Behind the scenes of Sky 1's Gadget Geeks
In January 2011 I got, along with quite a few other people, an email asking if I’d like to be on a TV show for Sky. I didn’t take it all that seriously, I mean, why would I? Normal people don’t get offered TV shows, that’s something that happens to famous people.
Indeed, I took it with such a pinch of salt, and I replied enthusiastically with "Of course I would, I think TV is in dire need of some Ian Morris". I promise you, I’m not that much of an ego maniac that I actually thought that. But anyone who has seen Kevin Smith’s underrated comedy, Mallrats, will remember when asked if he has considered being a late night talk show host, Brodie replies "of course".
Like many people, presenting a technology show has been my dream for a long time. Not one of those dreams I’ve really put any effort in to, I have to admit, but one of those things you think about when you’re sat on a train and have run out of games to play on your phone. After the email, there was a lot more to do. We were asked to do a screen test, everyone who I worked with at the time did one, and I have to admit I thought little more of it. It was a fun exercise with a director who made it easy for us to talk about what we loved. Honestly, I didn’t think more about it, because I didn’t think I’d be better than the other talented people I worked with.
But strangely, Rory Reid - with whom I worked on a tech website - and I both got calls saying the important people liked us, and they would like us to come in to London on a Saturday to record a not-for-air pilot in an electronics shop. So we did. It was easily one of the strangest things I’ve done. There wasn’t much we could do to prepare. We offered opinions on stuff, tried to speak sensibly about a field that we do know very well, and be as "TV" as we could manage. Again, I enjoyed the experience, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be what the TV people wanted. I’m just some dude with big hair who has strong opinions, not a TV presenter.
But, once more, I was surprised to hear that, again, everyone liked us. There might be some more discussion, but it was starting to look like we’d get a proper offer to do this show. At that point, the format was very different to the show that will air on Sky tonight. It was set in a shop, for one thing, and there were some very different plans for how the builds section of the show would work.
Another not-for-air test recording was made later, in a pub on Shepard’s Bush Green, with the production company’s MD firing questions at us, and trying to get us to argue. It worked well, and that was the last part of the "interview" process. A little while later, we got a formal offer and it started to feel a little bit more "real". Although, until I actually watch this show air, I still don't think I'll believe it.
Then, in August we started making a TV programme. Some shooting in the studio for intros to the contributors were recorded first. This was scary, because not only did we have to impress the TV people, who had worked for months to make the show happen, but we also had to look like competent presenters despite never having done it before - well, most of us, Emma Barnett, digital media editor at The Telegraph, is a bit of an old-hand at TV.
There were plenty of mistakes, but we got there in the end, and these in-studio bits are a great intro to the people we're helping with each item. Be they on the lookout for an underwater video camera, or trying to make their old Sinclair C5 cool.
We finished recording the show at the end of 2011. We might have finished, but the production team then had to stitch everything together to turn segments in to shows. This is balancing act I wouldn't care to manage, and the planning that goes in to it is incredible. When the first episode airs tonight, a lot of people are going to see a lot of their hard work on screen, and I couldn't be more in awe of what they've made.
I've known Rory for a long time, so presenting a show with him has been a lot of fun and we've shared some horrific experiences too. We've worn entirely too much Lycra and Neoprene in each other's presence to ever look at each other the same way again. And Emma has taught me so much, she's one of the most focused and dedicated people I've ever met: she makes Bill Gates look like a slacker and it's been a pleasure to work on the show with her.
And, of course, some will make the inevitable comparison to The Gadget Show. When you see our programme, I'm pretty sure you'll agree that we've created something unique. Our gadget reviews are always aimed at helping someone with a specific need. We're not doing challenges for the sake of it, we're testing tech doing the job it was designed to do, and sometimes that takes me to Ibiza with a glamorous Emma Barnett and sometimes it takes me to swim in 13 degree water with an over-confident Rory Reid.
And we have one thing no one else has. Geeks who can build the most amazing gadgets, A-Team style, in a barn with normal stuff, a few screwdrivers and one of the best beards you'll ever see on British TV. I can't tell you how great Tom Scott, Colin Furze and Charles Yarnold are, but when you see the magic they make on TV, you'll be amazed too!
I hope you enjoy what we've made. The comments section here is open, for you to post your thoughts (be gentle!) and you can tweet along to the show using #GadgetGeeks. I'll be replying to questions too, and hopefully writing more about the show here on Pocket-lint.
Will you be watching? Tell us what you're hoping for via the comments below.