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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Behind the scenes at the Pops
Audience: The studio is made to look more full than it really is
The studio is made to look more full than it really is
Top of the Pops recorded a one-hour special to mark the return to its "spiritual home" of BBC Television Centre on Thursday. BBC News Online's Ian Youngs was in the audience.

Huddled on the red carpet outside TV Centre were Zoe Ball, Jamie Theakston and Dermot O'Leary - hosts of Top of the Pops who were preparing to record the introduction for the one-off special.

Inside the show's brand new studio, the audience had just been herded in and were watching preparations on a video wall.

Cher: Audience was told to give her rapturous applause
Cher: Audience was told to give her rapturous applause
We were to be the young, excitable fans that are seen going wild over Westlife and senseless over Steps - and we also got to see what really goes on behind the scenes.

The sound from the red carpet was patched through to the studio and the first thing we heard was new boy Dermot saying how much he needed to go to the toilet, and then break into song to calm his nerves.

Then Zoe saw someone she knew. "So, did you pull?" These are the things presenters say when they do not realise 200 starry-eyed pop fans are listening to their every word.

It was a return to the show's "spiritual home" after exactly 10 years, and the new studio was much smaller than these things usually appear on screen, with five stages covering all the walls.


Even if you were at the back of the audience, you were still well within spitting distance of Westlife's Bryan McFadden

There were also surprisingly few people in the audience - the studio was not as packed as it looks on the telly, but there were just enough people to fill the space around whichever stage was being used.

Clever camera-work does the rest.

Even if you were at the back of the audience, you were still well within spitting distance of Westlife's Bryan McFadden.

After the red carpet intro, producers wanted to make it look like Zoe, Jamie and Dermot ran into the building, through the new Star Bar - a new interview and hang-out room which did not seem to contain many stars - and into the studio.

Jimmy Savile introduced a video of U2
Jimmy Savile introduced a video of U2
When the show is screened, this will doubtless be a seamless and very impressive segment.

But in real life, it took half an hour to get from the red carpet to the moment when Dermot finally pushed his way through the studio audience to introduce Cher.

Our hands were already sore from being told to clap "to 500%", and we had hardly started.

The audience has got to go along with whatever looks and sounds good on the finished show - and also wait around while everything is set up.

Only six songs were filmed in the studio, but the recording took a total of four and a half hours.

It was the closest many fans were likely to get to Westlife
It was the closest many fans were likely to get to Westlife
Eleven of the tunes that will appear on Friday's finished article had been recorded before, were on video or were filmed in America.

Cher was one of those who had made the effort - and she played her new song, The Music's No Good Without You, with a group of sexy, robotic dancers who sum up all that is wonderfully tacky about Top of the Pops.

At the end, we all knew we had to clap to 500% - and Cher looked so overwhelmed that she must have thought we actually meant it.

But there were technical problems and it had to be recorded again - so out came her choreographer and hair-preener to make sure she was spot on for the second take.

Craig David performed in the Star Bar
Craig David performed in the Star Bar
Afterwards, she was interviewed by Zoe in the Star Bar, and was asked about her first appearance on the show.

In the first take, she could not remember anything - but when it was recorded for a second time, the details of her performance of I Got You Babe miraculously came flooding back.

Natalie Imbruglia, Steps and Westlife followed, and a few dozen teenage girls could not believe that they were so close to stars who normally play in arenas.

Audience members were there to be shunted around and told to scream on cue - but we did not care because we knew that we were in a position that thousands of pop fans across the country would give their grandmothers to be in.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Top of the Pops
Is it still hitting the right note?
 VOTE RESULTS
Who was the best Top of the Pops presenter?

Jimmy Savile
 40.55% 

Dave Lee Travis
 15.35% 

Jayne Middlemiss
 7.09% 

Jamie Theakston
 12.99% 

John Peel
 24.02% 

254 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

19 Oct 01 | Music
Sir Jimmy back for TOTP Special
18 Oct 01 | Music
Pops still tops after 37 years
18 Oct 01 | Music
TOTP editor plots fresh pops
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