“Remember, it’s 01 if you’re outside London”

Saturday, December 16, 2006 by

It took a bloody age to get into the studio, but once I was there, it was great. Clapping eyes on the obligatory studio set recreation, and an audience clad in brightly coloured plastic hats… well, it was almost a religious experience. 

This was last night at BBC Television Centre, and the studio recording of It Started With Swap Shop. To go into too much detail would spoil the show – which goes out on December 28 on BBC2. Nevertheless, it’ll be no surprise to report Noel, Maggie, Keith and John were all in attendance, along with a respectable representation from their successors (wot no Dick and Dom?). 

Edmonds was utterly word perfect throughout, and proved quick on his feet when it came to improv. No – ahem – posh pauses here. Alas, sometimes “Liquid Sex” Noel put in an appearance. “Have you ever stroked a weasel?” asked one guest (come on, you can guess who). “I’ve stroked a badger,” countered the bearded one. “And a few beavers”.

Hopefully, that won’t make the final cut. 

Something, however, that might is the clear animosity between Keith and Maggie. Bounding on to set, Cheggers greeted Noel and John with delight, and then, “Hello, you” to his ex-wife. Later, when Keith was “out and about” scampering among the studio audience, Noel held up a pair of klackers and joked that Maggie had Cheggers’ balls. And then, when Ms Philbin donned a pair of specs, she hissed “I haven’t had laser treatment like someone“.

But these are tiny details. The occasion itself was fantastic. Achingly nostalgic. Just seeing old footage of Keith reading bus route details was Proustian. How the celebratory atmosphere will translate to telly, though, is a different matter. I fear the studio audience will just be an irritant… don’t be too harsh on us.

When it was all over, Noel made a typically Noel speech. It had been an “extraordinary” night. No-one makes children’s programmes like the BBC… An organisation who, as he continued, he lapsed into referring as “we”. We? Edmonds may claim he’s happier than ever opening boxes after Countdown, but it’s clear where his heart lies. 

Noel on the Beeb. It’s actually what we all want.


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