Our Day at the Beeb

Our Day at the Beeb


On Saturday 9 February 2008 my hubby Nathan and his band Queen on Fire performed on the semi-final of BBC1’s The One and Only talent show.

An fun and fascinating – if also long and tiring – day. It was a beautiful February afternoon. After a minor nightmare getting lost around the wilds of Willesden and Shepherd’s Bush, we – my MIL and DIL Chris and Frank and myself – made it to BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane (which I remembered vividly as the address they used to give out for competitions on Going Live back in my youth) at 4:30, in plenty of time to be ticked off the list, allocated our numbered stickers and sent through to the foyer.

On our way in to that vast, vast building, we happened to meet Nathan and his bandmates and had the obligatory cheesy ‘standing outside TV Centre’ shots on our phone cameras.

There was a great deal of hanging around before the 350 or so audience members were called through to the studio in the appropriate order. Contestants’ families and friends first (recognisable by their badges bearing legends such as ‘Lionel’s Mum’ or ‘Robbie’s Granddad’), then the superfans, then the rest of us.

It was absolutely amazing to see how many hundreds of crew members and assistants and technicians, how many zillions of cameras and lights and miles of cable it takes to make one TV programme.

There was great excitement, and applying of emergency ‘I’m gunna be on the telly’ lippy and powder (and that was just the men taken care of) when our group were shown to seats which we were told would feature on camera throughout the show (‘So no nose-picking,’ the floor manager ordered)! We were directly behind the bench on which the contestants sat once they had performed. I dispatched a few quick texts to my mum and friends indicating where we were and to ‘look out 4 us!!’

There is such a fun atmosphere in that studio. I must admit to cynically suspecting the unnaturally deafening sounding crowd noise was dubbed on these type of programmes – but no, the audience really do go that wild! It was a riot. Each artiste had their throng of supporters – the Lionel Richie-a-like, Moni, seemed to have a busload in. At times during the show we couldn’t hear what Graham Norton was saying over the applause (in fact we heard more watching it back on the telly).

The floor manager did a great job of hyping us up, telling us at what points to applaud and for how long, during which songs to stand up and clap and which to sit down but sway!

The lovely Graham Norton, and judges Carrie and David Grant, were announced on shortly before transmission time. Graham seemed very sweet, camp, energetic and impish – exactly how you’d expect him to come across really. He certainly gives the impression he absolutely loves doing the show.

He was chatting down with the friends and relatives, asking who won the afternoon’s rugby, when the continuity announcer boomed through to indicate the live programme was about to start, forcing our Graham to do a little ‘ooh, I’ll miss me cue’ dash up the stairs he would then descend. He was over our side of the set, and in response to Frank shouting ‘Go for it Graham,’ waved and flashed us an excitable, ‘Good here innit’ sort of smile.

The competitors performed the following numbers in this live first show:

Anthony Adams, alias Frank Sinatra – My Way (beautiful song – my dad’s song – but I’ve heard much better Sinatras)
Siam Hurlock, alias Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (difficult song and she did it well)
Simon Abbotts, alias Tom Jones – Sex Bomb (cringe-o-rama)
Joanna Berns, alias Cher – I’ve Found Someone (sang her socks off – the best, in my opinion)
Moni Tivony, alias Lionel Richie – Hello (sweet, sincere performance)
Katy Setterfield, alias Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (sounded just like Dusty)
Tony Lewis, alias Robbie Williams – Rock DJ (shouty and posey)
Whole group – December 1963 (Oh What a Night) by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

The crowd all ‘gave it some’ – as instructed by the floor manager – and it was so easy to get caught up in the spirit of cheering rapturously when Carrie and David praised a contestant and booing at the vaguest hint of criticism. We were encouraged to cheer every contestant, not just our favourites, and I have to say everyone was lovely and supportive to all.

Immediately after the live show, which finished at 7:45, Queen on Fire’s performance was pre-recorded, to be inserted into the results show. There was a practice run-through – to heat up the audience – then the real take.

They had a strict three-minute time slot, and chose a medley consisting of Killer Queen and We are the Champions. Scott, Nath, Sean, Tom and Ade were just superb and gave it their all. The crowd went mad again. It was a complete buzz. I’m so proud!!

Watching it back (which I have – as you can imagine – a hundred times), they all sounded and looked great. Plenty of close-ups of my hubby – which was lovely and kind of surreal!! They were all delighted with how it went.

Hopefully the phone will start to ring with more gig offers now…

Graham then recorded a few trailers for next Saturday’s final, to be broadcast at progressive points during the week: ‘Saturday at 7:30 on BBC1!’ – ‘Tonight at 7:30 on BBC1!’ – ‘Next on BBC1!!’ – ‘Over on BBC1 now!!’

We were dispatched back to the foyer for a break – and to pounce on the free crisps and bottles of water up for grabs – and then ushered back for the results show, which kicked off at 9:25. There were two more group performances: Take Another Little Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin from the girls and Elvis’s Suspicious Minds by the boys. Queen on Fire’s pre-recorded insert was then shown to us on monitors. Watching back, you can’t see the join, as it were, and would never know which bits were not live as they segue so smoothly.

Graham made a quip about ‘Brian May in Cher’s wig’ – then it was results time and he announced ‘in no particular order’ the first four acts going through to the grand final: Frank, Lionel, Robbie and Dusty. The audience whoops were naturally by now chimpanzee-like, and there was euphoric ‘Lionel’s in the final’ chanting – to the tune of the Conga – from his posse.

‘The act with the lowest number of phone votes and therefore leaving the competition tonight’ proved to be Tom Jones – which left Diana Ross and Cher (a travesty in my opinion – those two were the best of the night) to battle it out for their fellow contestants’ votes in the sing-off. The finalists elected to save Cher, so Diana was out too.

The result was slightly disappointing then. In my opinion, Tom (though Simon Abbotts is a fellow Dudleian) was right to go, but I felt Robbie was the next weakest. These two did a lot of posing, and the sexy choreography of the dancers around them distracted from wobbly vocals! By contrast, Diana showed total star quality.

I definitely want to go and watch more TV recordings (the ones that particularly spring to mind would be Strictly Come Dancing and Who Wants to be a Millionaire – I guess there are waiting lists you can go on?). I could even make it my hobby. Certainly when I retire I shall consider it as a regular pastime. It’s free (well not entirely, of course – most of these recordings are in London, and there are the astronomical petrol prices to consider), and a fascinating day out. There’s a fair bit of hanging about, but it’s well worth it.

Now if you and wish, for any reason, to see my in-laws and me clapping along and ‘giving it some’ – you can also watch the clip on my You Tube page www.youtube.com/user/mrslmathers. We were on the second row of the block right behind the contestants’ bench. I’m in glasses and a blue T-shirt with Sweep (Sooty’s mate) on!!