As Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc pair up to present BBC’s new prime time show Let It Shine, they tell Anna Moore more about it…
THE SHOW: Gary Barlow is joined by fellow judges Martin Kemp, Dannii Minogue and Amber Riley in the eight-week search for five boys to create a band who will join the cast of a brand new stage show featuring the music of Take That. Lulu joins the second stage of judging and more announcements are expected.
Graham and I have a very strange relationship because we’re both heavily involved in Eurovision. Graham does the amazing job of filling Terry’s boots at the final and I do the semi-final. I always cross over with Graham in some sort of hotel bar, pass the baton and disappear.
I’ve got to know him much better during this show and he’s an absolute peach of a man! We share a massive love-slash-obsession with musical theatre so working on this, there’s a slight feeling of unruly school kids let loose in a world that we’re not quite part of but are so happy to be on the fringes. We’re having a ball! I forget we’re doing telly half the time but Graham is such a safe pair of hands. He’s very good at focusing everything and just being hilarious. For the audition shows, we take different roles. Graham is with the judges, very much in charge of the stage, and I am in the common room, backstage with 60 incredible young men. (It is a very, very tough job!)
Actually, I am doing what I love to do – hanging out with people, chatting, finding what makes them tick and just being there for them. There is a bit of aftercare as well. For the guys, this is a really big break, a massive deal. It’s dead exciting, as well as daunting, overwhelming. Just like Bake Off, it’s vital to be aware that you’re dealing with human beings with feelings. My job with Sue on Bake Off was to look after the bakers – and to be honest, a lot of that was done off screen as well as on screen. It’s very much the same on Let It Shine. You get to know people, you get involved, you want things to be alright.
Gary Barlow has been amazing. Sue and I have met him before on Light Lunch, the show we did nearly 20 years ago. We have an amazing celebrity booker who got these incredible guests and Gary came on one day and played a big grand piano. Sue and I were draped over the piano and over him, feeding him sushi. He took it all in his stride. That man is unflappable!
People are used to seeing me with Sue but for Sue and me, the most important thing is always going to be our friendship. We were mates at university – very close mates – long before we did any telly. The work is like a nice little cherry on the cake. We’re back together straight after Let It Shine as we’re doing Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief. It’s great to know there’s something else to look forward to!
I was very happy when Mel’s name came up for this because although I didn’t know her that well, for some reason, I knew I really liked her! I was a guest on the pilot of Light Lunch so we’ve known each other a bit for 20 years. Perhaps because we do similar things – we both interview people, we’re often handmaidens to celebrities – we have a kind of shorthand understanding. I’ve seen Mel do things on her own without Sue – she does the BBC Four bit of Eurovision, she has acted, she’s been in shows, so it’s not like I suddenly found myself working with Ant or Dec. I didn’t feel like “Oh, Sue refused to do this – so I’ve been asked to step in!”
I don’t know what Mel will tell you but I’m really enjoying it – though I’m slightly worried because I forget I’m on telly when I’m working with her. The auditions are fine as they’re recorded so they can edit our nonsense out. I’m worried that we are going to give ourselves a fright when we go live!
Let It Shine is a new thing for both of us because in Bake Off and the TV shows I did with Andrew Lloyd Webber, we were dealing with individuals. They succeed or fail on their own. This is bands. At the moment, we’re going from groups of eight to groups of five and of course, those eight boys have properly bonded, they are properly friends. It sounds ridiculous but they’ve been thrown into this really extraordinary world, and they sort of cling to each other. When we get rid of three, it’s like splitting up a litter of puppies! It really is quite upsetting in a way that I wasn’t expecting it to be. Mel’s very good with them though. She consoles them so much, they’re ready to leave by the time she’s finished!
What’s good about this show is that we’re managing expectations. We’re not promising things we can’t deliver. The guys have been told, “What you get is to be part of this band which is part of a musical that’s touring the country for a year.” That’s it – and that is going to happen. Although, if you’re a performer, that will be enormous fun and really rewarding, we’re not promising a Beverly Hills mansion with gold taps. They’re staying in digs in Watford.
Mel and I are presenting but really, this is the “Gary Barlow show”. He came up with this idea with the BBC, we’re casting a musical featuring the music Gary wrote – yet he seems remarkably ego-free. He’s very calm. If there are delays in filming, he’s not throwing his toys out the pram – in fact, I can’t imagine him ever throwing his toys out the pram. I knew him a bit, we’ve run into each other over the years, and all of Take That are so much more lovely than we’ve any right to expect them to be. They were kids when they started and they’ve been through such a bizarre thing – yet they’re in their forties now, absolutely sane and kind and lovely!
Let It Shine airs on BBC One on Saturday nights.