Gogglebox holds a special place in many Brit’s hearts, and it is no surprise as to why. Airing in 2013, the show has now released seventeen seasons, and one of their most widely watched episodes brought in an audience of 4.5 million people in 2020. The show allows and encourages space for our (usually very criticised) highly opinionated, British minds. What makes this show so superior is its true simplicity, yet it makes for many unanswered questions. How did they find these people? Are they just actors? Is there a script? Are those even their real sofas? If you have found yourself overly intrigued in spotting the oddly placed feet of Lee and Reverend Kate’s canine, if you are obsessed with Sophie and Pete’s eccentric array of animal-themed china mugs or you are eager to discover why the Malone family insist on having a full afternoon tea on their sofa stool each night then look no further. This is how Gogglebox is filmed, behind the scenes.
A Royale Family and TV Burp Crossover
Director and Producer of Gogglebox, Tania Alexander spoke to Vice about the behind-the-scenes of the show. On discussing how the show came to be a nationwide favourite, Alexander reveals that her inspiration came from imagining The Royale Family crossed over with Harry Hill’s TV Burp, including the infamous wide shot used of the family in the former show. The reason behind this shot choice was that it enhances the ‘natural’ feel, as if you are in the room with the family.
Auditions or scouted?
Do you ever watch a film with your friend, and you both think you’d be the next best thing to the Moffatt’s from Gogglebox? Sorry, not going to happen. The families from this hit show are scouted by a hand-crafted casting agency, and what makes it even harder? Alexander reveals to Vice that ‘we didn’t want people who wanted to be on telly’. Makes sense.
Alexander sent casting teams ‘around the UK, and we went into hairdressers and shops on high streets and hung out in markets.’
They even found Leon and June in the back of a bridge club in Liverpool. Alexander was not interested in typically emotional personal backstories, ‘I just needed to be convinced that the people we cast would be able to deliver in the moment, on the day.’
‘I wanted the diversity of Britain represented’, she continues.
The casting process of Gogglebox is certainly not the same as having over 30k followers on Instagram to star on Love Island. The casting team and directors did silent auditions, where they would frequent to the prospective families’ homes and simply film them commenting on images, without interacting with them. Alexander explains that ‘doing this allowed us to see how quickly they could react, how fast they could formulate an opinion and how insightful that opinion was.’ And, on the plus side, they were able to assess the level or type of humour the families had as well.
Only two cameras are used
One of the most commonly asked questions is ‘how do they film Gogglebox?’ or ‘is it really their house or just a made-up set?’. The answer is, the family’s film in their own homes, and the film crew (well… small film crew) squeeze into any available room in the family’s home and set up a mini gallery. Nobody is ever in the room with a family, according to Alexander.
Gogglebox is specific with their camera angles; they remain fundamental to the show’s roots. The film crew only use wide-angle shots, or occasionally a close-up shot is used to focus on intricate facial expressions, like an eye-roll – this helps to create the shows much-loved comedy punctuation.
Takeaways on the crew
Perhaps this is tea that the Gogglebox crew did not want to be spilt because every family in Britain will be begging for a chance on the hit show’s cast list. However, the scoop is that the crew indeed do spill tea, on the cast… for free. Jealous!
Tom Malone JR told Digital Spy that the best part about filming was ‘without a doubt […] every time we film, which is twice a week, the crew get us a takeaway of our choosing”. Not too bad, huh. You would hope they chuck in a free gym pass as well though.
What are the filming schedules like?
Once again, we revisit the popular questions: do the families watch the programmes live? Do the families watch a whole show, or just a small clip? Do they even get to choose what they watch?
Well, to answer your questions, the cast watch some shows in advance, but some are watched live or after transmission. Alexander explains to Vice that ‘we try to include a live show, a couple of news stories, an entertainment show and a documentary or two’ (per episode, assumingly).
‘We’ll watch the episode in full ourselves, and then we will make a narrative cutdown for the field’ Alexander describes the vigorous process herself, and fellow producers undergo to ensure its audience get their weekly dose of laughter and relatable remarks. She notes that politics works very well for the show’s dynamic, as it provokes opinion and humour.
Whatever the crew and cast of Gogglebox are doing, they certainly seem to be doing it right.