My mother will tell you that I was “always a media baby,” and my deep, abiding love for television started on our maroon shag rug with PBS. This season, I was offered a rare opportunity to sit behind the cameras and watch the taping of every episode of Check, Please! Bay Area. Although I am critical and analytical of television on a weekly basis, it’s all from the couch potato status. Ironically, I have no idea how a show is mechanically put together.
To this television-obsessed media critic, the people you don’t ever see in front of the camera have the best jobs in the world. Not to sound too twee, but they all get to have a hand in the magic that is television. Every day! Wow, that did sound pretty smurfy, but unfortunately, there is just no other way to describe it. Also from Executive Producer to intern, each person involved on the show brings their own brand of humor to their jobs.
My first day, I walked around the cavernous set before the guests and Leslie arrived and gaped at the thick electrical chords, the hanging lights, the new set, and my own image caught by one of the huge cameras. (Is that really what my ponytail looks like from the side?)
Dark, muffled, and very, very cold, the control room is like NASA’s Mission Control — all monitors and big, tempting buttons. Sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from pushing a console button labeled “Belva.” During the taping, I was so entranced by the control room that I barely watched what was going on with the guests and Leslie on the multiple monitors in front of me.
This first episode of the new season — labeled Show B on my production sheets — was very bawdy. I mean, jokes were flying fast and furious between Leslie and the guests that the show should be called Sex, Please! Bay Area especially after the comments about Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse. At one point, Mary Joan quipped, “Barbeque is like sex, the worst I ever had was still good.” Brian agreed that Memphis Minnie’s “stupid hot” sauce “bordered on the sexual,” and later, Leslie also called Ovation “The Big O” to Kevin.
In order to loosen up the guests — who can be very nervous and deliver stilted dialogue — wine flows fairly freely on the set and after discussing Café Gratitude‘s rather…unique menu items (I AM LUSCIOUS, I AM BOUNTIFUL), Leslie brings her glass in for the final cheers, secure that we aren’t taping yet, and jokes, “I am drunk!” Not to worry, we maintain a firm grip on the wine bottles and no one would ever be going home drunk.
When watching the tapings, I am constantly amazed what new facets these outtakes can bring to both Leslie and the guests’ personalities.