The email ticket said we had to be at The London Studios (formerly London Weekend Television) on the South Bank by 6.45pm when they open the doors, which will shut promptly at 7.15pm. The Lovely Husband and I decided to go up in the late afternoon and have something to eat first. Because we lack all manner of originality, we ended up again at Wahaca in Covent Garden, mostly lured by the memory of the lovely, lovely Margaritas that we had when we went there last month on my birthday. This time, though, we were restrained and only had one each (oh, and a bottle of beer each too - see? restraint is (very infrequently) my middle name. Yeah, Kaz Restraint Jones, that's me....)
We sauntered at a fairly leisurely pace over to the studios, getting there at about 6-ish, to discover the queue went all the way down the bloody road! Hellfire! We knew from previous experience (having been in the audience for the Jay Leno Show in beautiful downtown Burbank, LA, on our honeymoon in 1996) that someone looking official, carrying a clipboard, would eventually walk down the line, counting heads and that, even though you would think they would only send out the right number of tickets to fill the seats, not everyone would get in.
And so it came to pass.
Along he came, counting heads. One of the girls in the group behind us questioned him as to the point in sending out too many tickets and he explained, rather graciously I thought, that the guest list for that night's recording was larger than usual so those seats had to be reserved, but if the guests didn't show, they would let in more people to take their places. He apologised and said that if anyone in the queue didn't get in, then they would be given a guaranteed place at a later recording.
While we were waiting, TLH and I were pondering who might be the guests - within seconds, a fancy, top-of-the-range convertible Jaguar swooshed along the road and into the underground car park of the National Theatre next door, being driven by James Corden! "Ooh", we said, "wonder if it's him?" although we kinda hoped not. I mean, I've got nothing against him and I find Gavin and Stacey quite funny, but I would not look at him and immediately think of him as a prime QI panellist.
Within another 10 minutes, another swish convertible went past, being driven by Hardeep Singh Kohli wearing a lime green turban. (For non-UK readers, he is a television presenter recently suspended by the BBC for allegedly being a little "overfriendly" towards the laydees). "Blimey", we opined, "it's sleb central round here. Perhaps the nice weather has brought them out of hibernation". Indeed, TLH informed me, he had, himself, only this week spotted actor and comedian Hugh Dennis at Waterloo Station.
The doors opened, we shuffled along. We decided that it would, indeed, be a shame if we didn't get in but as it was such a gorgeous evening, we could just head along the South Bank and find somewhere to drown our sorrows. We were, however, denied a consolatory beverage because we made the cut! Just. Only about another 20 people behind us in the queue got in.
We followed everyone else inside, up stairs lined with large gurning photos of various ITV luvvies, and into the studio itself. We were in the very back row. The studio wasn't as warm as I thought it'd be but that was okay because it was very hot outside, so a bit of cool was most welcome. Despite the fact that they say no photos can be taken, I'm afraid I couldn't resist so took these with my iPhone (which is why the quality's not great).
The studio before they turned on the lighting.
Check out all the stuff hanging from the roof.
With all the proper lighting on
At about 7.20pm, Stephen Fry came out, took his seat behind the desk and, more or less, did his own warmup, which was a bit unexpected. He was exactly how you see him on the telly. Friendly, avuncular and, despite his recent gastric band fitting, cuddly. He explained to those who didn't know, that he was an acknowledged techno-geek and as part of his Twitter feeds, at each of these current recordings, he gets the audience to say a word which he tapes on what looked like a handheld tape recorder (too far away, couldn't see). He then uploads the tape and asks his Twitter readers to guess what the word means. Our word was "Hamfatter". That's "Hamfatter" which means a low-grade actor/performer. It's where we get the term 'ham' or 'hamming it up'.
He then introduced his guests - Sandi Toksvig, Rob Brydon, David Mitchell and, as always, Alan Davies. We all clapped and cheered. Then the recording proper started, and they really did begin with the god-awful title music - we had wondered if they dubbed the music on in post-production but, no, it was played in full, exactly like you see on the telly.
Tonight's episode was on the letter 'H' and mostly about history, which pleased me no end, being all Mrs Archaeology 'n' everyfink. My smug index reached the maximum level of 11 when it turned out that I actually knew the answers to quite a few of the questions and it was almost more than I could do to not stick my hand up in the air and shriek "Ooh, ooh, sir, I know, I know, ask me......" when he asked what was the proper definition of 'Henge'? Where was the Battle of Hastings fought? Where was the Bayeux Tapestry made? What's this? (it was a picture of the Antikythera mechanism) - those were just the ones I can remember.
Everything was quite unhurried, and it really was almost like the panellists were bantering with each other at a dinner party. If you're a fan of the show, then you'll know that Stephen Fry often peppers the show with nuggets of information and it really seems that he does actually know all that stuff - it isn't fed to him through an earpiece. I was a little sad to discover that Alan Davies wasn't quite as funny as he appears on the televised show, but I expect some judicious editing will sort that out. Everyone else was completely fab and very funny.
The recording actually took almost 2.5 hours which, for a 40 minute show, is going some. Plus the seats got quite uncomfortable after a while. We got out of the studio at about 9.45pm and went for a walk along the South Bank towards Waterloo. It was a fabulous evening, warm, cloudless, people enjoying the weather, and London lit up like a Christmas tree - stunning. I took photos but will post them later as it's too hot here to type anymore, and I want to go and sit in the garden.