Behind the scenes of The Wright Stuff

Behind the scenes of The Wright Stuff

By Matthew Bell,
Wednesday, 11th February 2015
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Pre-dawn start keeps daytime debate fresh

The Wright Stuff presenters (from left): Kirsty Duffy, Matthew Wright and Eric JohnsonThe Wright Stuff presenters (from left): Kirsty Duffy, Matthew Wright and Eric Johnson (Credit: Princess Productions)

There's rarely a dull moment on long-running Channel 5 daytime show The Wright Stuff. Over its 14-year run, guests have had panic attacks on air; streakers have invaded the studio; the audience has thrown both abuse and objects; lights have exploded; and sets collapsed.

A London Centre event in November brought key members of the production team together to explain how the show, which runs for close on two hours every weekday morning, is made. Centre Chair Kristin Mason asked the questions.

The Wright Stuff's origins lie in the murky world of TV regulation. "Largely, it started because Channel 5 needed to have a certain amount of news and current affairs in its Ofcom remit," recalled Executive Producer Tim Cunningham. At the time, he worked for Sky News, which also pitched to fill the slot.

Anglia Television made the show for its first two years, before losing out to Princess Productions.

Matthew Wright, who made his name as a print journalist, has hosted the show since it first aired, aided by two panellists largely drawn from journalism, TV and comedy.

Programmes also feature phone-ins with the public and a daily special guest. The show is currently made at Princess's studios on the third floor of Whiteleys shopping centre in west London.

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"The main thrust of the show has been the same since the beginning, which is to take an interesting look at that day's news in all its guises and get people to talk about it," explained Cunningham, who has worked for six and a half years on the show.

He added that the production team could fill "every show" with calls and emails along the lines of "'Kick 'em out' or 'String 'em up'", but he argued that the show had lasted because "we ask trickier and slightly weirder questions. These cover everything from ebola and Syria to 'Should you wear Y-fronts?' and 'Are leaf blowers evil?'".

Each programme is made on a three-day cycle, although last-minute changes are common.

Series Editor Beth Harding, a veteran of seven years on The Wright Stuff, is in charge of all five programmes a week, with responsibility for the show's topics, briefing guests, overseeing scripts and legal compliance.

Monday to Friday, work gets under way at 5:00am, with Harding, the day producer and a researcher reading the newspapers to decide what stories to discuss in that day's show.

Harding's long shift ends that evening as she checks the script for the following morning's show. "The work can be relentlessness, but every single day is different, which is why I love it," she said.

Celebrity Booker Jemima Headey, who has clocked up eight years on the show, is responsible for finding the panellists and special guests.

"You want people who have respect for each other. If they're just shouting each other down and not listening to each other, that doesn't make for a good debate," she explained.

The small production crew – almost half of whom were at the RTS event – make 250 shows a year – and all on a budget that they claimed is tiny even by daytime TV standards.

"The budget is very low," admitted Cunningham. He was unwilling to put a figure on it, claiming commercial sensitivity, but he added: "It's the cheapest TV programme I am aware of on network terrestrial television."