The Richard & Judy effect

A few weeks ago we received an email from someone at Cactus TV enquiring about whether any of our bookgroups would like to be filmed for Richard & Judy. I was intrigued, and when I asked for more details, it transpired that they were really keen to film a bookgroup discussing Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Two of our bookgroups were reading/had already read the book, so I indicated we might be interested. I then fired off an email to someone in my bookgroup whom I considered a bellweather of whether or not I could get eight people to come along for the filming, and on the strength of her extremely positive (not to mention excited) response, told them to go ahead - and we fixed a date. We appeared in the show last Wednesday. We were introduced as the 'Mostly Books Reading Group' by Richard Madeley after a high-quality discussion on the couch with Honeysuckle Weeks and David Morrissey. I've done my best to upload the bit of the show to YouTube that we were on: (BTW, I'm sure this is illegal, so if you can't see anything above we may have been leaned on by someone to remove it - not by Cactus of course, 'cos they're lovely. If anyone asks, just say we can get away with this as 'Fair Use' under copyright law. Sounds convincing to me) Anyway, it's interesting to know what transpired behind the scenes to get to the point above. As is often the case, things in 'tellyland' are not always what they seem... The shop had been suitable spruced up for its appearance on the gogglebox (even if the table looked as though we were expecting Paul Daniels round to show us a few tricks.

(Our regular bookgroups don't get the black cloth ordinarily BTW). Now, strictly speaking, there is no 'Mostly Book Reading Group'. We have the Mostly Books Wednesday Evening bookgroup, Thursday Evening bookgroup, and Wednesday Morning bookgroup. The people taking part in the filming were made up of members of the last two. Here was the group photographed pre-filming looking terrified nice and relaxed. That's real wine in the glasses as well:

Now, because the filming date had been arranged at such short notice, most members of the two groups couldn't make it. So having rashly said we'd go ahead, four days before the filming, I had three people signed up. Beginning to panic, and worried that I might get a roasting from Richard & Judy themselves, I fired off an email to our entire mailing list offering a seat in the group for anyone who had read the book and wanted to come along. I had an enormous response to this email - mostly of the "ooh, how exciting, good luck" type, lots of the "you've got to be kidding, no way" type, a few well-argued, strongly-worded essays on the benefits (or otherwise) of Richard & Judy in general - and one extra person for the filming. So that made six. Anyway, back to the filming. There were three people from Cactus - Jo, Roxanne, and the man who put us all at our ease, Tom (standing below):

At least two of our group found Tom "dishy", looking not unlike Damien Lewis. This sparked an excited debate about Mr Lewis, and I had to intervene to calm proceedings, and get us back onto track for the main event of the evening. The discussion of Kate Summerscale's book, and the filming. What I had neglected to mention to anyone (because I thought it might definitely send them away screaming) was that Tom and the team were not filming the discussion per se (although they did film for about 10 minutes for the opening shots) but instead, each of us would need to do a piece to camera. This is quite daunting - but essentially you sit in front of the camera, and are filmed as Roxanne asks a few questions. Each of us chatted away in response, and the results you see are the edited 'highlights'. They filmed everyone in a different part of the shop. The filming was great fun, and we were all (by and large) pleased with the result (for some reason the group looks as if it's obsessed with references to the weather in the book, but I'm sure that's just down to the editing process). Our thanks to Jo, Tom and Roxanne for sticking to time and making the whole experience as painless as possible.


  1. How very exciting - sorry I can't watch the prog as we only have terrestrial tv.

  2. Ooh, Mark. It's you that looks like the film star!!

  3. Susie - you and lots of other people unfortunately (including me). It was a high-risk move for them, but I think they may pull it off. What Amanda Ross (Cactus MD) needs to do is sell a 'highlights' package to Channel 4 or 5 (a bit like Sky do with the Premier League/Match of the Day). Match of the Day is far more beneficial to Sky than to the Beeb - it's like having a teaser trailer for the satellite channel.

    Mary - steady on. I looked more like Robert Peston (I even sounded a bit like him...)