Yesterday evening I went with Gary, Faye and Patsy to the London Studios to see a recording of Have I Got News for You, which will goes out this evening. It was fascinating to see how contrived the whole thing was and how important the edit is in turning two and a half hours of semi-scripted chat into a slick half an hour show. Of course everything is done to allow the panelists a chance to deliver their material, but I was still slightly taken aback by how much needs to be done post-production to make populist telly.
The guest host was John Bishop, who struggled over and over to get the timing of the lines right and to pick up the rhythm of the gags given to him on the autocue. After a while the audience and guests gentle patience began to wear thin putting ever more pressure on him to get it right. Paul Merton was at first supportive, but became slightly more acerbic as we moved past 10pm.
I was also surprised, although I shouldn't have been, at how long it took to find the gags for each reply. What seems instantaneous on TV often takes two or three minutes of studied thought before a line is offered and without the quick wit and rapid response there really isn't that much there to watch. The philosophy is to record uninterrupted and then make the cuts afterwards - which can make for dull viewing. We very rarely went back on anything, but often meandered into drawn out conversations. A form of verbal water treading whilst waiting for the next joke.
Still it was good fun. The guests Miles Jupp and Andy Hamilton were sharp whilst Paul Merton and Ian Hislop slipped easily into well rehearsed banter when the topical stuff dried up. It'll be interesting to see how they shape it up for broadcast.
Sunday 21st May 2017
2 days ago