THE FILMinG OF 'TOO MUCH SUN'
Live filming at BBC Television Center 14th November 1999
CYBORG was able to secure tickets to one of the filming dates for TOO MUCH SUN, the below is a summary of what took place in the studio during the Sunday evening....
We arrived at Television Centre at around 5pm, where there were already a dozen people queuing. The queue soon increased, and as we learned later, consisted of people waiting to go into see the recording of not only Too Much Sun, but also another BBC Sitcom: Two Point Four Children.
The doors opened at just before 6pm, where we were subjected to a brief security check, before passing onto the Television Centre grounds and going to the reception area just outside the studios. Once here, the audience had the chance to browse the BBC shop, or buy refreshments, prior to going through to the studio just before 7pm.
From the reception area, a couple of corridors lead to Studio TC4, were filming was to take place. Not exactly a veteran of TV recordings, I found the studio rather small: just short of a dozen rows of seats lead sharply down to the front of the audience area, on the other side of which were the show’s sets. Accommodating somewhere up to 300 people, the studio filled up rapidly as people took their seats and settled in for the nights filming.
The sets themselves were fairly basic, and consisted of an open plan house, and a video store. The video store occupied the left-hand quarter of the floor, and the set was approx. 6 feet wide by about 10-12 feet deep. The remaining three-quarters of the studio floor was taken up by the main set, & house. The house was open-plan in design, a living room filling the middle half of the stage, flowing into a kitchen area strewn with boxes and dirty crockery off to the right-hand side. The back wall of the "house", from left to right, had a door leading off to the hot tub room, the front door leading to a courtyard area (seen through the back of the set as a few plastic plants, brightly lit, to simulate LA sunshine!). Further right, along the back wall there is another door leading off-set to the bathroom/bedrooms. A short wall leading from the back of the set, to the kitchen area has another door, leading outside, vertically on to the audience (you can only see the door when it is opened, in other words).
The video store, and the house, looked to be the only re-occurring static sets the show uses, and these were covered by three cameras and two boom mikes, along with various lighting rigs installed in the ceiling of the studio.
The Lounge set.
There was an audience warm-up guy, Junior Simpson, a stand-up comedian who cracked jokes and chatted with audience members before filming got underway, explaining what was going to happen, who the various production people were, and asking if we had any questions. Anyone who has seen the filming of a TV show (or even a movie) will know there are short periods of action/filming, in-between long periods of set-ups and re-takes. Again Julian covered these with more witty repartee and quips, making sure the audience stayed awake and in the mood, ready to laugh when filming re-commenced.
The Video Store set.
At around 7.30pm, the floor manager said they were ready to get underway. Julian introduced the cast, in reverse order, and each came out from backstage, waved and took a bow – including Lee!. Junior made a few remarks about how awed he was to meet one of his heroes "the Bionic man", before moving on.
Unfortunately this was all we saw of Lee. We had hoped that he would have some scenes to film – with him actually being at the studio, we were very optimistic. But as the evening wore it looked increasingly doubtful he would make another appearance, unless he was in one of the final scenes, which it ended up he wasn’t. He did appear several times on Video Tape, of scenes he had filmed earlier and which would be inserted into the footage which was being filmed that night.
The recording started with a short piece of video (shown on monitors suspended from the ceiling over the audience area) which re-capped what was filmed previously (this would have been the first episode, as tonight, if they were recording sequentially, would be episode 2), and introduced the characters. This showed the Mark and Alex’s characters, Nigel and Julian, arriving in L.A., renting their house from a "dodgy" from an over-the-hill, ageing, TV western star, Scott Reed – Lee – and their attempts to find work. Mark’s character bumps into an old girlfriend, who he thinks is a big Hollywood producer, but it turns out runs local video store where the hard-up writer takes a part-time job. Lee appears in several scenes, primarily as the guys landlord trying to chase his back rent!.
The second episode features the lads again looking, unsuccessfully, for work with Julian going for an audition in a musical. The role involves him having to dress in drag for the part and he seeks advice from Kimberley, their landlord's wife. Julian doesn’t want Nigel finding out about him having to dress as a woman for the role, and in fine comedy tradition he does get wind of it, but not fully and thinks his house-mate is becoming a transvestite!. The rest of the episode revolves around Julian’s attempt to keep secret the up-coming audition, whilst practising for it at home. Alongside Nigel’s increasing concern for his long-time friend as he seeks advice on why a man would want to dress like a woman from Lee and his ex-girlfriend - with amusing results. There is also a sub-plot of Lee’s gardener loosing his goat.
The Kitchen set, which is part of the Lounge.
Lee was seen several times throughout the evening on the monitors: through footage they had shot either on location, or on other sets. This footage was shown throughout the evening, in between the "live" recordings to give a feel of finished episode and how what we were watching fitted into the episode. Lee had a couple of scenes, one particularly amusing one of Alex’s character going to see Lee and asking his advice on why he thought a man might be inclined to want to dress up in woman’s clothing (both Julian and Nigel both think Lee is somewhat less than the all-American full-blooded male he pretends to be….) . When questioned, Scott waxes lyically about the how nice it "might" be to feel the caress of soft material against your skin and how it might help you relax after a tiring day….hmmmm.
Filming was scheduled to take approximately 2 hours, but with re-takes and set-ups it finally finishing at around 10pm. Overall, shooting went smoothly with only a few re-takes for different camera angles being required, two instances of fluffed lines and one for a misbehaving prop: a newspaper which tumbled from where it had been left on a table.
The show looks to be a mixture of suggestive innuendo and classic sitcom scenarios, the staple diet of any good British sitcom!. It is certainly too early to draw any conclusions about the potential success or failure of the show, from the little I’ve seen, but you can already get a feel for how it will look once edited and scored. It isn’t riotously funny, but it has it’s moments, and the chance to seethe Bionic man in a Biritish sitcom should be worth a few million viewers alone!. Mark Adie is easily the most identifiable for a comedic element, from both his facial expressions and delivery, but there is also a lot of potential in the other characteres: the ex-girlfriend; the dumb-blonde; the cockney handyman; and the has-been TV star (Lee!). Having the show set in America is a different slant for a British sitcom and with the addition of a "star" name in Lee, this could bode well for foreign sales. The slightly "laddish" element of the concept of two guys sharing a house follows the trends of such shows as Men Behaving Badly, etc.
Will it run to a second season?. We can only wait until the show airs in the New Year and the rating figures are in to answer that one. It would be nice to think if it did run to a 2nd series that Lee would reprise his role. But that, as they say, is in the lap of the gods!.