Se­crets of our suc­cess

TV Times - - Behind The Scenes - Joanne Lowles

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!”

New re­al­ity Tv Gog­gle­box fri­day / c4 / 9.00Pm

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

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