So at the weekend my friend and I went up to Glasgow to watch the taping of the first episode of Tonight's the Night. I was impressed with BBC Glasgow. The studio foyer is very swish and you can queue inside which was an absolute godsend on a day where it pretty much rained non stop for most of the day and when the rain stopped the wind started (and all the while we could see the Wimbledon audience on tv quietly mocking us wearing next to nothing in sunny London). Although the security guards didn't quite seem geared up for people arriving (and the security guard on duty at the end was very grumpy and made everyone wait outside in the freezing cold no matter if they were waiting for a taxi, friends etc.) The studio audience was also much better handled than it was in London with a very on the ball (and rather well dressed!) audience handler who made sure that everyone went in in numerical order. But word of warning if you're going make sure you stick to the dress code -no jeans and no trainers. A group of teens who showed up more than early enough to get in were given standby tickets even though they were early because they were all dressed in jeans and wearing trainers and I don't think they got in. They were much much stricter about that than in London.
The first series of Tonight's the Night was a show which was an absolute joy to watch live at the tapings but which just didn't quite translate to the screen. What was exhilirating and heart rending when we were watching it at the tapings came across as a bit tired and canned on tv. The whole thing was over edited and just a little bit muddled and chaotic. It was a very busy show with its mix of making performance dreams come true, audience competitions, the Stage Fright section which was sadly dropped very early on and the workplace wonders competition. The press were not kind and it seemed such a shame that something had rather got lost in translation.
But everything that didn't quite work about series 1?
No audience competitions. No workplace wonders. No performing every performance 2/3 times at the tapings which meant that things were looking a bit forced by the final take.
The show was sharp, focussed and everything was pretty much done in one take so the audience's reaction was spontaneous and genuine.
The emphasis of the show is entirely on making people's wishes come true and surprising deserving people in the audience. And I think it will make for a really lovely 45 minutes of television.
The taping started with recording some sections which will actually appear in episode 2. John for this episode was wearing a dark grey/silver style suit which had a glittery shiny stripe on each lapel (much like the jacket he wears when he sings I Am What I Am on tour except darker) and I think a dark shirt. Michael Bolton appeared on stage (which John was very excited about, he kept bopping up and down excitedly saying "Michael Bolton is on my show" and pretending to go weak at the knees) and sang "How am I supposed to live without you?" A couple of times. (Edit shamazipan pointed out that he actually sang When a Man Loves a Woman as a solo and How Am I Supposed to Live Without You as the duet. Oooops! (Small voice - I'm not his biggest fan).)
We then had the first "surprise" VT clip of the new series. The person being surprised was a lady who was both a teacher at a childrens school and who also trained airline stewards who had given up her chance decades ago to study dance in London to stay with her husband in Scotland and her husband wanted to give her the opportunity to perform again. John showed up at her airline training session which was being filmed, supposedly for a training dvd. John was wearing an Air Steward's uniform, hilarious peroxide blonde wig, looked very tanned and was wearing black horn rimmed glasses and fake teeth. He looked as camp as Christmas. The VT of him marching in front of a bunch of stewardesses in the airport was hilarious. To be honest even in disguise he was still very recognisable but as John pointed out afterwards we recognise him because we know its him. If you're not expecting him to be there then you don't immediately see it. He said he had done 21 out of 28 surprises for this series so far and not one person had worked out it was him yet.
The woman he was surprising got increasingly annoyed with Air Steward John as he kept doing everything wrong including dropping everything, tying his life vest the wrong way and then managing to inflate it while he was still wearing it. As the, by now, very exasperated lady went over to help him John whipped off his wig to reveal it was him and asked her to perform on Tonight's the Night. She then had a second shock a few days later when they invited her up to London to meet a vocal coach and she found herself face to face with Michael Bolton. They then sung a duet together in the studio. As people had obviously been rehearsing all day they only needed 1 take and it was a really nice duet. Michael Bolton seemed very down to earth and gracious and invited the lady and her husband to be his guests at one of his concerts when he tours the UK later this year. Admittedly her's wasn't perhaps the most compelling story in the world but orange tanned, blonde wigged John with odd teeth in an airline steward's outfit was absolutely hilarious. Loved the shot of him sitting in a luggage trolly prancing about the airport in his outfit singing.
The next clip was also from the second episode and this time John was surprising a young brother and sister who despite having battled a benign brain tumour and kidney cancer respectively and being incredibly young (the little girl was only 6) had raised an amazing amount of money for charity for a CT scanner at their local hospital. They were being interviewed at BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about their fundraising when John phoned in (with very dodgy accent) to speak to them. The little boy was a mad cricket fan who really liked Kevin Pieterson and the little girl loved Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montanna. John asked them (while still "in disguise" on the phone) who they would like to interview and after they both answered Kevin and Miley John appeared in the studio and said they were going to meet them. The little girl in particular was adorable gazing at John in surprise. There was then a VT clip of them meeting their idols (the little boy bowled Kevin Pieterson out which was funny and Miley Cyrus came across very well with the little girl as they chatted about shoes and dresses!) and in the studio John gave the little girl some gold shoes from Miley Cyrus and the little boy got a cricket bat signed by the whole England cricket team.
That done John raced off to get changed and they started filming the first episode. His outfit for this one was a light greyish suit with dark grey lapels which seemed glittery and his trousers had a dark grey stripe down the sides. This was teemed with a rather fab hot pink shirt.
The new theme tune of the series seemed to be a variant of The Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" which fits very well with its lyrics of "I Gotta feeling that tonight's going to be a good night". John kicked off the show singing that backed by his J8's. I recognised Kate and James from the tour but there were new dancers as well.
