100+ hrs per week on it whilst filming - has some help to do the heavy lifting, in the form of a panel of his comedy chums. So whilst we are used to Dave poking fun at the absurdities of modern life, this time he leads others down that path, via a series of games inspired by the weird and wonderful things that he finds on the Internet. One such game during this episode revolved around the ridiculous names companies like Farrow and Ball give their paint colours (which made me wonder whether Dave had been reading C's blog... or just decorating his new home in Brighton).

Anyway, I don't want to review the whole show, for fear of inadvertent spoilers. I will say that it looks like it'll be worth watching, when it hits our screens later in the year. Phil Wang started slowly and was cooking by the end of the show; conversely, Marcus Brigstocke started strongly and went a little bit the other way; Rose Matafeo was consistent throughout. And Dave was Dave... and it is always good to see him clicking his way through Powerpoint slides on a big screen, whatever the format. I hope this works for him. Some years back, he tried to transfer his Genius radio show to TV, and it didn't quite work so well. I hope this fares better.

What I really wanted to capture though was the experience of being in the studio, watching a programme of this nature being recorded. I counted seven cameras in all, six conventional and one mounted on a jib that swung around over the audience. Because of my late arrival, I was sat directly behind the camera with Dave's autocue attached, so whenever he spoke to camera, it felt like he was talking to me. The audience - I'd estimate 200 people - were mostly my age and older, perhaps unsurprising given the mid-week, afternoon recording time. They were very into Dave's slide-based japery, again unsurprising since his mailing list (including me) get first dibs on free tickets like this. Interesting to note though that the loudest applause was always from the floor manager - as were the whoops and whistles you'll also hear from the audience. I was also interested to learn how the pick-ups work - pick-ups are bits that are unclear or mangled on first recording, so are re-recorded for clarity. In this case, each time the show got to what would be a commercial break, Dave would have a bit of a conversation with whomever was on the other end of his ear-piece, the floor manager would do the same via a little walkie-talkie, and then a certain line would be re-shot. Presumably the rest is then done in the edit, for our seamless domestic viewing pleasure. Another interesting point of note was that other end of Dave's ear-piece, i.e. the production team sat above and behind me, in a gallery looking down on the studio. I didn't know they were there until something Dave said in one of those "ad-break" one-way conversations made them all laugh out loud. I don't know how many were in that gallery, but I counted fourteen people on the studio floor, including the floor manager, cameramen, make-up women, and various runners who, among other things, moved props and assembled stage furniture.

All in all, I was in the studio for about an hour and three quarters, for the recording of a single show. Bearing in mind I missed the warm-up and set-up, this was quite a long time. I found the whole experience fascinating, and had one of those "I wish I had a different career" moments - not for one moment would I want to be up on the stage with a camera pointing at me, but I do think being up in the gallery, directing proceedings, could be very interesting.

Anyway, this is an interesting post for me, but maybe not so much for you. So as a reward for reading, here's a bit of Dave from his masterpiece, Modern Life Is Goodish, specifically an example of something missing from the new show: a Found Poem.


  1. Really enjoyed reading about your experience here so it was an interesting post for me! Your reception guy was a bit of a hero, wasn't he? Such a special experience to be there for the filming of a show and get a feel for everything that goes on behind the scenes. (I've only been to one - it was an episode of The Fast Show and was, if you'll excuse the obvious reference, *brilliant*) Anyway I'll be looking out for the new series when it airs... and perhaps you'll be looking through the Job pages for a new career in production... well, you never know.
    (Thanks too for mention re. the paint colours...did he mention Sulking Room Pink?)

    1. No Sulking Room Pink but...sorry, no spoilers!

  2. What a great experience - I'll definitely look out for that show now. Whenever I hear news stories about job losses in manufacturing, farming, retail, etc I am reminded that we now have a gazillion tv channels and streaming services who must employ as many people as used to work in those industries. It seems that even a seemingly low budget show like this one has a high head count behind the scenes - It seems we are heading towards a world where we will all either be making a product for the small/large screen, or consuming that product, everything else will be done by machines. Better than working down t'pit I imagine, but what a strange world.

    1. What worries me slightly about that, though, is the rise of YouTubers and their channels with millions of subscribers, as they don't have a cast of thousands behind the scenes. Saw this and couldn't believe it. Is this the future?