NEW YORK — I really wanted to watch Oprah in Chicago, and worked on watching the show live as part of the audience while in the US. But my efforts went to no avail. Apparently, one really needs to make reservations six months or so in advance. Or come up with a compelling sob story to get on the show — which I would not dare to do!
Still, I was just as thrilled, when in a pure stroke of luck, another show had “invited” me to be part of the audience in New York — The MARTHA STEWART Show!
Actually, I was just taking my my chances when I accidentally saw the show’s website in late January, before leaving Manila. The shows from February 19-22 (dates of my state in NYC) were already full, but the website gave me the option to still write my desired date, and I insisted on watching during those dates. While I was in Sacramento, I got the e-mail!
I was scheduled for the 2pm taping of February 19, which was the very day of my arrival in New York. Thankfully, things just fell into place. My flight from Michigan to New York went as scheduled, which gave me enough time to quickly bring my bags to the hotel. The weather for perfect. Thankfully too, I had chosen a hotel that was just a few blocks from Martha’s studio on 26th West.
I was in line half an hour before the cut-off time which was 12:30. It was a rather small crowd, compared perhaps to those lining up for noontime shows in the Philippines. And true enough, we were asked to enter the building at 12:30.
After confirming our reservations for the show, we went through a security check, and were asked to stay in a waiting area. We filled up some release forms, which, among many other things says: a) we cannot sue the show if we don’t get seen on TV; b) that we might be offered food on the show, and that we don’t have any allergies. Oo nga, Cooking show nga naman pala kasi ito!
We finally entered the studio by groups at around 1:30. The set was amazing. Unlike many of the studio sets in the Philippines, which can deceive you because of their dimensions, what you see is what you really get. For one, without the camera lens, it really was a big set. It was a real kitchen, where people actually cook. Hindi lang props ang laman ng set. I think my house could easily fit into it. There’s a real prep kitchen, where the dishes to be featured were prepared on different stages, and later on, placed on the main kitchen.
At this time, the audience was prepped on the proper applauses. For one, we were told to give a standing ovation when Martha makes her entrance. Shortly after that — we see Martha, silently entering the prep kitchen, having one last check on the prep kitchen. And shortly after that, it was lights, camera….action! The show starts, taped as live.
Originally, the invitation told me to prepare for a Latino Chef episode, but it turned out to be an Italian Chef episode. There were Italian cuisine chefs as guests and seven segments altogether. Each chef was given two segments to make their dishes. The last segment was to wrap things up. Ironically, considering that we were watching it live and were just a few meters away from the domestic goddess herself, there were several minutes when we in the audience would need to look at the plasma monitors to see what was happening, since the cameras tended to cover Martha and her guests from time to time. And second, looking at the monitors enabled us to see up close the ingredients being cooked.
Having been on TV, I wanted to see Martha off cam, and check if I’d see how she was and how she behaved. Well, she didn’t exactly have time to talk or say something to the audience. She attentively listened to her staff, presumably on what would happen on the next gaps. This, while her make up was being retouched. At least, from my end, I did not sense any trace of her being a diva. The overall mood throughout the taping was relaxed. She was not at all too demanding from her staff. There was no stress from any of the crew. So to speak, hindi sila ngarag.
I’d say that she looks just as good on tv as in person. But I think she looks a little older in person than on TV. Thanks, I guess to make up. But contrary to what the camera lens does to many people, I noticed that she looks thinner on TV than in person. Speaking from actual experience, that’s better as far as TV is concerned.
During the breaks, the staff continued to maintain the high energy of the audience. Upbeat music filled the studio during breaks, and small give-aways were handed to the audience. If I remember right, five or six recipes were made. One of these was an interesting twist to focaccia, which I am trying once I get back.
The taping lasted for about 90 minutes, including the five-minute breaks in between segments. It is said that Martha would spend a few minutes interacting with her audience. But we weren’t lucky at that end. Still, she spent a few moments saying thanks to the audience, and apologizing for not being able to stay because of a meeting.
Altogether, watching the show was the highlight of the New York leg of my trip. I couldn’t help but comparing the experience to attending a children’s party because of the fun, and also because we got loot bags, which contained a cookbook of Sardinian recipes written by one of the guests, and some sample pasta.
It was also interesting (for lack of a better word) being a simple viewer again, and be able to watch good television, without stressing over the details behind preparing for it. I guess too, that having been on TV for almost five years somewhat removes whatever gratification from watching it. But I guess, when one sees a true talent (it was really as if Martha didn’t spend time in jail!), one could not help but just sit back and enjoy good television that is appreciated by a truly global audience.
The show aired Friday. The following day, my ninong here in the US, Tito Joy, sent me this text: “Were you weating a black or dark long-sleeved shirt on Martha’s? If yes, you know what that means.”