As you can imagine my opportunities for watching are limited to my all too infrequent trips to the US. But I did for one hectic week actually help produce this show, albeit in a very minor capacity. Apart from Wimbledon coverage for HBO this was my first real experience working for American TV, and it was quite an eye opener. In July 1989 the French 'celebrated' their bicentennial of their revolution, and while pretty much every British broadcaster ignored it, the 'Yanks' came over in force.
Presumably the language barrier was thought to be too great for the French to overcome and so NBC hired a British truck, (bizarrely, staffed by Swedish technicians) and hired British operators and engineers of whom I was one. The shoot was on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre Dame. Just a few yards down from us were ABC with their Good Morning America show, similarly equipped, and fortunately quite friendly as we had to borrow some lighting equipment from them! This was the swansong of Jane Pauley who turned out to be a real lady. Sadly she was about to be stiffed by NBC she was soon to be replaced by a younger, blonder presenter (who guested during the week with us) Shame, as Pauley was a hit with the audience, us, and the many, many, passers by who she treated with respect and courtesy. Bryant Gumbel in contrast, hid what charm he had under a steely, cold exterior, and left me at least in no doubt who was in charge of that particular production.
We also had the pleasure of the company of Willard Scott, who turned out to be a laugh a minute and defused many a tense situation with his easy going humour. Scott has even less hair than I and confused the hell out of me when I saw him later on that year in the studio, with apparently flowing locks. It was only after watching for a few days I realised that he was expected to wear a hairpiece in the studio, but excused the wig, in the blustery conditions of outside work! The real star for me was the director. He's not credited here, but is elsewhere on the IMDb, but forgive me for not naming him. Those in the business will have heard of the $500K+ a year he was making then, and know who I mean. In contrast to the almost fawningly polite style of British Television (I still remember being told on my BBC induction course in the 1970's that we were expected to hold open the doors as we walked around Television Centre, for other members of staff) Americans were direct, and utterly ruthless. One mistake and you were bawled out, two and you were cut, no argument. Remarkable then that I survived the full week although I did learn one or two new swear words. Credit though, when the show was over he walked to every person on that crew and thanked them by name - something a few British directors could learn. I still have a tape we recorded of the show with the his tailback on an extra audio track - and it still makes me blush! The British claim to have invented TV, and well we might, but the Americans have largely perfected it - and they're at their best in this genre of live News and Features. The slick one-two presenter style with throws to specialist sports/weather/news headlines presenters is now adopted by all of our domestic channels, and we know what imitation is
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