28 Feb Behind the Scenes
Television is a fun business, but what you see is often not reality. As the old saying goes, television is a lot like sausage; you love the taste, but you don’t want to see how it is made.
For starters, most of what you watch is not live. In fact, the only live shows you see on TV today are news and sports. The late-night comedy shows are all recorded earlier in the day and played back after the local news. I have been on the set of Late Night with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and was kicked off the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
You read that right, Jimmy Fallon once asked me to leave his set. I was on a private tour of the NBC facilities at 30 Rock to get some insight on how we could improve our production. At the time I was the Program Director for a small cable network called FamilyNet. Our tour was not the normal tour you see as a tourist. We were on the set of Saturday Night Live, The NBC Nightly News, Dateline, and yes, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Only the set was not empty like the other sets had been. Jimmy was on stage in front of a green screen doing a bit where he was flying through the audience on a hot air balloon.
When you watched the episode that night, it looked like Jimmy Fallon was riding a balloon through the audience making jokes. Only when the scene was shot it was hours before the audience arrived and Jimmy was just standing in front of a green screen making silly comments. Once he spotted us, he politely asked that we leave the set.
All three shows are shot in the early evening hours and then played back later. The time I was on the set of David Letterman’s show he was recording the Friday episode on Monday. Letterman did not like to work on Fridays later in his career. He earned that right.
In fact, some of the shows you watch in primetime on cable news are also not live.
In fact, some of the shows you watch in primetime on cable news are also not live. Sorry if that ruins television for you, but most likely your favorite host is at home enjoying some family time.
The sets are also fake, mostly made from plastic. Not fake are the personalities, and that is what makes television great. The most impressive person I met in television was the late Regis Phibin on the set of Live with Regis and Kelly. That show was actually live and during the commercial breaks when the crew was resetting the stage, Regis would walk over to the audience and take the time to visit. He knew the viewers were the reason he had a job. He understood people came to New York to meet him and he took the time to say hello. Kelly did the same, but I assume she learned that from the master himself.
I have been on the set of another show where the talent didn’t even take the time to notice she had an audience. She is a well-known name, but nowhere close to the household name of Regis.
I have more war stories and I share some of my behind-the-scenes insight of the media business in my upcoming book, Media Matters: how to leverage media to grow your business, due out March 15th.
Scott Miller is the CEO of Centerpost Media, host of the Create. Build. Manage. show (seen on BizTV, heard on BizTalkRadio, and available wherever you listen to podcasts,) and a member of the Forbes Agency Council, Entrepreneur Leadership Network, and Dallas Business Journal Leadership Trust. You can find Scott on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via “@scottmillerceo” or on LinkedIn via “@scottmillermedia.” Centerpost Media is a content marketing agency with a vision to help every business they encounter with their media needs by providing outstanding quality, service and value. Centerpost Media is the parent company to BizTV, BizTalkRadio, BizTalkPodcasts and Bizvod.