I once attended a recording of The Voice that stretched for over 8 hours.
It was arduously long, with empty spaces in between the showbiz and music.
I shamelessly stuck around because I knew I was getting to meet one Ms. Kylie Minogue (I know, I know!).
But I felt bad for the punters, with no such carrot, and for the tireless warm-up guy, struggling to keep a vibe in the room and stop patrons from leaving. So what are your rights when you attend a TV show recording?
Seasoned warm-up man Michael Pope, who works on Mad As Hell, Hot Seat & The Footy Show, tells TV Tonight being part of a Live audience is an important role in creating atmosphere. You effectively enter into a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ when you attend a show, but it is also a two-way street.
Where a show runs longer than you were advised, it isn’t reasonable for a show to prevent you from leaving, if you so choose.
“I think that is when the handshake breaks from the producer’s side back to the audience member. If you are called from 7 to 11 and it’s now heading to 12 I think you have every right to leave,” he says.
“It comes down to producers accurately estimating how long they need an audience for. Occasionally, not often, they under-estimate it so the audience are there for longer than planned and the angst kicks in.”
“More sugar lollies, more bottles of water, pleading, begging!”
But make no mistake, the warm-up man will coerce and cajole you with every trick in the book in the hope you will stay.
“More sugar lollies, more bottles of water, pleading, begging and pulling at heart-strings! You use terms like ‘Continuity’ that they may not understand! You tell them ‘It will cost more in post-production to drop in other shots!'” he reveals.
“It doesn’t happen often and it’s really uncomfortable when it does. Although I’ve also been on shows where it goes longer than planned and the audience is having a ball.”
The warm-up man befriends the audience to keep them entertained during down-times, but producers also liaise through them to get to elicit the best reactions for the show. Sometimes the physical layout of arena shows can exacerbate his challenge of staying in touch with the crowd.
“It’s difficult to maintain a rapport when it is 1 vs 1000,” Pope continues.
“The warm-up needs to jump between them, but they are kind of on their own when you’re not with them. For a long shoot going until 2am, I would suggest refreshing the audience at 11. Call in the night-owls who think it’s a party.”
One of his longest recordings was a short-lived 1994 game show, Strike It Lucky, hosted by Ronnie Burns.
“It was a 1am finish and we thought we’d be done by 9:30. We started with 50 people and got down to about 8 people. Obviously they had to audio-sweeten it a lot!
“If they are really not happy to stay it doesn’t work in anybody’s favour. They’re not going to clap or laugh or take shots of them, so you might as well get rid of them.”
Whilst some shows may tell patrons they are not allowed to leave -even for safety reasons- the bottom line is audience members are under no obligation to stay and it’s up to production to facilitate a timely and safe exit.
“In my experience people don’t leak.”
Another concern for audience members surrounds Confidentiality.
Most shows will require patrons to sign a release form, or include confidentiality as part of the ticketing arrangements.
Before social media, recalls Pope, there was the odd risk somebody might leak details of a show to radio’s Rumour File. On the whole he says most people comply with Confidentiality requests.
“In my experience people don’t leak. They respect the fact they have come along and maybe they play games with their friends, but they don’t go public with it.
“If they are giving us their time, they are probably fans of the show. So they want to support it,” he explains.
“Now with social media we ask people not to do it. But over time shows have recorded 2 or 3 endings just so the result doesn’t leak.
“So I really understand why they have embargoes and multiple endings. It’s the network’s bread and butter getting eyeballs to a grand final.”
“Hang on, that’s one possible ending”
“I remember the first time we did it on The Biggest Loser.
“People started to get up to go and I said ‘Hang on, that’s one possible ending. Now we’re going to do it again and someone else will win.’
“And I think in that case even the contestants hadn’t been told there would be 2 alternate endings.”
Pope now runs a tvshowaudiences.com.au and a Facebook page for tickets and show info.
Amongst his tips for audience members, bring a small snack, no photos during the show and don’t try and arrive too early for the best seats.
“You get put in a holding area and everybody gets mixed up, then you go to the studio and everyone gets mixed up. So the idea of getting front row if you arrive early is not the case.”