First surprise of the show was a woman who had been nominated by her husband. She had sadly lost her baby during pregnancy and then discovered she had a heart condition herself but had gone on to raise a lot of money for the British Heart Foundation by doing the Three Peaks Endurance Challenge. She'd been in a band when she was younger and her husband wanted to give her the opportunity to perform again.
The lady ran a photography business photographing animals so John showed up with his turtle. I think he was calling himself Bernard and he was dressed in "older man" clothes and had a brilliant wig which made him seem like he had thin hair with a huge bald patch and buck teeth with huge brown spectacles and subtle make up to make him look older. Oh and a wispy ginger looking beard. He also had a brilliant comedy Tim Nice but Dim style accent-he really created a lovely and very funny character there. He took the turtle in and the woman very good naturedly and patiently took no end of wacky photos of John and the turtle. He then revealed who he was and she nearly keeled over in surprise. She got so emotional it was hard not to get swept along with her. She then sang a duet with Dionne Warwick- What the World Needs Now. She had a really good voice and handled the duet really well. Dionne also sang Anyone Who Had a Heart.
Next up was a teenage boy who had had a really hard time of it since his father had died 2 years previously. He'd turned inward and had kept himself to himself and his mother and sister hadn't realised that he was practising street dance routines in his room nor realised how good he was until his sister found a video of him on youtube. He was a huge fan of Diversity and particularly Ashley Banjo their choreographer. John surprised him at his school assembly after he had performed (he thought it was being filmed as part of a scheme to promote dance in schools). I'm not convinced he knew who John was when he walked out on stage but he was very amused at John throwing down some moves while he watched. The clip then showed him going to meet Ashley (he was so so excited and overawed to meet him it was just adorable) thinking he was going to get some training from him only for Ashley to spring that they were actually there to rehearse a new dance routine for Diversity featuring him. Unfortunately because of the way they positioned the cameras I'm not sure anyone not directly in front of the stage or at the very back could see any of Diversity's routine but I'm sure it will look fab on tv. From what I could see he was a really talented dancer and he looked great up there with Diversity. The whole section was just adorable. He was so chuffed when Ashley said the group had decided to name a dance move after him and his grandparents' attempt at throwing some shapes was very funny.
Then John surprised some members of the audience (the poor lady who had been set up by her friends with the photo of her pole dancing! Very very funny) eventually surprising a lady who happened to be on the end of our row (I was sat next to her husband and someone from the production team had discretely shuffled this lady's family earlier - I guess so that the set up looked right on camera). John noted that while she liked doing amateur dramatics she couldn't sing so had been cast as a tree (there was a hilarious photo of her dressed as a very leafy green tree). I think she thought that was all there was to it until John asked her to join him on stage. Her family had nominated her on the grounds that she was very active in the local community and couldn’t do enough for others (raising money for charity and such) but never put herself first. She and her husband had been married for 23 years (his speech to her on the VT was so lovely and had people in the audience welling up with tears)and she had just turned 70 (and looked absolutely fantastic. I swear I pray I look that good at 70). She had a huge family who clearly adored her and some very cute grandchildren. John was welling up in tears himself watching the VT and had to fetch his hankie. Her favourite singer had been Nat King Cole and so John sang "Unforgettable" dedicating it to her with a load of her family and friends joining John on stage as backing singers (John was joking with the little granddaughters about how they wouldn’t share their Smarties with him).
Loved John singing Unforgettable and it was a nice moment. The poor woman was so overwhelmed she could barely speak.
The final surprise tied in with the photos of John around and about in Cardiff a couple of weeks ago. He surprised two twins Mari and Lauri. He appeared on the big screen (think it’s the one near the St David's centre but someone from Wales can correct me on that)and got a load of people dancing and then eventually eliminated everyone until only the twins were still standing at which point he appeared behind them and they nearly screamed in shock. Their friend had tragically passed away from cancer and they had supported her throughout her illness raising money in her honour and had even released a cd of their friend's favourite songs to raise money for charity. John arranged for them to come to Tonight's the Night to sing a song in their friend's honour. They thought they were going to London to rehearse but ended up outside Wicked with Lee Mead greeting them. They got to go on stage and met Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman. In the studio dressed as Glinda and Elpheba in really fabulous dresses (very pretty girls) they sang "For Good" with Lee Mead there to introduce them and give them flowers at the end. Both girls had really lovely voices and the one who sung the Elpheba role in particular had a stunning voice. I'm not really sure why Lee was there as he literally only handed them flowers afterwards but it was a nice touch and he was looking well (if perhaps a bit tired as every new father would understand!)
John then sung a lively number with his J8's (think it was Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud" but I'm not sure) and that was the end of the show.
Because they had been rehearsing all day the show was taped virtually "as live" which meant that pretty much everything was done in one take which helped with audience reaction and kept everything seeming very fresh and spontaneous. This meant there was much less time for John to lark about between takes (last time John did bits of singing between takes and audience members were encouraged to sing too) but it was still good fun with John playing with the audience and just generally being very enthusiastic (him bouncing about and encouraging us to cheer when they were taping the audience reaction was very cute - as was him stage managing the audience's responses when Michael Bolton was singing) and then we were done.
It was a hugely enjoyable show and so much more focussed than the previous series as the emphasis is purely on making people's dreams come true. John's disguises are very cleverly done and watching John create these full formed characters is lovely. Plus its nice to see something on tv that isn't about humilating the general public but about letting people that would never otherwise have that chance have an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s a fun touching piece of television and deserves to do very well.