I'm just getting ready to start annoying the people of Britain with my new TV show, Fool Britannia. We start filming in a couple of weeks, so preparation is well under way. Things have changed since I last dipped my toe into the world of hidden camera. We used to just wander into work in the morning, have a "bit of a think" and then decide what we were going to film. Maybe I would spot a milkman and mutter, "Oh, we haven't done anything with a milkman character." So we'd then drive up to a costume house, such as Angels, and root around for a milkman costume. Once we'd got this it would be nearly time for lunch – so we'd find somewhere for a nice, two-hour Continental-style break. And, hopefully, over the meal we would have come up with an idea for what to do with the milkman.
We'd then hop back into our Toyota Previa and grumble that we all felt like a nap. Being professionals we would resist the urge and drive around trying to find a location. When we found a suitable place I would hop out, dressed as the milkman, and wait for the cameras to get into place and tell me they were ready (usually done by turning on the indicators).
By this stage, whoever we'd selected as a target would invariably have moved on or gone inside. So we would have to start the whole thing again. This we would do for a couple of hours until it got too dark to film. We would always end up filming in winter, which meant that everything would have to stop at 4.30 in the afternoon.
That was then. I now have a crack team helping to prepare the show and things are a little different. For starters, we are filming over the summer, which makes life a lot more pleasant. We are also thinking of most of the ideas before we even start filming. Once these have mostly been agreed, I decide on the "look" of the character – what wig, nose, clothes, eye colour will he have? This done, we look at locations and try to set them up well in advance.
Having filmed extensively all over the country, I now have a little list of towns and areas that I will not film in. I truly believe that I suffer from a rare form of aesthetic depression and this is triggered whenever I visit places on my "black list". I don't wish to aggravate any situations further by naming any of them, but regular readers will be well aware of what most of them are.
Sometimes my production team are unaware of my list and approach a particular council asking for permission to film in an area. One south- western seaside resort received such a request and were quick to respond. They wrote to say that, although I'd be welcome to film in the town, they were surprised that I'd want to. They then quoted from an article I'd written in this paper describing their town (quite accurately) as one of the "windswept, penny-arcade, piss-stinking destinations of the desperate". I was also informed that the citizens of said town had burnt an effigy of me.
After a quick production meeting we decided that it would probably be for the best if we filmed somewhere else.
I'm trying to organise as many as possible of the locations to be within an hour of my house in the Cotswolds, so that I can occasionally return home and remind my family of my existence. I need to be careful, however, not to tread on my neighbours' toes. I have a strict rule about filming too near home as you run the risk of annoying somebody who then bumps into you in a local pub.
It's not easy, this comedy lark.Reuse content