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Sunday 25 February 2007

My Richard and Judy experience

Channel Four is in the news again over yet another possible scam. This time involving the You Say We Pay quiz on the Richard and Judy programme.

It seems that viewers may have been charged for entry calls after winners had already been selected. According to the Daily Mirror, the quiz has now been scrapped.

Seventeen years ago I had a friend who thought that appearing on a couple of quiz shows might be a way for him to get into television. In March 1990 he was on The Pyramid Game. Following this, he was asked to take part in a pilot show called Love Code. It was due to be recorded at the Granada TV studios in Manchester and he asked me if I would go along, to sit in the audience and provide support.

Granada TV studios, Manchester

Granada TV studios seen from Atherton Street.

The presenters of the show were Richard and Judy who, in those days, were best-known as presenters on This Morning, which was broadcast live from the Albert Dock in Liverpool.

The idea behind Love Code was that the audience would all complete questionaires. These would be fed into a computer which would work out the ‘code’ for each audience member. Then the computer would determine the person from the audience who was the best match for the main contestant (my friend).

However, it was all a fix.

Before we even arrived at Granada, we knew that ‘the computer’ would match my friend with a young woman in the audience who was also a previous quiz contestant and whom he already knew from his appearance on The Pyramid Game.

When we got to the studios, things got even worse. I was asked if I would pretend to be this woman’s boyfriend and sit next to her in the audience. I was bribed with the promise of a bottle of champagne. I wasn’t too happy about this because I’m no actor and I was concerned that the audience would see through me.

Just to add to the total futility of the entire thing, we were both gay anyway and happily settled with male partners at the time.

Granada TV studios, Atherton Street

Granada Television. I notice the ‘n’ has dropped off their sign. They’re probably reluctant to spend any money, as these historic studios are likely to be bulldozed if Granada moves to Salford Quays along with the BBC.

The audience completed the forms, which were collected and presumably binned behind the scenes. The show began and all went well. The audience giggled as my ‘girlfriend’ was matched up with my friend (who is a former gymnast, so seemed quite a catch I suppose) and I had the ‘humilation’ of seeing her go up on stage to be quizzed by Richard and Judy.

Then, finally, that segment of the show was over and so was my friend’s moment of fame. He walked into the audience to take a seat near me and, foolishly, as he passed, he started up a conversation with me.

An ugly rumble swept around the audience as they realised the truth — we already knew each other and they had been duped. The whispers made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Luckily we weren’t lynched on the spot.

Afterwards, we all had drinks with the production team and Richard and Judy — who both seemed to be just the same as they are on-screen. I liked them. I asked Richard if he thought that This Morning was based on the BBC’s Pebble Mill At One, but he claimed he had never seen it. Which seemed a bit extraordinary, but didn’t Julia Smith — the producer of Eldorado — claim never to have watched Coronation Street?

I got my bottle of champagne. Which I kept as a souvenir.

Granada TV studios, seen from Lower Byrom Street

Blimey, I just noticed that Granada has a chimney. Were the TV shows of the 1950’s and ’60’s coal-powered?

Spoof 1960's Granada ident

Spoof 1960’s Granada ident. See the real thing here.

As far as I know, a series was never made. If it had been, would the producers have continued to preselect the contestants or would they have allowed the computer to choose? Was there even a working computer in the first place?

TV is fake and producers are control freaks. All that matters to them is what appears on screen. They want nothing left to chance or until the last minute. This is one of the reasons why television is so dull these days.

So, no surprise that, on the present day Richard and Judy show they want the contestant decided on as soon as possible. However I don’t think blame should be attached too readily to the presenters of any show. Many have no idea what is happening behind the scenes: they turn up, do the show and leave.

The big difference between Love Code and You Say We Pay is that, on the latter, people pay to have a chance of taking part. Which elevates any deception to a whole new level and turns it into a matter for the Police.


Filed under: Personal,The media,TV & film — GS @ 2:24 pm

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