What it's like to lose your Zoom virginity... in front of thousands

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan are presenting their new book club show from the comfort of their own home
Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan are presenting their new book club show from the comfort of their own home

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appTwenty one continuous years of TV presenting together – first on ITV’s This Morning, then on C4 at teatimes – and you’d think you’d have pretty much seen and done it all.

Nope. Cometh the lockdown, cometh the virtual telly experience. Last night Judy and I lost our Zoom virginity, in front of thousands. (Well, I hope in front of thousands – the ratings aren’t in yet).

We were back in our old billet, C4, but not our old studio. Not any studio, in fact. , came from our back room at home in north London. A new book club for television, jacketed in the living room chez nous.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appThe odd thing was, it, well, didn’t feel odd. Not at all. In fact we felt so relaxed surrounded by all our knick-knacks and bookshelves that I half wondered why we’d ever bothered with three purpose-built studios – the first on Liverpool’s Albert Dock when This Morning launched in 1988, the second on the South Bank when the show moved to London eight years later, and then our converted warehouse in Kennington when we jumped ship to C4 in 2001.

It’s great broadcasting from home. All the comforts of, etc. Tea just how you like it, brewed up in the kitchen next door. Downstairs loo just across the hall (when we were hosting from Liverpool, we had to run to a nearby pub’s toilet during the commercials and sometimes Judy had to queue. That made the odd ad break a bit tense).

And we didn’t feel crowded out by the usual tech crew because under lockdown protocols only two people were allowed in the house, both of them cameramen. They were so masked, rubber-gloved and booted up it looked like two country vets were filming us.

Two cameramen wearing protective equipment were allowed into Richard's home to help with the filming

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appOur garage at the side of the house was converted into the director’s gallery and the little granny flat at the back, with its own access, was the crew room.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appSo far so good. The real test, as the cameras rolled for show one (, or watch the next one tonight at 5.30pm on C4 – we’re in the slot all week) was whether the live linkups to our guests would work. Like you, I’ve lost count of how many virtual interviews have come grinding to a halt on telly since lockdown began. Zoomtime means whotime? as faces flicker off the screen before the conversation’s even begun. The technology just isn’t robust enough, and we were dreading stop-start conversations. Long technical delays are the death of free-flowing broadcast interviews.

But Zoom behaved impeccably. And our other worry – that even if the comms held, there’d be an inevitable sense of distance between us and our guests as we spoke via computer screens – was completely unfounded. We recorded five shows and every one felt as if we really did have the likes of Graham Norton (he’s on tonight’s show), David Walliams, Tracey Dooley, Sandy Toksvig et al 2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appright there in the living room with us.

As we were in simultaneously in theirs. One of the delights of this special one-off series was the little homely touches that kept intruding: Toksvig’s little dog yawning on the sofa behind her; SAS man Ant Middleton showing his cuddly side, putting his toddlers’ shoes on while struggling to deliver his own book reviews; and Judge Rob Rinder’s pretty, sun-dappled terrace, a fetching backdrop to his appearance.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appOur plan to make this just as much a talk show as a show about books paid off, a bit like Desert Island Discs isn’t really about the music; it’s an excuse to find out what makes that week’s guest tick. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience – and read some damn good books into the bargain.