The New Statesman

Saturday 21st November 1992

In the early 90’s I occasionally bought Time Out magazine, as I was keen to keep an eye on what was going on in London. In the autumn of 1992, I spotted an advert for The New Statesman, six new episode’s were going to be made, it told you what to do if you would like free studio audience tickets. So of course I sent off my stamped addressed envelope, and yet again got sent tickets. The filming was out at Elstree this time, my dad said he would drive us. He was a fan of the show, so I didn’t have to twist his arm.

Having already been to the BBC Television Centre for a couple of audience shows, I thought I knew what to expect, that was until we arrived at Elstree Film Studios. It was a complete contrast to what I had experienced previously at the BBC. Firstly I was really shocked by the way the audience was treated, at the Beeb we were shown exactly where to wait and were led into the studios on a first come first served basis. Where as, this time at Elstree, we had no idea where we were going, nobody really told us. We had arrived with plenty of time but somehow ended up being squashed into small port-a-cabin to wait, having no clue as to what was going to happen next. Suddenly, when there was the call to say they were ready for the audience, there was a big rush, people started pushing and shoving, there was mad panic to get into the studio. Once in the studio, people were then just sitting where ever they liked, which I was appauled at, I didn’t think was at all right!

We had a really annoying warm up man, he was trying his best to get the audience relaxed and happy, but we weren’t finding him very funny. I just wanted them to get on with the filming, I was there to see Rik, not this annoying bloke! The cast were finally introduced and there he was, all smartly dressed and hair all groomed. No jokes from Rik this time, he may have said a few words, but mainly remember him smiling and waving to the audience, he seemed eager to get into character. The sets this time felt quite far away and Rik felt much more distant this time. He was by far the most nervous I’ve seen him. Each scene was shot at twice, maybe more, which got very tiresome and quite boring, lots of mistakes were happening, and Rik to me, didn’t look very comfortable between takes either, plus his hair and make up was constantly having to be addressed by the make-up girls.

Everything was so different, it ran so smoothly at the BBC for the Bottom recording, where there was an electric atmosphere. Here in contrast at Elstree, it was painfully slow, the atmosphere felt very flat, which did made it hard to laugh at the same thing time and time again. The audience were almost forgotten about, as the compare/warm up man was not doing his job properly. So sadly I don’t have very fond memories of this recording, but what I did witness was Rik the pro at work, in what felt to me, like a very challenging environment. This was the very last episode of The New Statesman that was made, so maybe they had all had enough and were ready to call it a day…

Rik was still the consummate pro, working very hard to deliver the material as best he could. It did make me think however, and realise how well programmes were produced and made at the BBC, and what a brilliant environment Television Centre was for making television.

the new statesman 2
An interview published in one of the TV listings magazines, in 1992.

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