Snacking Behind the Scenes: Episode 2

KQED Check, Please! Bay Area studio set

This was the first show we taped, so as I sat behind the scenes, I took copious notes on everything that happened.

As the guests wait nervously in the Green Room for makeup and wardrobe consultations (they bring about three different possible tops), they are not allowed to talk about their restaurants. This is to keep their reactions and contents fresh and unrehearsed. However, they can talk about anything else, including other restaurants. Mostly, it’s just for purely technical reasons. Helen, from audio, looks closely at clothing so she can decide what mikes will work. Wendy, intrepid webmeister, is waiting for the guests to be fully made-up and in their final outfits so she can take their mug shots for the show’s website.

Once the guests are seated on set, they are lovingly pushed and prodded around to get them in the right positions. Leslie explains that they have pillows behind their backs because the chairs can get really comfy and they all need to be reminded not to sink back into a slouch. Today, it’s determined that Jim has such great posture, he doesn’t need his pillow, so he removes it. With difficulty. “I’m trying to comply by not moving my chair!” he quips.

When it comes to the guests, it’s the stage manager’s job to soothe nerves and explain exactly what is going to happen when the cameras start rolling. Before they start taping, the guests need to talk in their regular voices so sound can be evaluated and adjusted. Often the guest freeze, so they are encouraged to talk about what they ate for breakfast, but today Robert got in his sound check by intoning, “Marley was dead: to begin with. There was no doubt about that.” He has an awesome voice.

To warm up, the control room lets the guests talk as much as they want before tape starts rolling. Leslie has them bounce in their chairs to keep their blood and energy up. Jim, staring in awe at a bouncing Leslie, who he seems to adore wholeheartedly, says, “This didn’t happen on Captain Kangaroo.”

During the discussion of restaurants, it’s always a worry when one of the guests doesn’t seem to be getting a word in edgewise. For this particular show, it was understandable that Karen didn’t have much to say about Hing Lung. However, she was very constant and emphatic on how great the service was in trying to find food for her and her friend and their dietary restrictions. On the other hand, she totally became a little spitfire in defense of her own choice, Saylor’s Landing. Energetic and quippy, Karen did not back down from her stance that Saylor’s Landing had the best clam chowder in town. You all saw that, of course, but what you didn’t see what how the energy in the control room changed as soon as Karen managed to become more part of the conversation. We were elated!

In another interesting moment, Jim starts to reveal where you can park around Hing Lung and the control room collectively groaned, “Don’t tell everyone!” Hmm, I now see that the parking information didn’t make the actual show. Interesting. Good thing I wrote it in my notes.

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