by Peter Dixon
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I was one of those lucky buggers who got to see an episode of Satellite City being filmed. For a while I had been in touch with the Fiction Factory, SC’s production company, as even then I was trying to get the series released officially. (Part of the reason for this was that I had then recently moved to Essex, and was feeling very sad that I wouldn’t be able to see Series 3 – no BBC Wales in Essex!) The person I was communicating with told me that I could come along and be part of the live studio audience, so I bestowed eternal gratitude on her and booked 6 tickets. They landed on my door mat 3 days before the filming of the show, and so it was that, on Friday 7th August 1998, I travelled all the way to Studio 1, TV Centre, Culverhouse Cross in Cardiff (where they eat people’s ‘eads), to witness the filming of the first episode of the third series.
I took with me my wife to be, and collected four friends from Chepstow on the way, none of whom had ever seen the show before. After stopping for pizza in Cardiff, we made our way to a very ordinary looking small factory building. We arrived at 6.30pm, when the doors were due to open, and the place was already buzzing with people, most of whom looked like what you’d expect Mandy’s friends to look like! I remember feeling insanely jealous of them, as, from the conversations I overheard, it sounded like a lot of them came to see the show filmed on a regular basis. Presumably they were a bit more local than me! Anyway, it wasn’t long before we filed into a long but fairly compact studio, and took up our seats behind the cameras.
The first thing that struck me was how small the set was! I was to the right of the set, directly opposite the bedroom set. To the left of that, with only a thin wall between them, was the main house/kitchen set and the Cosmo set. Hung above our heads were microphones, to pick up our laughter, and TV monitors, so we could watch what the cameras were picking up too.
There were cameramen and sound guys buzzing around right from the start, and other people, like (presumably) the director, producer, floor manager, etc. It wasn’t long before a warm up man appeared too. It was his job to welcome us, to get us in the mood to laugh (as if we needed it!), and to inform us what was going on between takes. Then the cast appeared, to great applause, and it all started. The cast were fairly subdued, but I imagine that was because they had a few hours worth of work ahead of them, and were busy concentrating on the acting they had to do.
It was very interesting to watch the scenes being filmed. Between takes you could have heard a pin drop, as whenever the bloke said “silence please” the audience obeyed and leaned forward to soak in every detail. (We were mostly fans, after all.) The actors would take up their positions, and then as soon as the clapperboard snapped, the characters came to life.
Unlike some shows, where they film bits and bobs out of order, this one was filmed more or less in sequence, to give the audience some continuity. There were also some scenes which had already been filmed (outside and linking shots, and the scenes in the cellar) which were relayed to us on the TV monitors, so that they could record us laughing as we watched. Some of these scenes were shown more than once, presumably because the recordings of our laughter weren’t good enough. Similarly, there were several takes of the acted scenes (I don’t remember any being nailed in one take). To me, a lot of the scenes looked perfect first time – except when lines were fluffed, obviously – but the producers would watch them on their screens and ask for them to be shot again. Perhaps they could see boom mikes, or the actors were in the wrong places, or something – I don’t know. I didn’t mind watching things over and over again though. It was particularly interesting to look out for differences in acting between takes, and to watch how closely the actors hit their marks (very well indeed).
Something else was very interesting about that night. It was Donna’s first appearance. Fworrr…! That’s all I’m going to say on that subject. I have a wife and child, you know.
When filming finally wrapped (around 10 o’clock), we applauded again, and there were visible signs of relief amongst the cast, who looked both knackered and relaxed (at last!) at the same time! Particularly old Idris, who I was particularly in awe of for some reason (pleaaaassse let me meet him!). I was keen to hang around and meet the cast, but the most elderly of my companions was not in the best of health and keen to be off, so I had to be content with quick smiles and waves, and then we were on our way.
The evening passed remarkably quickly, and I was in a daze all weekend as I replayed it over and over in my head. (Fortunately we all got out of Cardiff with our heads intact!) I have very fond memories of that night, still have my ticket and the letter that accompanied it. I even have Idris’s autograph now too. My communication with the Fiction Factory continued for a while, and by way of thanking me for my support they said they would see if they could get series 3 taped for me, since I was nowhere near Wales. Sadly I never did see a tape – I moved house again shortly afterwards, and like to think that they didn’t forget me, but sent a tape to the old address. Since then I have moved back to Wales (to a place where, ridiculously, I couldn’t receive Welsh TV!) and away again (I’m now in Warwickshire) and to this day I still haven’t seen Series 3!!! I have worn my video tapes of the first two series to death, though. And my love for the series has only grown with time, and now that this site is up, and now that I’ve “met” you guys, and we have repeats of High Hopes on Satellite TV, I have High Hopes of being able to see Series 3 at last….!?!
This article was written by Peter Dixon, and was originally posted on the forum, Peter has kindly given us his permission to use the article for your enjoyment.