Secrets of our success
Gogglebox executive producer Tania Alexander gives TV Times the inside story of the C4 phenomenon
We film more than 200 hours of footage every week. Then we edit it down and use less than one per cent of that. From Friday to Wednesday we have five film crews out in five households. Some of them are filmed twice a week, others just once.
The cast were, and still are, people who never wanted to be on television. I have to persuade them to do it and that’s become even harder as the show has got bigger. People who don’t want to be famous are the ones we want for the show.
We still find reviewers by combing the streets of the UK. We look, we listen and we find people who naturally make us laugh, without knowing they’re funny.
They need to be able to react in a humorous, insightful and quick
Love of Dogs way to what they see. As part of the process, we hold up cards with a headline, or a picture of Simon Cowell or Prince Charles and film how they react. It’s also a great way to see how the family dynamic works – who’s the loudest, who’s in charge and who always gets shouted down.
Nothing is funnier than real people. Even right at the beginning, when almost everyone thought Gogglebox was a terrible idea that would never work, I knew that, with the right cast, it would be great.
Leon was keen from the start. We found him in a bridge club and he was sold. But with June we were still persuading her to give it a go right up to the eve of filming.
It takes about two hours to set up in each household. Two small cameras go in the living room and we use a bedroom or kitchen to create a temporary gallery where a crew of four sit and watch the action. Trust is incredibly important. We’ve been with many of these families for four years, in their homes for 14 or 15 weeks at a time. In fact, 80 per cent of our original families are still with us, and we’ll never make them look bad.
We’ve had accusations of being scripted, but that’s only because people can’t believe how good our cast are. The show only works when their reactions are natural and spontaneous. If someone was asking them questions, it would feel stiff and dry.
Lots of viewers write to us saying they would be great on the show, but actually very few can do what our regulars do. Even many of those we cast never see the light of day.
I have three rules. If we review shows about real people, we’re never mean or nasty. Celebrities, on the other hand, have put themselves out there, so they’re fair game, as long as it’s not personal. And for politicians it’s open season – say what you like!
Viewers always hate a new family and we have some corkers in the new series. But we always call them on the night of the show and tell them to avoid Twitter, which can be particularly vile. It’s like when a new family comes into Eastenders or Corrie – nobody likes them for ages and then they get a storyline and you forget they’re new. No one liked the Moffats when they started, or Giles and Mary.
The cast need to remain as normal as possible. It’s tough – we’re creating recognisable stars who get mobbed when they go shopping. But the integrity of the show is based on them being just like viewers who say what we’re all thinking. So you don’t see them on the red carpet or out together. I’m not always popular when I say, “No, you can’t go to the opening of an envelope!”
Best friends Sandra and Sandy are back to entertain us Artist Giles and writer Mary’s reviews are masterpieces The Mccormicks and John the St Bernard share a Cameras go to Hull and back
to film Jenny and lee The Woerdenwebers and cat – a purrfect Tv family
The cast never wanted to be on television Hairdressers Chris and Stephen make cutting remarks
Tania just wants her cast to act naturally