I went to a taping of American Idol!
|Inside a huge soundstage at the CBS
Television City studio complex in Hollywood, California, the
excitement was palpable as I settled into my chair for a
two-hour taping of American Idol. The show would
air live on the East Coast and then be broadcast later on
the West Coast. Next to me was a couple from Riverside,
California. They were big fans of the show and had applied
"a long time ago" for their free tickets to be in the studio
on-camera-audiences.com. A woman and her sixteen-year-old
son sitting behind me were on a spring break trip from
Minnesota. They had recently signed up to be on
on-camera-audiences.com's waitlist that day's show.
Audience members stood and cheers and applause erupted as judges Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, and Randy Jackson, host, Ryan Seacrest, and then the 2013 American Idol top eight contestants (Lazaro Arbos, Janelle Arthur, Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller, Burnell Taylor and Devin Velez) made their way onto the stage. People in the audience yelled out the names of their favorites. I took a deep breath and took it all in.
Not like watching Idol at home
Being in the studio audience of American Idol was very different than watching it at home. Aside from the obvious difference that I was surrounded by tons of enthusiastic fans, the theater, stage, and everything else, seemed much smaller in person than it did on TV.
There were cameras everywhere, and we were reminded that there was a good chance that we would be on TV, but, unlike the sitcom tapings that I’ve attended, at American Idol tapings, audience members do not see monitors showing what people see at home, and so it was hard to tell when we were in the shot.
Because I wasn’t watching through the camera’s lens, I could see everything that was going on in the entire auditorium, which I really enjoy because I love to see all of the behind-the-scenes goings on.
Most of the behind-the-scenes excitement happened during commercial breaks when crew members dressed in black swarmed the stage, adding, removing, and relocating chairs, pianos, and set pieces (that often arrived in more than one piece and had to be assembled and disassembled onstage). The area between the stage and the audience often became a flurry of activity as well as makeup artists and other crew members converged on the judges.
Sometimes, executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe, would climb up onto the judges’ podium and chat with the judges. Sometimes, one of the judges or Ryan Seacrest would make their way into the audience to greet celebrity guests, including Smokey Robinson. Mr. Robinson had mentored the contestants that week, for Motown week. Twice, because it was March 27th, audience members serenaded Mariah Carey with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” The first time, she thanked them, but reminded them that it was not her birthday, it was her “anniversary.” Apparently, Mariah prefers to refer to her birthday as an anniversary instead. The second time, she sweetly waved her pink, light-up birthday (I mean, anniversary) wand in appreciation.
During the commercial breaks, American Idol audience warm-up guy, Cory Almedia, made his way through the audience, chatting with audience members (mostly adorable young children), tossing out light-up rings (which had to be turned off when the cameras were rolling), and handing out a few official American Idol t-shirts and hats, mostly to the aforementioned cute little kids. His job could possibly be the most fun job in showbusiness!
While the cameras were rolling
There was also some behind-the-scenes fun that happened while the show was on the air, even while cameras were rolling. I enjoyed watching Ryan Seacreast get into position for his appearances on the show. He slipped through the shadows, skillfully avoiding the multiple cameras, and always seemed to be exactly where he needed to be at precisely the right moment.
I also enjoyed watching the cameras on cranes soar through the air and the hand-held Steadicam camera operator walk across the stage to capture close-up views of the Idols, something that I imagine is incredibly distracting for a performer, but that the Idols had already learned to deal with. The Steadicam operator was always accompanied by another man, who I believe was there to keep the camera guy from walking right off the edge of the stage as he focuses on getting his shot.
Right before the last performance of the show, Kree Harrison seemed to be having problems with her body microphone. The sound technician came out on stage during her pre-recorded video introduction and quickly worked on the problem. He disappeared backstage seconds before the lights came up, and Kree went on to give a phenomenal performance, seemingly completely unflustered by the preceding activity.
At the end of the show, while the home audience watched a recap of that night's performances, the American Idol top eight contestants lined up onstage to get ready for their final goodbye of the night. The recap played on a big screen behind them. Some of the Idols turned to watch what I assume were their first glimpses of their performances, some did not.
In all, I felt that it had been a great evening of talented performers giving excellent performances. Adding to that was the fact that we had just seen the 2013 winner of American Idol perform live. We just don't know who he or she is yet. I can’t wait to find out!
I did this on March 27th, 2013 in Hollywood, California, USA.
Jen (California, USA)*
More of Jen's reviews of TV show tapings and filmings:
The Big Bang Theory (2013-2014 Season)
The Big Bang Theory (2011-2012 Season)
American Idol finale and afterparty
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Riff-Raff Room)
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (studio audience)
Two and a Half Men
|*Jen attended a taping of American Idol as a guest of production.|