“I’m in charge”

Sunday, October 21, 2007 by

Last night, it was off to Television Centre, courtesy of a Beeb PR, who’d very kindly sorted me out a couple of tickets to see a recording of Strictly Come Dancing.

And what a fantastic evening it was – albeit awfully long. We filed in at around 4pm, and finally left about 11pm. In between, a free two-fingered KitKat and a small orange juice – here’s where your £2 billion shortfall can be found.

The atmosphere on the studio floor was unlike any other TV recording I’ve been to, more akin to sitting in a club. Andy Collins, alas, was on warm-up duty, but of course it was when Brucie pranced out (and he does prance – incredible for someone who’s months shy of his 80th) the audience livened up. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the man strutting his stuff, and he was fantastic. Striking up the band for a song, wrenching a woman (in this case Mo from EastEnders) up for a dance, still cracking wise 30 seconds before the show went live.

Come transmission time (people still filing in mere seconds before), it was a privilege to witness the big BBC machine in motion – a crane camera swinging across the set; the steadicam operator sprinting onto the floor, frantically circling the dancers perilously close before legging it again; the sheer number of crew members, crouched within the audience, getting additional coverage of the action …

Meanwhile, Bruce would trot on to the floor, do his piece to camera, then trot back to a pillar off set (chatting up a thrilled old lady on the way) to consult his scripts and the director. This was how he navigated through the show all evening, on and off again, occasionally exchanging words with the judges. Meanwhile, Tess mostly remained out of view, doing her backstage bit of business.

First show over, B and T recorded a couple of trails – one to be used later in the evening on BBC1 (“We’ll say that bit together,” Bruce said to Tess) – and then we broke for 40 minutes.

Back in the studio, to record Sunday’s episode. First up was Andrea Bocelli and Katherine Jenkins with “Time to Say Goodbye”. This was done without Bruce or Tess present. The audience were audibly appreciative when the director ordered a second go straight after the first performance because, honestly, it was electrifying in a way that doesn’t translate to screen.

After that, a dress rehearsal of the whole show, Bruce continually taking the time to explain to the audience what bit was happening when. This meant we got to enjoy the spectacle of witnessing a bogus elimination (Dom’s named picked out of the hat). Then Andy Collins again, promising “prizes” … Pepping the audience up and, at 30 seconds to recording, telling everyone England had lost to South Africa. “Great!” moaned a crew member as the mood deflated.

Fairly quickly the show came to a halt following the opening sequence and a gag about “Did you watch the rugby?” necessitating an on-the-hoof rewrite from the leading man. As the crew reset, Bruce ensured we all knew what was going on. “I don’t know, I have to be producer, director,” he moaned. And then, squeezing past Penny Lancaster-Stewart on the steps, “Oh, you can help me any time!”.

Less fluid an experience, the Sunday recording doesn’t really compare to the live rush of the Saturday show, although it was still a thrill to see Forsyth’s extra bits of business between takes (“Don’t yawn, dear! Cor, I nearly fell into that! I don’t know, you think you’ve got them in the palm of your hand …”).

And there it was, stop and start through to the final “keeeeeeep dancing!”. 

A few observations, then. While Tess didn’t really interact much with the studio audience, Bruce seemed to consider it his personal responsibility to keep us happy. 50 people had been allocated as voters, in case the phonelines went down. The dancers were continually nipping into the crowd to chat to family. Shauna Lowry was sat a couple of rows away from me (so she’s still alive). And the judges all had little cushions on their chairs.


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