Secrets of television revealed: Behind the scenes at Winging It!
blog by Ben Kirst • September 23, 2012 @ 10:10pm
This past Thursday morning, Buffalo.com intern Sarah Burke and I hung out backstage at WIVB-TV sister station WNLO-TV ‘s studio on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. We were there as part of Crista Botticello’s fashion truck rollout and makeover session on Winging It! Buffalo Style, the CW-23 affiliate’s weekday morning show. You may have caught this segment on the air or online at wingingit.tv:
Yeah, we weren’t in it. However, as we loitered amongst the lights, camera and action that morning, we realized we had a unique opportunity—we had a couple hours of unfettered access to the Winging It! cast, a handheld video camera and a bunch of questions about how things really work in television. Do guests ever have grade-A freakouts? Are the anchors sneaking grandpa’s homemade cold remedy into their coffee mugs? Are soap opera-style romantic entanglements creating crippling off-camera friction?
No to all of the above. But we did find out so much more! Here are 10 answers to television secrets that may have had you scratching your chin while watching from your couch in the past.
Question 1: Do guests get really nervous before going on live TV?
Local dance instructor Phil Smith was getting ready to appear on the show for a segment with Matt Snyder, the show’s CW Star. According to Smith, there are some butterflies—but, like all potentially nerve-wracking situations, the best thing to do is to relax, have fun and enjoy your few moments in the spotlight.
Question 2: Does the camera really add 10 pounds?
Sadly, it’s not the camera that’s adding 10 pounds. It’s the extra bowl of ice cream you’re eating before bedtime every night. The camera doesn’t make you look heavier so much as it forces you to confront your self-image without the benefit of foggy bathrooms, flattering dressing rooms or comforting self-delusion. There are wardrobe tips that make you look your best, but if you want to look ripped and thin, you’re going to have to hit the gym and lay off the Burger King.
Question 3: Do you ever go off script?
Winging It! solves this problem by keeping its scripting to a minimum, meaning its hosts have to ready to improvise and think on their feet. The show also does not not utilize a TelePrompTer, making pre-show preparation and communication crucially important.
Question 4: How comfortable is that couch?
Quite comfortable, actually. On the negative side, the cast thinks that it makes them look a little wider than they like. Maybe they should invest in one of these babies.
Question 5: What’s really in those coffee mugs?
Not coffee. In fact, there’s nothing in those coffee mugs at all. I guess it makes sense; think about what a big, strong cup of coffee does to your, ah, comfort level on an empty stomach—you can’t have the talent dipping in and out of the studio every commercial break. A freshly-brewed pot, however, is available in the guests’ green room. It’s just one of the many perks of show business.
Question 6: Who’s behind the camera?
In this particular case, it’s John Lawrence, a longtime member of the WIVB-TV engineering department and an able hand on a remote shoot. Lawrence got his start in television as a student at Buffalo State and parlayed an internship and some industry contacts into a career. Take his story to heart, college kids: hard work and a little savvy can go a long way.
Question 7: Who picks out your clothes?
I was a little surprised by this information—there’s no big wardrobe room tucked into the bowels of the building, and there’s no makeup and hair technicians running around, spritizing and sprucing the on-air talent and guests. Preparing to go in front of the camera means styling your own hair, handling your own makeup and picking out your own clothes. No pressure! You’re just going to have a few thousand people judging your look on a daily basis.
Question 8: What kind of crazy stuff can happen on-air?
While most of the unplanned episodes on live television are not exactly on par with Howard Finch losing his marbles in Network, things can get a little rough in one of three general situations: 1.) news breaks so suddenly that you’re forced to go on the air without the usual degree of preparation; 2.) your technical systems go on the fritz; or 3.) one of your co-workers is trying to make you laugh. They really do that to each other! TV—it’s a rough business.
Question 9: How does the green screen work?
It takes a little while to get used to it, according to WIVB-TV meteorologist and Winging It! co-host Amelia Segal. Like any task that forces you to rethink your basic ideas about coordination and orientation, it takes practice—but after enough work, it becomes routine.
Question 10: You know when those chefs are on the show—can you eat the food in that they make in the studio?
Winging It! Buffalo Style in on at 8 a.m. weekdays on WNLO-TV.