A Few Notes on a Recording of Golden Balls, 17th November 2008, Second Recording Session
Ah, Golden Balls. A show which is actually rather good fun - which is why I popped along to a recording of the new series at BBC TV Centre the other week. Do that thing you do with the “Read more” link if you’re interested.
- The ticket told us: “The studio doors open at 6.30pm. The gates to the site open at 5.45pm. No admittance after 6.45pm.” Being used to comedy shows, we turned up at around 5:15pm… and there was precisely nobody waiting outside Television Centre. Now, I’m hardly the coolest and hippest guy around, but not even I could face to wait around for ages being the only person in the queue, so me and my girl went to the nearby newly-opened Westfield Shopping Centre. Which is excellent, mainly for the numerous posters of that girl on the website which is great masturbatory material.
- We showed up again at around 5:40pm… to find around ten people in the queue. Hmmmm.
- We were let in at around 5:50pm. Whenever I walk through the gates of the BBC, but am still outside the building itself, I always have to shout “What are you sitting around for? Haven’t you got programmes to make? No, you’re all on the BBC gravy train. I wish I was.” This is because I am a fucking idiot.
- And off through to that lovely foyer that the BBC have for audience recordings. Having seen stuff shot at Teddington, Pinewood, Shepperton, and the London Studios, TVC remains by FAR the best experience for audience recordings - far better than waiting out in the rain, or in a grotty marquee.
- Whilst in the foyer, I went to the BBC Shop, and bought The Fast Show Ultimate Collection for £19.99. I was feeling very smug and pleased with myself until - just this minute - I found out that Play have it for £12.99. Gahfucks. (And just imagine going back ten years and telling people you’d be able to buy all of The Fast Show for that price…)
- At around 6:45pm, we went into the studio. There were two sets of audience seating… and we only filled one of them. (Not by myself, you shit.) The other remained completely empty. Counting the seats, there was room in the studio for 100 audience members, and only 50 showed. Which is really odd, when you’re used to comedy show recordings being completely packed and having people turned away. Considering that the show is actually quite popular - 2 million viewers, beating The Weakest Link - I find this strange - obviously expecting the numbers you’d get at a popular comedy recording would be ludicrous, but I really wasn’t expecting half-filled seating. The show clearly hasn’t built up any kind of proper following. It’s a shame, because the atmosphere was slightly lacking - and doubling the audience would have solved a lot of that.
- The programme was recorded in Studio TC3 at Television Centre. This is more for my future reference than anything else, as I derive some kind of bizarre pleasure from knowing exactly where shows are recorded. For your information, it’s the same studio the final TARDIS scene in Doctor Who’s original run was shot in.
- THE SET’S SMALLER THAN IT IS ON THE TELLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111111
- Actually, it also looks a bit cheap to start with… but the colour-changing balls on the walls look pretty cool.
- The warm-up guy… oh, God, the warm-up guy. Sadly, I can’t remember his name, although that’s probably for the best for him. He had the odd amusing line or moment, with his best pointing out that a crew member looked like Harold Shipman. (Said crew member: “Come round the back, I’ll take your temperature…” More amusing at the time than when written down.) But the rest of it was dodgy to say the least - he seemed obsessed with gay people, kept cracking onto audience members and crew members alike until it was just fairly uncomfortable, and had virtually no material. Worst of all, his demeanour was rather world-weary - the show needs someone who will gee-up the audience, not make them feel slightly depressed. Pretty fucking abominable.
- Someone asked if the show was going out live. The answer back was “I bloody hope not”. Why would anyone go and see Golden Balls, and not know when the programme was shown? (According to Wikipedia - admittedly not the most reliable place for this kind of information - it looks like this particular show will be going out in January.)
- Jasper Carrott came to say hello before recording started, talked to us for a minute or two, and was brilliant - warm, lovely, and extremely amusing. It’s amazing what a difference this makes - I’ve been to four IT Crowd recordings so far, and the most we ever get from the cast at the start of the recording is a wave. Just two minutes for the actor or presenter to acknowledge the audience makes for a far more pleasant recording.
