Indeed, reality TV still sucks.

Yesterday I attended a recording of a new reality TV series called "The One and Only..." at the BBC Television Centre. I was hesitant to go because the show held zero interest for me other than seeing the somewhat popular (over here, anyway) host, Graham Norton.

I hopped the tube west to White City and made my way to TV Centre to queue up to get in. The information I was given said they would let people in about 5:00, so I had no idea how early I should be there to queue up (they try to overbook the events in order to ensure a full audience) so I could be assured a seat. Taking a wild guess, I got there about 3:00 and was within the first 10 people in line, so I just waited there to get in. Yep, I queued up for nearly 2 hours to get into a production I didn't care to see.

Shortly before 5:00 we were let into the waiting room (the Audience Foyer, to be proper), and wait we did. It was after 6:00 before people were led from the foyer to the studio, and once we got into the studio it was another half hour or more before things got underway, that time being spent given the audience directions on when to clap, how to act/react, and so on.

Then the show began. The premise of the show is (apparently) the UK was scoured for tribute acts - individuals, not full bands - so the (alleged) top dozen could participate in the show. They broke the acts into 6 from each gender. For the blokes there was Elton John, Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie (yep, played by a white guy), Tom Jones, Robbie Williams and Frank Sinatra. or the birds there was Dusty Springfield, Britney Spears, Cher, Madonna, Diana Ross and Kylie Minogue. Each came out to do their thing and a couple of them actually did quite well (Elton & Dusty especially).

The production I attended was a dress rehearsal in preparation for the series beginning this weekend (I assume anyway; I've not cared enough to find out since I know I won't watch). The gallery wasn't full, but they had the full band, the full set, and nearly everything was as it should be when the first show is properly made. The dress rehearsal was a good idea since the production didn't exactly go off without a hitch. The worst part came during the intermission.

They broke the show into two segments, as seems to be the norm for this sort of show. The first segment, which was about 80-90 minutes, was the performance portion. Then they go off-air for a while whilst the phone lines are open for people to call and vote for whomever they prefer. When they broke for intermission, about 8:10, we were told they'd resume in about 35 minutes, but people had the option to leave if they wished. Since I had nothing else planned for the evening I decided I would stick around the 35 minutes to see the end of the show where the votes are tallied. However, they didn't meet their goal... 35 minutes came and went. 60. 90. They finally called the audience back in and I was in my seat about 10:00. Almost 2 hours of waiting, not 35 minutes. That was... displeasing.

To step back a bit, during the initial waiting period in the foyer, some people were approached to do a mock vote, amongst which was me. We were asked to simulate a vote but rather than vote for our favourite act, we were asked to vote for the two least favourite. I was quite pleased, from a cynical point of view, when after the votes were tallied the two I voted for as being worst happened to be the two set aside for possible elimination. For all I know the whole thing could have been rigged, but still a smirk crept across my face when the announcement was made.

For the first portion I was in the gallery, stage left, along with the others who'd been asked to do the mock vote. By the time the intermission ended, easily half the people in attendance had given up in frustration (as I nearly did, and maybe should have done) and left. When we were brought back into the studio after the intermission we were instructed to sit where we sat initially. After people were seated, they saw how many of the premium seats were empty (there were sections for the friends and families of the acts, friends of the producers, etc.) and asked people from the gallery to move down and fill those seats. As a result, I got to move down to the floor, stage right, third row, far left end, about 3 feet from the stage and about 4 feet from Graham Norton. So that bit was alright, especially when we exchanged a bit of banter during some downtime.

The show finally let out about 10:50 and I was quite happy to get the heck away from there. I enjoyed seeing and visiting TV Centre itself, but feel dirty after being at that production. It was truly terrible, was plagued with procedural problems, and I got the impression Norton didn't even want to be there. Still, he's a professional, he was able to turn the smile and charm and smarm on and off at will, so even if he didn't like it he'll still work through it and happily accept his paycheque.

Still, I got to see some of TV Centre from the inside without having to pay the £10 or so to take the tour as I'd planned to do at some point. I think the trade-off of 8 hours of my time for the £10 wasn't quite equitable though.



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