Last Friday I was in the audience for The F1 Show, and having been behind-the scenes at the Sky F1 Media Day a month or so earlier I had a vague idea of what to expect. While the media day consisted of an afternoon watching the team fling paint around for a thirty-second feature, The F1 Show is an hour-long live show, and knowing Johnny Herbert, quite a lot of unpredictability! Before I start, sorry if I spoil any of the magic and thanks also to Dave for letting me write this for his blog.
I digress. The email from the production team told me to be at the studio for 6.15; I arrived a few minutes earlier than that to a queue of people already waiting outside. Name ticked off the list and complaints made about the Sky shuttle bus driver (next time when I ask to be taken to the studio, I don’t mean “can I be dropped off outside a Shell petrol station half a mile away, please?”) I waited around for further instructions and met the fellow audience-goes – a hardy bunch, some had travelled from Scotland to be in the audience and most (if not everybody) had never met any of the team, or indeed been in a television studio before.
After a few minutes of waiting around outside a producer appeared and asked for a few volunteers to do some filming for the pre-title sequence. Since it was (a) cold, (b) I wanted to get my face on TV as much as possible and (c) needed things to write about, I said yes and was led inside to the reception area, was told that I should say a thing or two about the race in Bahrain and led over to a man with a camera.
“Don’t look at the camera” the producer said, “look at me instead” as he held out a microphone in my general direction, ready for me to make my television debut. Thirty seconds and no “ers” or “ums” later my filming is complete. “Ace” I thought, “I’ll be on telly before the show even begins” as I watched the others do their filming.
Filming complete our small group were led outside and around a corner to a “Welcome Centre” where we would spend the next hour or so waiting around. After the world’s worst security check (“Oh, you have overnight stuff in your bag? I don’t want to see your pants, carry on” with a smile) I had to give in my disclaimer saying I’m happy to be filmed (durh) and was given a fetching pink wristband to wear. Thankfully, there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as a large-screen TV showing what was on the channel at the time. Being by myself and not having any 3G internet I watched what was on the TV and looked at the late arrivals. By this time, we were pretty close to the latest arrival time of 7pm and the room was filling up quite a bit.
At about 7.30 or so we were all told that were now going to be transferred to the studio. Figuring that there would be a queue of some sort to get in I walked a bit quicker than the majority of the people (who mostly, were pretty happy to have been picked to go in the audience in the first place) and leapfrogged about 20 people between the Welcome Centre and the reception area (where we did our filming earlier). Bag checked in and secure, I joined the two people in front of me to queue outside of the studio. By this point the tension was building; David Croft appeared every couple of minutes or so doing something or other but always stopped to either (a) rib the audience (pulling out the chap behind me with a very flowery shirt and asking if he was wearing it for a bet was a particular highlight) or (b) tell us one of many pirate jokes. For those who are planning on attending future F1 Shows I’ll leave them out so I don’t spoil the surprise.
Incidentally, the studio used is the same one that Saturday Night Football is filmed in. I’m guessing other sports-related programming takes place inside those walls too, but the fact that “Saturday Night Football” was written on the wall in the corridor alongside pictures of various footballers is a bit of a giveaway. The set itself is a lot bigger than you’d imagine it to be and the wooden bit is so easy to trip over when you’re not looking at where you’re walking.
Entering the studio, we were told to first of all line up on the raised wooden bit next to the (flimsy-looking desk), and also told to make more than one row if we could. It was awfully relaxed; not like a school photo where you’re placed against your will. I was in the second row, and although my view was slightly obstructed by the man in front of me I still had a pretty good view.
Audience in, the producer appeared with a clipboard containing the script and asked for someone to come out. “Well done” he said, “you’ve won the star prize of being selected to ask a question” not only getting a round of applause but a prime position.
“Daniel Puddicombe, could you put up your hand, please?” the producer said with a smile. I raised my hand, “you’ve been selected as the other person to ask a question” he continued as he led from my mediocre space and placed me right at the front slightly to the left of the Sky Pad. I genuinely wasn’t expecting any of my questions to be picked so was a little surprised to say the least. After looking at the script to see which question was selected (I submitted quite a few) I was left alone. The team then asked us all to switch our phones off and Crofty told yet more pirate-related jokes to warm us up.
With about five minutes to go (I think, my phone was off and I couldn’t see a clock) Natalie practiced a few lines, David asked Johnny what his favourite Lewis Hamilton race is and was met with silence. “You’ve got four minutes to come with an answer!” he says to roars of laughter. We’re then told to practice cheering (while being filmed each time), and at the third dummy run through the producer is satisfied.
“Titles! Clap!” and we were away. While VTs were playing and adverts being shown a clock appeared on the one TV screen showing what the viewers at home could see showing how long the team had before it was back to them. When the cameras weren’t focused, scripts were checked, water was consumed and the audience was interacted with. It felt like a well-oiled machine, like it was rehearsed several times over in the afternoon, but one thing that couldn’t be rehearsed was the audience bit – hence picking on the guy with the Rihanna t-shirt, and oiking the chap with the Ted Appreciation Society t-shirt out, as well as jokes about the Boat Race and many more besides.
In the studio, we didn’t have any sound aside from the team’s own voices so from where I was stood it was actually quite hard to hear what was being said other than when people were at the Sky Pad or indeed when I had my bit of airtime. Also what was slightly annoying was that there was only one TV screen showing what the viewers at home were seeing; if you saw me crane my neck to the right a bit, that’s why!
I noticed a few people on Twitter complain that although tech expert Craig Scarborough was in the audience, he wasn’t picked out. We were asked to submit questions to the production team by the Wednesday before the show, so it allowed the team to write up a script and come up with a plan. I have no idea whether not Scarbs submitted any questions or not, but it wasn’t as simple as going up to someone and sticking a microphone in their face – even pulling the chap with the Ted t-shirt was pre-planned, as David noticed this while doing a corridor walk and must’ve said something to someone.
Speaking personally, during one of the breaks Crofty shouted over to me:
“You’re 16 in three days’ time aren’t you, Daniel?”
“No, 19 three days ago, Crofty”
Hence the line that I was all grown up and wasn’t a 16 year old anymore, although he did still get the days wrong when we did it for real, and while we’re on this subject, I had no idea what David was going to say other than that I had a question to ask the panel, if you can call two people a panel. The same applies for his little joke about switching off mobile phones to Karun when he pretended to call Mr Haas, they stemmed from earlier comments, and that worked really well, however I’m can understand if people at home were saying “eh?” at that point.
At the end of the show, we were given a round of applause by the team, thanked for coming along and for being a great audience and were told that there would be photo chances and the like outside in the reception (why that was done I do not know – there’s a lot more room in the studio itself). Crofty being the joker he is walked over to a corner, shouted “Who wants a photo then? I’m guessing Natalie will be more popular than me, though”. For about half a minute, a crowd gathered around Natalie, Johnny and Karun (who dashed off quickly) and nobody was around Croft.
I’ve noted it in the past, and I’ll note it again, but the team are so friendly and down to earth. They didn’t have to spend 45 minutes hanging around talking to whoever came up to them and happily having many photos taken. Hanging back for a while, having walked out of the studio with Natalie and Karun, I looked around the reception area and couldn’t see one unhappy face – all in all, it was a well-executed evening.
Sure, having an audience in the studio can look a bit cheesy when you’re watching on TV, but when you’re in there; it makes sense, and brings a whole new element to the show that we haven’t seen until the start of this year, and for that, Sky should be given a pat on the back.