Only a show such as Gogglebox could turn ordinary viewers into TV talent, propelling them from their couches to our television screens.
Since the Foxtel / TEN series premiered in February it has become a cult hit, with its armchair critics saying what we’re all thinking about everything from Family Feud to Embarrassing Bodies.
“People in the street ask us if we’re acting,” says Sydney resident, Yvie. “But no, that shit really comes out of our mouths! I’m sorry to say nobody is writing that crap for us.
“That’s the show. It’s just normal people saying the shit they think of immediately!”
Housemates Yvie (pictured, right) and Angie (left), seen weekly with their many dogs, were cast after a friend who works as an editor put them forward on a video. Yvie was cynical the show would work.
“When I heard the concept it sounded stupid: people watching us watching TV,” she continues. “But I’ve had so many people say to me they thought it would be stupid and then I watched it. I was exactly the same. I watched the UK one on YouTube, just a few clips of the gay boys and the posh couple. I thought it was brilliant.”
But producer David McDonald convinced her the Shine series would aim to be authentic and unfiltered.
“He said it would be about heart, emotion, ‘We’re not here to make you look stupid.’ That was my big fear. It took me 2 episodes of watching it to trust him. I had been holding back wondering ‘Are they going to show me farting? Picking my nose? Just stupid things like yelling at the dogs.’ But he said, ‘It’s not what my show is about.’
“Now I can relax knowing they’re not going to paint me bad.
“We say the crap we say and they edit together as best they can. It looks good so I’m really happy.
“They’ve shown me and Angie and our dogs exactly as we are.”
Yvie has previously worked on the other side of the camera, supporting Seven Publicity in Melbourne back in 2008, but she met Angie working with a friend in promotions in a shopping centre.
“I was Mrs. Claus and she was my elf, and we did a dreadful promo gig at Westfield, Miranda,” she recalls.
“We were supposed to be handing out flyers, but I had a microphone. The people in the shopping centre didn’t pay any attention so I just started singing shit on the microphone. Angie and (friend) Tony were the only people listening to what I was saying.”
Now she is praised for giving her frank opinions. It’s the best of all possible worlds.
“It’s the easiest gig in the world. I’ve never been so happy to have my opinions broadcast on TV with my dogs in my own living room!”
Production teams visit the home three nights a week to show them back to back content in extended viewing sessions. There are two cameras in their living room with a small crew buried away in a bedroom. Otherwise the pair are left alone to give their own reactions.
“We are on our own and we’re not directed in any way. Sometimes they tell us to get it back on track because we just waffle on and on and go on rants.”
Yvie and Angie sometimes react to content that contrasts with the other Gogglebox families, whether it’s The Big Bang Theory or the movie Mamma Mia.
“Everyone was loving this shitty movie and I was like, ‘This is the worst piece of crap I’ve ever seen!’ Or when everyone was so excited when that guy won Million Dollar Minute and we were like ‘Whatever! People win this all the time.’
“They said we don’t have to be funny all the time. It’s ok to be upset. We didn’t know how much we were obliged to do. So if you’re in a bad mood, that’s ok.
“But when Angie and I are together it just happens that there is a lot more ‘funny’ than anything else.
“Angie and I perform for each others and we always have. I read on social media people saying ‘These girls are auditioning for something.’ But we laughed thinking, ‘Jeez this is nothing.’”
Judging by audience reactions, Gogglebox has also managed to create new awareness of TV titles, not all of it on Foxtel or TEN. Yvie says there hasn’t been any evident bias towards the two broadcasters sharing the show.
“I thought it would, but unless I’m completely mistaken it doesn’t feel like it has. Kardashians and Real Housewives are Foxtel, but we watched Cyberbully, Insight, Four Corners, The Big Bang Theory. I think the movies lean towards TEN, ELEVEN or ONE, but I don’t think the shows are leaning towards anyone.
“They make us watch Better Homes a lot, which is a Seven show. And The Block, which was another one we absolutely hated.”
Despite plenty of red wine, alcohol is not -strictly speaking- encouraged whilst viewing, but it is ‘supported’ especially for breaks during content sessions. Yvie’s two pomeranians are also part of the shoot, along with two other dogs that are part of their foster home for dogs.
But a third housemate, Tom, who is special needs, is not part of the filming. In hindsight, Yvie agrees it was the right decision, especially with the real world of social media.
“It could have gone bad and I think hey made a really good choice because if we ever go to a second season and they wanted Tom in they would be totally prepared because the crew all know him now,” she says.
“But I think they definitely made the right decision in not including him because it would have been quite difficult. Sometimes the shoots are long and he wouldn’t sit through that.”
Despite this, 99% of the online comments have been positive, she says. In public, it’s universally supportive, especially with women in their 40s and 50s.
“They hold our hands and say ‘I love you girls. You make me laugh so much and you remind me of me when I’m having a wine. I’d love to come and have a wine with you girls.’ That’s what we get the most of.
“And the gay boys love us,” she insists.
“There were these boys at the shopping centre waiting for us at the bottom of the travelator who said, ‘You girls make me laugh!’
“Only gay men and women know how fabulous we are. Straight men don’t get us at all.”
But the production is cautiously guarding its cast from becoming “stars” and doesn’t want them to interact with other cast members.
“It’s not encouraged,” she explains.
“But we definitely talk on Twitter. Even though it’s not rivalry, they want us to maintain (our lives) as normal as possible, so there are very few interviews. They don’t want us to really know that side of the industry.”
That also means no red carpets, in order to keep the cast grounded.
“We’re not even allowed to go to the Logies. I’m going to protest!” she laughs.
“The English series won a BAFTA and they didn’t get to go. They watched it and that’s how they found out they won.”
To her knowledge there are also no plans to include the cast in a Logie segment, making wry comments about the nominees. Seriously?
“That would be good. Or really bad. You know how the Logies can get it so wrong, sometimes! You’ll have to talk to them.
“We would love there to be. We’d love to have a sunny holiday somewhere and do a season 2. But it’s not up to us.”
Something tells me there’s nothing to worry about on that front.
Gogglebox finale airs 9:30pm Wednesday on LifeStyle and is repeated 8:30pm Thursday on TEN.