In the first of a series, Lachlan Guertin and Sophie Chappell go behind the scenes at some of Australia’s favourite television shows.
The Project claims to be the only news program in the world with a live studio audience, and you might wonder why this is so important.
Forced reactions, a self-deprecating hype man and light-hearted taunting between the hosts both on and off camera are all the ingredients that supposedly help make this Channel Ten show one of the most popular programs in Australia.
Inside the studios, audience members have to show photo ID, lock any baggage in a cage, turn off your phone and undergo a security check. The audience of 30 people is then led into a boardroom, where portraits of Channel Ten royalty like Osher Günsberg, Matt Preston and Carrie Bickmore surround you. Discount lollies are thrown on the table in front of us, and a hype man/self-professed stand-up comic enters the room to practise our reactions for the upcoming show.
“What do you say if something funny comes on to the screen?” he asks, which is followed by forced laughter.
All the men in the room are instructed to say “yeah!” while the girls will say “woo!”.
Inside the studio, three rows of chairs sit behind the cameramen in a small room made to look bigger by mirrors on each of the walls. Hosts Lisa Wilkinson, Waleed Aly, Peter Helliar and Steve Price sit on the desk, each with their own makeup artist working their magic.
The show runs much like it does on TV in real life, except you are the soundtrack. Every “woo” or “yeah” is provided by you, and anytime something “funny” is said, the hype man gives a loud, forced cackle – which is your cue to follow. During the ad breaks, he attempts to entertain the audience by telling stories about his children, wife and experiences working on a variety of reality TV shows.
According to him, Channel Seven’s Dance Boss is the worst.
Something unique about The Project is that in every episode an audience member gets picked to read an ad-break promo about what’s coming up next. A named Jess is chosen, is fitted with a microphone and takes a seat next to Helliar on the desk. If you’re interested in getting literally 15 seconds of fame, The Project is for you.
While a lot of the segments are filmed live – including on this night, the Barefoot Investor Scott Pape, who runs in and out again after his interview is done – a few interviews are pre-recorded but broadcast to look live. The program’s chat with touring entertainment icon Cher was recorded earlier in the day, so the hosts just stare at a screen watching themselves as it plays out.
When the program ends, Lisa, Waleed and Peter chat to the audience and take questions, while Steve Price leaves quickly. The team explain that Price, the program’s conservative foil, went to get a lap dance, a joke that you would have already heard if you’ve attended the show before.
According to the hosts, their day at The Project begins at about 11am where they arrive to record voiceovers and film any pre-recorded interviews. They leave the studio after 7.30pm, with the audience ushered out soon after.
So if you’re interested in a seeing a variety of news stories told live, briefly meeting some of Channel Ten’s C-list celebrities, and potentially appearing on national TV, maybe The Project is your type of show. But just as in every TV show, things aren’t always as they appear on screen.