A Yank’s Tour of the BBC

In 2005, for my 40th birthday, we took a trip to London. In addition to all the other great stuff to see and do in London, we were anxious to see if we could get a tour of the BBC. At the time, I had a great fondness for British TV and watched quite a few shows, but not as many as I do now. I guess now it’s an obsession. (See my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com/.) We found out that, yes, the BBC does offer tours of their facility. So, we booked one.

The BBC Television Centre is located very close to the White City tube stop in West London. It was opened in June of 1960 and is considered one of the most recognizable TV facilities in the world. It’s been featured in the background of countless British TV shows, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which was shot inside the studios.

I wasn’t able to take any photographs inside, so I just have a few of the outside. Unfortunately, you can’t see the unique shape of the building from the ground. It’s actually shaped like a Question Mark. Supposedly, the building’s architect drew a question mark on a piece of paper thinking that it would be a perfect shape for the site.

Our tour started at 10:45am. Our tour guides were Debbie and Ollie. They were very entertaining and very knowledgeable. There was a lot of walking involved, up and down lots of stairs, down long hallways. The facility is huge. Being in the TV business, I had a lot of questions to ask. Basically, they do things the same way they do here. Freelance production personnel are sometimes hired for shows.

The tour included the newsroom where BBC World News is broadcast and two studios, seen from up above through the lighting grid. Top of the Pops was schedule to be taped later that day to air that night. The crew was setting up the stages and prepping for the shoot. Dr. Who, Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous are among the many programs taped or filmed in the studios.

They had a silly little weather center demonstration with a blue screen. Several members of our tour stood in front of it and played weatherman.

We saw the dressing rooms and heard some stories about celebrities that had stayed there. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember what stories they told us, but I do remember they were about a lot of the “divas” that would come to perform. They would have outlandish requests for things. Not unlike the “only green M&Ms” rumors you hear about rock stars.

Then there was a wacky quiz program that the tour was involved in. I was forced to be a contestant. They showed clips of shows and we had to answer questions about them. No knowledge of the show was needed. Just an observant eye. What color was Nigel’s shirt in that scene? Stuff like that. I won. My prizes, a BBC coffee cup and pen. Woo hoo!

From what I’ve read, the tour is pretty much the same today.  But they’ve added some props and memorabilia from BBC shows, including the Tardis from Dr. Who.   If you’ve never seen a TV studio before, it’s kind of fun to see behind the scenes and learn about some of your favorite TV shows. There are also opportunities to be a part of the studio audience during a show taping.   I would recommend the BBC Studio Tour, if you’re ever in London.


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8 thoughts on “A Yank’s Tour of the BBC

  1. This was awesome! I had no idea you could tour BBC! Having been raised on the station I love it and would love a tour. Thanks for the good information.

    • If you love British TV, first off you have to go to the UK, and of course London, and while you’re there, why not tour the BBC? :o) Thanks so much for viewing my blog and liking my post!

      • I’ve been to the UK many times….had I known you could tour I would have definitely been there! So glad I read your post so I can do so next time.

      • I’ve been to the UK quite a few times as well. Can’t wait to go back. If you do take the tour, let me know if it’s changed any!

  2. Glad you enjoyed London and our BBC AND our TV. I often pass by on my way to filming jobs in town but haven’t made it inside yet.

    The iconic Old Lady is under threat from BBC cost-cutting and a loony ‘affirmative action for the regions’ policy of moving production to the North of England, which only the BBC board thinks is a good idea. RC

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