Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Buzz of Live TV

Sometimes, I really, really love my job - I get a tingling feeling, butterflies in my stomach and a sense of truly being part of something special. It doesn't happen very often, but tonight was one of those rare occasions. Why? Because of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. Now, you may not like the show or the presenters, but in terms of real life, live studio, quality television production, it doesn't get much better than this!

The building and the studios take on an atmosphere; there's a buzz of excitement in the air, you can feel the magic of television. The "on air" lights flash red in the corridors which are ever so slightly clouded with smoke machine smoke, Studio 1 is in use packed to the rafters with a live audience, the scene dock is frantic with sets and props and costumes being moved, celebrities are being ushered around by an army of crew from dressing rooms, to make up, to green rooms and back again, Chris Akabusi and Jenny Bond are talking to Toyah Wilcox in the Luvvies Cafe and Take That have just wandered past. This is good old fashioned ITV Saturday night entertainment at its best - and some of the best in the business are downstairs in the studio making everything run smoothly. When ITV put their mind to it and tell the accountants and shareholders to sit down and shut up, they can actually produce some fantastic shows, just like the classic family favourites of old when they regularly got 15 million viewers on a Saturday evening.

Very little television is live nowadays, it's too expensive and too risky. But when a show like this happens in the famous London Studios, I'm proud to be part of ITV, you get the feeling you're working with true professionals who are passionate about what they do - this is what television is all about!

Sadly, tonight also marks the end of an era for me, and soon it will be the end of an era for ITV. My department was outsourced a couple of years ago to a company called Technicolor based in Chiswick and though a year overdue, the final channel migration happens in the next couple of weeks. This is the last day shift I will work here - I'm on night shift next week, and then it's all over. ITV's transmission has been here in the heart of ITV for more than a decade and I've been here 7 years. I'll be made redundant very soon and ITV will no longer be a complete television channel; it'll do everything except the thing that actually makes it work - the transmission.

I have to say I'm glad I'm leaving though. Moving the operation to a glass walled call centre on an industrial estate in West London is hardly the same as trundling across Waterloo Bridge every day, passing dozens of London landmarks and walking through the revolving doors of the London Studios (the ITV equivalent of the BBC's Television Centre) on the south bank of the Thames, having lunch in the canteen over looking St Paul's Cathedral. Every now and again pushing my way through the waiting paparazzi or crossing the red carpet of some awards show or other to get to work. It just won't be the same.

These are memories I will never forget. It's been a fantastic 7 years and I've had a great time with everybody I've worked with, I've met some real characters who have taught me a lot. It's been a pleasure to work with all of them (most of the time - working in such close proximity with the same people for so many years has caused the odd argument, think of us as the most disfunctional family you can possibly imagine and times it by 10, throw in some long hours, tiredness, PMT and some stress and you can just about imagine how tempers have flared.)

So good luck to everyone who's staying on at Chiswick, and good luck to everyone who will soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed during the worst economic crisis in living memory. I'm sure we'll all bump into each other again some day, TV is rather a small world after all...

Friday, 6 February 2009

More Snow!

This is the view out of my living room window at the moment:

And it's snowing quite heavily again. Most of the roads around here are closed, including the A41 and the A5.

We had another few inches of snow overnight, which is now sitting on top of all the ice and compacted slippery stuff. Not surprising nobody is trying to drive.

Can't wait to go out for a ride later!!