TV behind the scenes

Have you ever fancied being in the audience of your favourite TV show? Since Salford Quays became the Manchester home of television there are endless opportunities to watch shows being recorded right on your doorstep. And what’s more, it’s completely free. 

There is a bit of a palaver to go through before you make it to the studio but your perseverance will be rewarded with a fun evening catching a glimpse behind the scenes.

Last week the boy and I rubbed shoulders with Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock, Jon Richardson, Rachel Riley and Suzy Dent as we watched a live episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.


How we got there

The process involves signing up to a mailing list via Sro Audiences so that you hear when opportunities become available. A quick Google reveals that there are several organisations offering this service with different providers responsible for different TV shows, so if there is something particular that you want to watch it might take a bit of looking around.

When your show of choice is due to start filming you can apply to be an audience member. It’s a bit of a lottery as to how long you will have to wait for a place and even getting a ticket is not enough to guarantee you entry, as we found out to our detriment the first time we were successful.

First time round we were given an allocated time slot in which we had to be at the studio in Media City. There is a queuing system which operates on a first come, first served basis until the seats are filled. Frustratingly, we completely misjudged how bad the traffic would be on the Mancunian Way (rookie mistake to even try going that way) and, after a stressful long drive we were too late. But, we did know that there was benefit in turning up anyway. If you arrive and cannot get in you become eligible for priority tickets next time.

So, last week when we rocked up – substantially earlier this time having learned our lesson, we were able to jump the queue.

TV behind the scenes: 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown


What to expect

There’s quite a bit of hanging around at first as the organisers want to have everyone ready outside before they open the studio doors. Things start to move more quickly once you are seated.

The studio was similar to a theatre with tiered seating, just with more lights, and lots of cameras.

The evening is kicked off by a compère who is responsible for warming up the audience to get you in the mood. Lots of whooping and cheering is required, which is not something that comes easily when you’ve been hanging about for the past hour or so. It’s the same as the beginning of any comedy show before the main act comes on stage, a few jokes and a spot of audience participation, which, for the two guys who had to practice their cheering in front of everyone, was highly embarrassing.   

Jimmy Carr came in for a bit of welcoming banter, and was soon followed by the panellists.

The show pretty much unfolded as it does on TV and I was surprised how smoothly it ran for the most part. I think the whole thing took about 2 hours from start to finish. Several more stunts were added than you would usually see on TV; I guess so there is plenty of material to choose from. Some of the jokes were far too risqué to be aired, which does mean you get a different perspective by watching the show being filmed.

The recording is edited as the show progresses so the panel have to go back and repeat certain lines at the end. This is a strange experience because the comments are fired totally out of context and it’s hard to remember where they fitted in. Apart from this last minute editing, I was surprised that there was very little to-ing and fro-ing and repetition. I hadn’t expected the advert breaks to be included as part of the recording either. They actually use them to touch up makeup and make changes to the set. I guess that’s why the whole thing seems natural in the final edit.

Since I have no idea which of Jimmy’s escapades will be aired I don’t want to be responsible for any spoilers. But if you are a fan, you will know which show I watched based on the prize – the much coveted Countdown baby bouncer! 

If you fancy getting in to the audience yourself, check out the SRO Audiences website for more information.


Have you ever been in the audience for a TV show? Which one was it and what did you make of the experience? Let me know in the comments.

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