Do the lockdown mash 

18 April 2022


Two years ago this week my wife and I had tickets for the recording of that week’s edition of The Mash Report, the first in a new series going out the following night at on BBC-2. Sadly with the first wave of Covid restrictions our trip to Elstree was cancelled just as we had anticipated when we were allocated our tickets. However, the Mash adhered to the golden rule of “The Show Must Go On” and consequently I found myself seriously impressed with the performers of the programme as they carried on (almost regardless) by performing it down the line from their own homes.

Watching The Mash Report being played ‘raw’ like this (along with Have I Got News For You which was also following the same “from home…” format) certainly demonstrated how the writers and the performers clearly had their work cut out during those unhappy times. We had attended the recordings for the whole of the previous series of the Mash and it was fascinating to watch the performance being ignited by the presence of a studio audience. Frequently one of the cast would make an off-the-cuff remark between takes, getting a rapturous response from the audience and the script writers would then rush out and do a quick re-write to incorporate that remark into the script. Often one of the cast would throw in a suggestion to one of their colleagues which would then find its way into the final take. The Mash Report was of course topical satire and sometimes during the recording a piece of news would come in, resulting in an entire item being re-written or added. I’m certain similar would happen during recording sessions for Have I Got News For You.


Courtesy of BBC Comedy


So for an entire series the Mash and HIGNFY were bereft of not only a studio audience to play to, but also their fellow performers in the same room to spur them on and, given the circumstances, I felt they did a rather good job. It can’t have been easy. Thanks to the internet more and more presenters found themselves working from home, particularly on news programmes or magazine-type shows which would usually rely on guests and contributors in the studio, while those of us watching at home on our nice large 4k UHDTV sets began to accept our regular TV shows looking like YouTube videos or zoom calls. I did find myself wondering at the time if we were actually looking at the future of television. Could it be that we would become so accepting of this style of presentation that for certain types of programmes it would become the ‘norm’, while broadcasters and production companies alike could save a fortune on studio facilities?

Well, thankfully not quite. In most cases the shows concerned have had their on-screen talents back in the studio, but internet feeds from the homes of various contributors have remained a regular feature. They were there to some extent before the restrictions of course, complete with dodgy lines or lost connections, it just seems that in the post-Covid restriction era we’ve become accustomed at times to technical standards that would have never been permitted by BBC or IBA engineers.

But of course, as far as regular programmes are concerned with a little willpower and use of bona fide broadcast standard equipment it can be done properly. For some time now radio presenters have been able to feed their shows into the network from their own homes (BOOM Radio using that facility for its entire output, there being no actual studio centre), so surely television can follow suit in certain areas? Maybe in the case of regional news at Bank Holidays, rather than trouble a studio crew why not just get the presenter to kit themselves with the appropriate technology and do it from home? I saw BBC Look East presenter Leigh Milner doing just that in January 2020 as part of a week of ‘Green’ challenges, presenting from her living room in Essex rather than drive to the studio in Norwich.

Coincidentally as I wrote I saw a video of a BBCtv start-up film from 1960 showing off their then new Television Centre. Looking at the facilities within those walls back then the thought that “one day you’ll be able to do all of this at home” would never have entered our minds…


Courtesy of ephemeralfilm


Geoff Nash is a Staff Editor at Transdiffusion


You Say

1 response to this article

Harald Stelsen 18 February 2023 at 12:35 am

What creepy, scary music that they used for that startup film. One half expected that there were going to be aliens and/or robots to be roaming the corridors.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 20 July 2024