Which apparently besuited BBC newsreader only ever wears jeans beneath the desk? What infuriating request did Prince make when visiting the Corporation’s studios? And which popular comedy show couldn’t afford a full set design, so just used the naked walls of the sound stage?
A tour of BBC Television Centre throws up all kinds of anecdotes and trivia. Did you know that the newsroom backdrop behind newsreaders is computer generated? This came about after pre-recorded footage showed Moira Stewart magically walking behind herself during a broadcast.
The tour takes in the newsroom, the main studios, backstage areas, a green room and the weather centre. There’s plenty of nostalgia. Studio 8 was home to every important comedy ever to come out of the BBC: Monty Python, Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, right through to Miranda. The old Match of the Day studio lurks in Studio 6. We even spotted a sorry-looking Gordon the Gopher entombed in a perspex museum case. Sad, really.
Television Centre remains, briefly, a working studio. Sightings of celebrities are almost guaranteed. We spied Olympic gymnast Louis Smith waiting his turn on Strictly…or perhaps Buzzcocks. There were whispers that Tess Daly had just turned a corner. We didn’t see Brucey in the flesh, but a monitor showed him stumbling through rehearsals. The pick-ups and drop-offs monitor read like a who’s-who of TV stars, all about to arrive or depart.
The tours are also very interactive. Kids get a chance to read the news. Adults can take part in a mock quiz show. Everyone gets to sit on the Match of the Day sofa. We also found ourselves in front of a blue screen, struggling to point out Aberdeen on a weather chart. Throughout, the tour guides are sparky, professional and well-drilled, like BBC presenters in the making.
Get in quick. The BBC will permanently leave Television Centre in February, after building up 50 years of memories at the site. The newsroom will move to Broadcasting House and the remaining shows will scatter elsewhere Until then, you can book onto one of the regular tours until 22 February.
Having done hundreds of building tours in our time, this is right up there with the very best.
BBC Television Centre tours operate most days at varying times. Prebook online or by calling 0370 901 1227. Tickets are £11.75 (adults) and £8.25 (children over 9). Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ.
Other alternative tours: