Early this morning, my mom, sister and I got VIP passes to see "Good Morning, America" being taped live at Times Square. Apparently every weekday morning, ABC staff let in a small group of about 30 folks to watch the live taping from 7 to 9am. The VIP pass was nice, allowing us to get there just before 7am, along with a prime viewing location of the show, a backstage tour, and (sometimes) pictures with the hosts of the show.
Today's show focused on a visit by Tom Hanks, there to pimp out his new movie "Angels and Demons," and closed with a very silly but fun "battle of the GMA anchors" involving a trampoline in the middle of Times Square.
Most impressive to me was the control room where the producers coordinate all the pieces of the show. It's like a tiny Cape Canaveral in there, with hundreds of small monitors showing camera angles, feeds from various GMA affiliates and other stations, weather patterns, news tickers, and lots of other inscrutable data. The production team were all whispering to each other in their headsets, adjusting dials, clicking away at keyboards, and writing in thick pads. A small part of me started thinking, okay that looks kind of fun.
The main stage where they film the main segments of show featured co-anchors Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts and Chris Cuomo behind their respective desks, reading teleprompters and mouthing instructions to the crew when the camera wasn't on them. Four massive cameras provided various shots for the producers. And large LCDs showed the anchors what the TV audience was seeing. About a dozen crew stood around doing mostly nothing while we were there.
Indeed, much of the show seemed to involve crew members waiting around as canned footage played, or local affiliates ran their segments, or commercials played. Then there was brief frenetic activity. And then it was back to waiting around for awhile. Everyone seemed quite good at standing around looking intense and important without actually doing anything.
Samantha, our funny but stern handler, kept teasing us with info about Tom Hanks's whereabouts in the building, and whether or not we were going to get to see him. The closest we got was seeing Mr. Hanks sitting for some unknown reason inside of an Oscar Meyer weinermobile, talking on a walkie talkie. He looks just like himself — but inside of a giant hotdog on wheels.
Toward the end of the show, our handler Samantha ushered the lot of us outside to the middle of Times Square to watch the GMA anchors attempt to do various tricks on the trampoline. Surprisingly, former basketball star Robin Roberts was the worst on the trampoline. Diane Sawyer was only a little better. Their two male counter-parts were more adept, doing basic sitting-to-standing transitions and knees-to-chest or legs spread out in the air. By the end, I was dying to try it out myself.
As the show ended, Robin Roberts quite graciously hung out with the visitors and let us take lots of pictures with her. I introduced myself and said a couple of sentences about Global Kids and how she would be an inspiration for our kids. I gave her my card, which she handed to her assistant (who probably threw it out two minutes later.)
All-in-all, the whole thing seemed a bit silly and contrived to me. I am not a television watcher — I don't even have cable or broadcast TV at home. So it makes sense that I would be underwhelmed by these people in heavy makeup who I didn't know. I was in the clear minority though. All of the other visitors were just giddy about being in a TV studio and getting to witness some television magic up close.
"You have the best job in the world," one of the visitors exclaimed to Samatha the handler.
"You think so?" Samantha replied, raising an eyebrow. "Are there any job counselors visiting us today?" she retorted, laughing.
It was a pretty interesting — and free — experience in television production. Fun to visit, but I'm happy I don't have to live in that fake world of studio lights, make-up, and hurry-up-and-wait.
More of my pics from the show (mostly trampoline shots) on my Flickr set.