In the whole time we've been here at the Academy, I've never once sat down to watch a soap in my own time. I guess I still have a little snobbery about it. I realise the irony of this, coming from she who was once addicted to Hollyoaks, in the same way fat children are addicted to fried bacon fried in fried oil. I told myself it was a casual thing, that I was a social soap-watcher, and that I watching it for the 'irony'.... but when I found myself staying up late to watch Hollyoaks Later after my flatmate went to bed, I had to admit I had a problem. Then, like a fat child who can no longer buy child-sized school trousers, I realised I had to cut out my fatal addiction for the good of my health. I was starting to live in a world where everyone was secretly psychotic, everyone has everyone's mobile numbers and AIDS, drug addictions and teen pregnancies are everyday life (and all of these occur in relatively middle-class surroundings). It was pretty easy to go cold turkey, as it was slowly becoming a parody of itself- murderous lesbian sky divers!! Hannah getting an eating disorder- AGAIN!! No, ta.
Since then, I've not really attached myself to another soap in the same way. I don't have the patience, and every other soap is either too 'cosy' (Corrie), 'parochial' (Emmerdale-dale-dale) or 'soul-rapingly, eye-gougingly, brain-meltingly depressing' (EastEnders). They didn't reflect where I was from, or people like me. At least the 'oaks had a student union!
That pretty much just leaves one... our very own weekly slice of 'Glasgow' living, River City. I'd watched this when it first aired and mostly just cringed at the forced Weegie accents. Obviously there were going to be alot of teething problems with any new show, but I didn't hang about long enough to see how they panned out. Since our classes with Kim though, I've found myself sitting of a Sunday, watching the catch up episode... and I have to admit, it's not so terrible. I appreciate the process of soap-writing so much more now, as well as the efforts behind camera to make the show on a par with the Big Hitters of the soap world. OK, so maybe I didn't tune in every Tuesday religiously, and I didn't know all the characters/plots/backstories etc... I did watch enough, however, to get really PROPER excited about our visit to the very set where River City is made!
We drove up in Julia's car, thankfully without having to smuggle anyone in the boot. I was surprised at how far away the studios actually are- we were practically on the shores of Loch Lomond! We made it there on time without a hitch, Murray worked his best Producer charm and before we knew it we were being waved in and handed BBC visitor's passes (which I think we may have have to hand back... Ooops). One thing which initially struck me was how decidedly un-glamourous the studio was from the outside. It was imposing, grey and bore more than a passing resemblance to an outbuilding from Schindler's List. We'd been there literally five minutes before the fire alarm broke out... Just as I was pondering whether or not we'd see anyone 'famous', the whole cast and crew came pouring out. I was more than a wee bit starstruck, considering I'd only watched the Sunday catch-up the day before they were still fresh in my memory.
First off we were taken to the backlot, which is just amazing! It looks like a street lifted straight from anywhere in Glasgow, right down to the fake subway station. I managed to resist temptation to steal a menu from the Oyster Cafe, although it did take a considerable amount of self-restraint. We also watched a scene being filmed, which brought home the point I made during 'Home' about never working with children, animals or balloons... it showed the huge amount of time and effort that goes into one street scene which will probably only last a couple of minutes, and put our bitching about hanging around the Necro in the bitter cold into perspective!
We were then taken inside to see the interiors... The sheer scale of it was epic. We were informed that all the sets were built in real-size whereas other soaps like Eastenders were a mere 75% to scale... honestly, if it weren't for lack of bedroom I'd move into the 'student' flat in a heartbeat... There were lots of nice quirky touches here and there, like flyers for The Garage and mail addressed to Montego Street. I was a teensy bit disappointed that the tenement sets and the interiors were actually separate, although I figure it's testament to the success of their production design. The day was rounded off with a wee chat with a script editor friend of Kim's: it was a job I'd never even heard of until recently but sounds pretty interesting. The amount of time an effort that goes into making the show seems mind-boggling; from co-ordinating the actors and splitting their time between backlot and studio time, even down to editing out the sound of seagulls... Being so close to Loch Lomond there's alot of 'em around, far more than in Glasgow... it's not something I'd have even considered but it just goes to show the painstaking detail they have to go to, in order for the show to be 'believable'.
After such an intense afternoon of shmoozing industry professionals and behind the scenes access, it seemed only natural to pile into the nearest chippy and head for the swing park. Obviously... Nothing calls your mental age into question like frantically running for a swing screaming "shotgun!!!!!"....
The trip highlighted for me what I love so much about our course. It's not enough that tutors and guest speakers are industry professionals, we get guided tours on the sets of major BBC productions too. I still don't think I can bring myself to watch/enjoy Eastenders without wanting to drive nails into my arm, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Shieldinch may have found itself a unlikely new fan...