One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles is the ability to not just watch TV, but to be on TV … as a part of the audience.
Many studios offer free audience tickets to lucky recipients who reserve seats ahead of time. During my two-plus years in LA, I’ve been an audience member on Jimmy Kimmel Live, FABLife, Celebrity Game Name, and Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. With this vantage point, I’ve been able to observe how shows are made and feel like I’m part of the action.
On some shows, production assistants place audience members in specific locations in order to create a certain ambiance. For instance, they might make sure there is a fairly even spread of races, ages, and looks. Some shows require audience members to wear business casual, while others may want a hip and trendy look. The audience is asked to steer clear of certain colors (such as white, all black, or busy patterns) when picking out their wardrobe.
All of the shows I’ve been on (and perhaps all shows in general) have emcees who speak directly with the audience. They often advise the audience on what type of reaction to have when different events happen on stage. Before the show begins taping, and during breaks, they tell jokes, hand out prizes for mini-competitions like dancing, and even pass out candy.
For Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, as with all other shows, I got to the studio about an hour before taping. Because it was a holiday episode, we were asked to wear Christmas colors, Santa hats, and ball necklaces. Studios keep the temperature at about 55 degrees, since the stage lights emit a lot of heat, so my fellow audience members and I were thankful to be bundled up in winter wear. Plus, this show had a small audience, and we were seated around round tables like in a restaurant.
Taping a show takes more time than what is shown on TV. All the sitting isn’t dull though. We get to see different takes, what happens between takes, and how different members of the production crew work together to create a seamless episode. We also get to see the bloopers that never make it to the screen. Even though we don’t get to meet the hosts or guests, the atmosphere creates a feeling of connection, and we walk away feeling like we got to know these celebrities just a little bit better.
Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party is a cooking show, so audience members got an even better treat than candy: we were able to eat right alongside Martha, Snoop, and the guests, sampling the meals that were made for the episode. We drank eggnog and ate catfish and dessert balls. We also each got a special cookie, made just for the show.
To be an audience member on a TV show, check out 1iota, On Camera Audiences, LA Tourist, and Audiences Unlimited. These are just a few of the companies that help regular people see their favorite shows up close.
* * *
Guest post by Shannon Luders-Maunel. Shannon is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Essence.com, The Establishment, and For Harriet, among others.
* * *
How about you? Have you ever attended a TV-show taping? How did it go? Please share your experience in the comments.