When I read Not Going Out were doing a Christmas Special episode, I was very happy. Love this show, and any excuse for some more of Lee Mack’s fun wordplay is good enough for me. When I read on to see it would be a live show, then I was in two minds. Live shows are good, the additional adrenaline of ‘will they, won’t they mess up’ is an intriguing extra element, and it’s something to talk about whether it goes well or not.
However, the last few live things I’ve seen have all gone off flawlessly and, because they are usually dramas, there’s no room for anything other than perfection anyway. It sort of felt a bit pointless, previously, but this time I realised that with a sitcom, especially one helmed by a stand up comedian, you were probably in for something a little different.
And, I’d imagine, whilst nerve-wracking, it has to help the rest of the cast knowing that if it did all go spectacularly wrong, you’ve got a stand up comedian or two on hand to make light of the situation and talk their way out of it. And that’s pretty much what happened.
Mack had written in the odd aside to camera, a self-aware reference to the live show, but there were a few minor mishaps that he also managed to wrap up as part of the fun. It all went very well and was great fun to watch - one of those televisual events where you get to the end and whine ‘oh, it’s over already??’
It made me think, too, why we don’t have more of this. Broadcasters are always trying to make shows that are more of an event these days, because lord knows there’s enough programming out there to entertain even the grumpiest of watchers. You have to stand out one way or another. And I’ve often thought that the live audience sitcom format works well for this - they read through on the Monday, rehearse Tuesday-Thursday, then do the live taping on a Friday, before it all starts again the next week. Why not just make the live taping a live screening and be done with it?
You could even factor in additional time for any major errors. Say it’s a half hour show, allow 40 minutes instead, and if it goes well, just use that time for some nifty behind the scenes extras. If it doesn’t go well, you’ve got the time baked in for emergencies. I can’t always get myself in front of a television to watch something as it is broadcast, but I would certainly make more of an effort if I knew the show was happening live at that very moment. More please, people!