The Stresses of Live-to-Tape

Jacques Pepin and Leslie Sbrocco

After watching every second season Check, Please! Bay Area taped, I came to expect a certain energy on the set. A certain comfort level. The guests would be nervous but then Leslie would step in, chat them up, and then succeed in completely relaxing them. I cannot think of a show when this didn’t happen.

Therefore, it was all the more strange to me when I watched the lead-up to the taping of the pledge special that featured Jacques Pepin sitting down with Leslie to pair wine with dishes from past featured restaurants. The energy on the set was very strange, very tense. Of course, I nearly smacked my head when I remembered the difference — unlike all other episodes, this particular show would be “live-to-tape,” which meant no editing, no do-overs. We’d have to get through this episode with minor to zero mistakes. That’s a lot of pressure, don’t you think?

Funny thing is, I rarely saw Leslie flub her lines in any other episode and even if she did, it was such a minor mistake that it almost didn’t matter. However, it makes complete sense that any nervousness she felt would have been a psychological thing. It also stands to reason that since they are both professionals there was no need for Leslie to “loosen” Jacques up, so the normal interaction Leslie might have had in the Green Room wouldn’t have been necessary.

Of course, I might be projecting my own nervousness here because I found myself actually holding my breath between every take. My fists were clenched in my lap. I was just hoping and hoping we’d get through the entire taping without major incident. I needn’t have worried. True to their professional form, after the briefest of run-throughs we were rolling and both Leslie and Jacques rose spectacularly to the occasion.

What I might have detected as nervousness or even a lack of chemistry was clearly just both of them holding in their energy — keeping it in reserve for the actual performance when it would matter most. I stand before you completely amazed how flawlessly and entertainingly both Jacques and Leslie pulled of that pledge special. It was a pleasure to behold and an additional pleasure to rewatch on television when everyone else was seeing it for the first time.

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