- The cameragirl in front of me had a really cute bottom. (Oh, erm, and I hate poofs, or something.)
- We were told EXACTLY how to react to the show by the floor manager - silence for any balls under £1000, claps for any balls over £1000, whoops for any balls over £10,000, going mad for the big £75,000 ball, and groans for the Killer Balls. (Our initial groans for the were slightly too dramatic, and they asked us to tone them down a bit. Apparently, Golden Balls isn’t that exciting.) This is all fair enough, really. However…
- …what did make me feel slightly uncomfortable is that right at the start of the show, they turned the cameras around, switched the monitors off so we wouldn’t look at them instead of the camera, and got us to do all these noises for cutaways. I know, I know, it’s standard practice, it makes for a smooth-looking and sounding show at home, and at least they’re not dubbing fake audience noise over the whole show, but I still don’t especially like it.
- It’s nice the show actually has an audience though, incidentally. It would be cheaper and easier for them to not bother with one at all, and you could have got away without one for a daytime show - but it really adds to the atmosphere of the show.
- When the actual Golden Balls machine was switched on, the only thought that went through my head was JESUS CHRIST THE CHRISTING NOISE. It sounds like it’s about to explode at any moment. Yeah, it’s not like that on telly…
- All the bits where the balls are released from the machine and travel down the tubes to the contestants - one of my favourite game show sets in ages, although it looks rather less impressive in real life - are done with the warm-up guy still talking to us. I suppose it’s the sensible thing to do if they don’t need sound, as there’s lots of scope for stuff to go wrong.
- Jasper as game show host is… competent. He’s the consummate professional whilst recording, and is clearly a large part of why the show is recorded so quickly. But he never breaks out and becomes outstanding. He’s the new Les Dennis, basically. Nowhere is this more clear than in the initial faintly awkward chat with the contestants, which reminded me of Family Fortunes - not the worst telly in the world, but just remember how amazingly Barrymore did it on Strike It Lucky…
- He was very nice to the first contestant that was booted out, though, commiserating with him off-camera.
- One group of people in the audience - including a guy called ‘Bizzle’ - reminded me of those Fat Albert cutaways in that episode of Scrubs. This was far more amusing than the actual warm-up.
- In between most breaks in the recording, each contestant was prepped by a different production crew member. And by “prepped”, I really mean “guarded”. There was clearly talking going on, but it did rather look like this was at least partly to stop collaboration between constestants.
- As far as I could tell, there were six cameras shooting most of the show - but this increased to eight for the final round (including the camera attached to the ceiling). Rather more than I’m used to in sitcom recordings.
- I can’t speak for anyone else in the audience, but I genuinely got into the game. FWIW, I got who was lying right in the first round, but completely misjudged the second… and then thought that the girl at least would steal at the end, when they both split. (Aaaah.) The pace of the recording - at least once the show got started - was good enough that you never got bored, and could properly play along with the game.
- I was especially impressed with how quickly the scripts for the autocue were written - we could see the autocue when Jasper did his break intros/outros, and pretty specific links had being written up based around what had just happened in the game.
- Carrott came up to us at the end of recording and said what a lovely feeling it gave him when people split, and that you could genuinely never tell what people were going to do in the final round - and asked us to come again. Again, a really nice guy.
- The post-match interview actually took place with the audience present - they told us to be quiet, as we weren’t supposed to be there for anyone watching at home, but it was easier to do them before we left rather than after. It didn’t stop us laughing at one point anyway, though.
- We were out of the studio by 9pm - recording took around two hours. Not bad at all for a 45 minute show (one hour with ads), and shooting went pretty smoothly, with minimal retakes. Breaks were especially well done - no resetting, just Carrot talking to camera going out of the break… and five seconds later, coming back from the break. Smartly done.
In all honesty, I had a good time. But they really need to get a far better warm-up guy, and increase the audience - then it’d be a great experience, rather than a merely good one. As it is, if you have a couple of hours to spare one night during these sessions, you could do worse than to pop along. I’ll probably be going again.
NTS Golden Balls outing? No? Fuck you, then.