When I first came across this project I thought: why hasn't anyone done a sitcom set in music radio before? There's the fascination of a world we usually hear rather than see, the comic banter of the DJs, the jeopardy of a workplace filled with bands and celebrities, and there's a whole lot of music. Most importantly, there was a cracking script by two excellent new writers who'd created a group of hilarious characters to put into that world.
After three months developing the pilot script, we hooked up with Granada, and our exec producer Saurabh Kakkar very quickly sold the project to ITV2. The main selling points were the strength of the script, the involvement of real-life bands and the superb cast we had attached in Chris O'Dowd, Kevin Bishop and Nina Sosanya.
It was important that the style of the finished show should reflect the fleet-of-foot, effortless humour of the script, so we hired a creative team that has made a speciality of fast-paced comedy: our director Elliot Hegarty, and our heads of department had worked together before on shows such as Star Stories, Roman's Empire and The Kevin Bishop Show. They also had the advantage, as long-term collaborators, of working together very quickly and calmly. They know each other too well to have rows.
To help create an authentic feel, our location shoot centred on the Brick Lane area of East London, an area lively enough both to suit the show perfectly and also to present a lot of filming challenges. We wanted to shoot scenes in the sort of bars, cafes and music venues ourcharacters would actually inhabit. Achieving that involved measures such as paying for a bunch of delinquent teenagers to go on a day trip; a lot of waiting for Nathan Barley-esque passers-by to get out of shot because their outré clothes were just a bit too distracting; and persuading several drunks that their singing, though lovely, was not required in the scene.
The scenes inside the radio station were shot in studio on a set, our designer's recreation of a real recording studio, where the pilot episode was shot. The main challenge we anticipated here
was working with real-life bands, who are not used to the early starts, repetition and waiting around involved in this kind of filming.
People kept telling me musicians invariably arrive late and are unpredictable, so we put extra time in our already tight schedule for these unknown horrors in an attempt to guard against it. We put one band up in a hotel down the road from the studio and had their manager promise to pull them out of bed herself if she had to.
In the event, the bands turned up on time, were utterly charming on set and none of them trashed their dressing rooms, which, after all our preparation, was slightly disappointing.
My tricks of the trade
I rely on my notebook. Writing down the small stuff frees you up to think about the big stuff, such as are we telling the story, and is it funny?
My on-set luxury is tea in a proper mug. The extra work that makes for the runner used to do battle in my conscience with the environmental impact of polystyrene, but the mug eventually won.
Comedy is all about instincts - remember what first made you laugh, but also know that a good cast will find ways of making it even funnier.