Last night was an interesting evening out‚Äì a couple of weeks ago I took a look at the BBC website searching for free audience tickets to any of their productions. Neither of us had ever been to a live taping, so I thought it would be intriguing for several reasons. Among them, we’ve both been involved in amateur film making and with my background in props/special effects and his in TV/radio writing, we went to see how a BBC1, prime time sitcom is put on.
The tickets were easy enough to book online, though the list of shows to choose from was skimpy. I chose what I believed would be the best and most professional option‚Äì one with known names and a BBC1 time slot already approved. It turns out that we were lucky to be admitted to the audience as more tickets are routinely distributed than there are seats in the studio. As we waited outside the studios for our number group to be called in for seating, an entire busload of geriatrics from up north (Preston, I think), was turned away as overflow. I’m told that tapings are commonly attended by the elderly, though after our experience, I can’t believe they put up with it as well as they do…
There was a (rather lukewarm) warmup comedian for the audience before the shooting began and he filled us in on the necessary plot/character set up. As filming commenced, takes never numbered more than three or four for any scene and cameras, sound men and set dressers glided between areas of the make believe world like an Ice Capades* display. It was fascinating from that point of interest as well as being enhanced with suspended televisions for us to witness the action as the cameras could see it happen.
This was all fun for the first hour‚Äì maybe hour and a half. Then we were getting knee cramps and dry throats. Our fun was wearing thin as this state increased in intensity for the next hour after that. Three and a half hours later, parched to headaches and stiff as boards, the filming was done and we could retire our laughter and clapping for the night. I’m not complaining at the time it takes to create a sitcom, but I am going to be much better prepared with a bottled water next time we attend one. If we attend another. Frankly, I can think of other ways to spend the evening… What impressed me more than anything regarding the audience, was the remarkable ability for the aged to sit through this process gracefully, (except for the cranky bastard behind us), without water, without a break, without being able to get up for the toilet, to stretch or whatever. Wow! I can only imagine that most of the elderly in the audience had been to tapings before and were wearing their Depends! On the other hand, without refreshments, the resolve of a camel is easier to emulate…
Regardless of basic discomfort, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad we did it. Perhaps if I see a really special opportunity for a future taping I’ll jump on it, but otherwise, I think that the experience at Teddington Studios was enough that I can safely check it off of my mental list of things to do before I exit this mortal coil.
Oh, and in case you were wondering… The sitcom is going to be a dog. Oh well. On the upside, the first episode will have my laughter in it. Neat! (I’m almost tempted to watch it just for that thrill of picking out my nearly forced giggles… almost…) Jesus, whatever happened to good writing on television? * sigh * Still, an interesting experience. I recommend it, but take a water!
*I can’t believe I found a topic not included in Wikipedia yet! I feel like I’ve just added a new twist to a form of wiki-Googlewhack! I’d add Ice Capades to the Wikipedia myself, but I’ve only seen Sesame Street on Ice, so my knowledge is limited to Big Bird and Cookie Monster… not exactly the graceful display I was attempting to describe. 😉