Sunday, October 3, 2010
And The Winner Is...
The result was too close to call: an entire nation held its breath. By now just two were in contention, and it could have gone either way. As the winner was announced, the audience erupted and the finalists embraced, one triumphant, the other smiling in carefully rehearsed generosity.
The victor gave a noble speech, complimenting the opponent, who, despite the fixed grin, could not conceal a look of disappointment across the eyes. Then there was a pause. “Oh my God, I don’t know what to say right now. I’m feeling a bit sick about this.”
Not half as sick as the production company making Australia’s Next Top Model must have felt this week: they had announced the wrong winner. Not only had they brought global ridicule upon the network and created an instant Youtube hit, but they had also embarrassed their presenter by feeding her the wrong information, and she just happened to be daughter-in-law of the most powerful man in media, Rupert Murdoch. And it wasn’t an Australian embarrassment either, because the production company was our very own Granada, part of ITV. “This is what happens when you have live TV, folks, this is insane,” said Sarah Murdoch, as she ploughed on through the audience’s jeers.
You can say that again. I’ve produced all sorts of live awards programmes, from talent shows like Star For A Night to theatre awards and the Booker Prize. There’s always that moment of impotence as your presenter reads out the winner’s name. What if they misread it, or the autocue pulls up wrong page or, worst of all, you’ve put the wrong name in the envelope? Quite often only the producer knows the result and I used to check and recheck the gold envelopes myself just to be sure.
I was on the original Camelot team that won the National Lottery contract and my biggest fear was that the “voice of the balls” might mistake a 6 for an upside down 9 during the live show: we drew up a detailed contingency plan for getting out of that one. When I was responsible for the BBC’s General Election coverage, I made everyone rehearse the nightmare scenario that a returning officer might read out the wrong result.
On the other side of the cameras, nominees at results ceremonies have a different problem. You hardly ever see an honest reaction, from either winner or loser. The former profess amazement that they could have been chosen over their more worthy rivals, whereas losers can never show how dead they feel in their stomachs. At the BAFTAs, where I’ve had to smile sweetly in defeat so many times, a handheld camera swings under your chin five minutes before the result, with a closeup of your tear glands. So when your defeat is announced, there’s a protocol that you can only put on a “jolly well done, I don’t really hate you at all” expression. Why can’t we be honest?
Like country music singer Faith Hill, who threw her arms in the air and raged “What?!” when American Idol winner Carrie Underwood beat her. Or like, most famous of all, American rapper Kanye West, who stormed the stage after losing at the MTV Europe Music Video Awards and interrupted the winner’s speech, ranting that his video should have won because “it cost a million dollars, had Pam Anderson in it and had me jumping across canyons”.
How great it would have been to have a camera inside David Miliband’s brain when he found out he’d been beaten by his younger brother. I guess we’ll never find out what he really felt at that moment, even in his autobiography.
The two Australians, Kelsey, Next Top Model for just one minute, and the real winner Amanda, were vacuously magnanimous in both defeat and victory. But I’m sure we all know what they were really thinking.