Thursday, July 19, 2012

NYC summer fun: being an audience member for The Newlywed Game taping

Unless you live in or are visiting L.A. or to a lesser extent New York City, you usually have to wait for a touring production to come through (when I was in college I was in the audience for an episode of College Jeopardy at Constitution Hall), but this week the boyfriend and I were in the audience for a taping of an episode of GSN's The Newlywed Game, which is currently hosted by Sherri Shepherd. If you are at all interested in the behind-the-scenes production of any kind of taped show, this kind of experience is a lot of fun. But first, the not fun part - we were told to arrive at the studio by 4:45. The boyfriend made it there on time. But I was coming from Long Island and my bus was running late so I missed my train and had to take a later one to Jamaica and then catch the subway from there, so I was half an hour late. Of course, the good/bad news is that when they say get there at 4:45, that doesn't mean it starts at 4:45. There's a whole lotta waiting to do. By about 5:30 were finally made it upstairs to the audience holding room where we signed a release, ate some pizza (that WAS cool of them to feed us), and then - you guessed it - waited some more. Now, the boyfriend was the one who wanted to do this - he found the tickets through a group he belongs to on, and they were actually VIP tickets, so luckily once they started moving everyone to the studio, we got to be some of the first ones in and we ended up sitting in the second row from the stage, which was very cool.

If you've never been to a talk show or game show taping, you will be shocked at how small the stage is in real life, how small the studio is. Also, while the contestants were sweating under the bright lights on stage, the studio itself is usually pretty cold (it was so freakin' hot out that day I didn't even bother bringing a sweater - the freezing cold was sweet relief!) While the stage crew sets up, a warm up comic usually comes out to tell some jokes, get the audience in the mood, and give instructions - it's basically very simple. When they say clap, clap. When they say cheer, cheer. When they say shut up, you shut up.

If you ever see a television or movie celebrity in real life, more often than not you will also be shocked at how tiny they are in real life. But Sherri Shepherd, who I know from her guest stints on 30 Rock as Tracy Morgan's wife, seemed really cool and nice.

The taping itself was fun, although by the time the comic was done warming us up, my hands and arms were already tired and hurting. Sherri was funny, the contestants were funny - the boyfriend and I used to watch the show together and laugh at how the newlyweds would get embarrassed by questions or get mad at their spouse's answers. My favorite part is always when the wife hits the husband with one of her answer cards for saying something stupid and/or missing a totally obvious answer.

But as someone who loves the production of television, it's interesting to see the behind-the-scenes stuff, like how they don't film the episode exactly in order, how they have to redo a sequence or reask a question if it's not all coming out right. During breaks the cameraman and director discussed and practiced camera shots and angles. At one point Sherri and the teleprompter weren't on the same page. And while in between segments the comic was trying to keep the crowd energized and telling jokes, I was paying attention to the make-up lady coming out to pat down someone's sweaty face, or trying to listen to the directions the contestants were being given on how to answer a question, where to sit, what to do differently, what to keep doing.

There was a second taping after the first and we were asked to stick around, but by then I was spent. For a taping for a 30-minute show, we were there for four hours. But if you're in New York City and you get the chance to be in a studio audience AND you have a whole day to spare, you should definitely do it. You get to see (hopefully) somebody famous up close, you get to watch a show before anyone else gets to see it, it's something different, and you get to see all the hard work and time put in by the people involved, especially by the folks behind the cameras.

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