One of the benefits of living in Las Vegas, Nevada is being close enough to Hollywood that the business end of the town bleeds over into the real “city that never sleeps;” CBS snuck into Vegas and advertised for TV pilot participation – as in audience members – but, shush it’s a secret. That’s right, although the studio was cram packed with members of the public eager to see the “inner” workings of this “under wraps” production, the punters (as they say in England) were threatened within an inch of their lives if they tweeted or posted on either Twitter or Facebook any information about this potential new program. They did say that this dealt mainly with pictures or videos with meant there was also the implicit understanding that Instagram had better not contain any images of what transpired throughout what turned into a very long, albeit enjoyable, afternoon and evening.
The folks who were willing to sit for hours and watch this entire process unfold, had a call of 3 p.m. and arriving just a few moments past that mark showed that some people had obviously gotten there en masse very early. The line of people who were excitedly waiting for entry was very, very long. At intervals there were assistants for the CBS production team who passed on important information, such as how long everyone would have to wait and the fact that no photographs could be taken. One bit of information that had to be asked for was the location of the restrooms. All the waiting crowd were friendly and talkative. No one attempted to “cut-in” or jump the queue.
Admittedly the taping of this event was a long time to sit in one place and clap, laugh, groan, and shout. The actual show began at 4 p.m. and did not finish until way after 8 p.m. although, as mentioned elsewhere in this article, a good amount of folks bolted the second they thought things had ended. While absolute secrecy was said to be the rule of the day, when readers find out who the producer of this product was all will come clear. Although, if anyone jumps to the end of this article, they will know instantly what the pilot’s format is with nary a peep from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
At the risk of being burned at the stake or mauled by lions; one bit of information can be revealed. This bit of knowledge deals with a certain English producer type, who was responsible years ago for introducing the world to a reality TV sports program called Gladiators. That gentleman is none other than Nigel Lythgoe. Nigel even directed a few episodes of Gladiators, a total of nine in 1992 at the start of the series. Mr Lythgoe has since moved on from all things gladiatorial and was responsible for So You Think You Can Dance with another delightful English export Cat Deeley. On a side note, Ms Deeley started life as a co-presenter with Britain’s two likely lads Ant and Dec, aka Anthony MacPartlin and Declan Donnelly, on a Saturday morning kid’s show. All three have moved on and Cat is now a favorite of American audiences.
Back to the CBS TV pilot participation; which is a secret so shush! Despite all the dire warnings about not publicizing the show; the company that advertised for live audiences say what the show was and its “working title.” Instead of letting the cat out of the bag and revealing the show’s title it seems fair to at least list who, in the way of glitterati, were present and took part in this hush-hush showbiz treat. LeAnn Grimes and Ne-yo were there along with a capable presenter, one Jason Kennedy, and a local chap who warmed up the audience in-between set changes and multiple takes of the onstage action. There was much interaction with this comic expert and more than capable entertainer. Mr Mike Hammer normally enchants, amuses, and entertains over at the Four Queens Resort and Casino. He kept the folks in the stands happy and compliant during the long hours of taping the show.
For those who have never before watched a program being taped “before a live studio audience” as the promotional spots and show intros say, it is an experience that everyone should do at least once. Although be warned that time will be eaten up with retakes, set changes, mistakes, technical problems and camera set ups changing for the requisite close-ups. While attending this particular show, a lot of people in the theater’s seats seemed to be “old hands” at this sort of thing. Listening to conversations from other audience members, it was apparent that most had seen this sort of thing before, never mind just how low key and hush-hush this particular event was.
Some people were murmuring that other directors would never have gone for a specific shot. There were others who were complete novices at the live audience business. There were quite a few who left before taping had even finished; obviously eager to hit either the bar or the one armed bandits, aka slot machines, out in the casino. It is fascinating for anyone who has ever watched television to become a small, although important part – at least that is what the producer repeatedly told the watching horde – of a program being taped. The crowd even had to rehearse.The audience learned to make the appropriate, “oh” and “ah” sounds – one equals surprise and wonder, the other sadness or disappointment – and booing, along with yelling and/or clapping, and these were practiced until they “got it right.”
To be very honest, however, during the pilot’s proceedings the sounds of surprise and spontaneous applause came quite naturally. There were even moments where the audience rose to their collective feet for standing ovations although, only twice. For those who wish to experience the thrill of being part of a live show being taped for television, and yes that is a dichotomous statement, there are websites that specialize in recruiting people to fill seats; all that is required is an email address, some way of arriving, and the means to print an online ticket. It is, however, recommended that potential audience members get there early as those that do get better, as in right next to the stage, seats and have a chance to interact with the warm-up chap before and during the show.
For those who are interested; On-Camera Audiences, Inc. have a Facebook page with information about live performances that require live crowds to watch and participate. Just go to Facebook and type the company’s name in or follow the link below. Looking at their page, this “undercover” CBS TV pilot; which participants were told to “shush” about and not advertise they’d seen the show as it was secret, is actually mentioned. The program that the watching crowd were told not to tweet or post about on Facebook was a singing competition where the studio audience voted for the winner and not the judges. Sadly at the end of the program there was only one winner out of 12 contestants and all of them were better than anything seen on America’s Got Talent, X Factor et al. – which is the main reason that most of the applause and excitement did not really need to be practiced. A great and enjoyable way to learn just what goes into making these type of programs.
By Michael Smith