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Making TV Hits with Laura Elwood

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While that statement gives respect to the fine work done in the past, it definitely doesn’t translate when it comes to entertainment. Whether it’s the type of film (or actually, lack of film) being used, the special FX, or even the vernacular of the day, audiences will not be engaged by continual recreation of the same ideas using the same tools. Producer Laura Elwood knows this better than most. As something of a fixer in regards to updating television panel shows for the present day viewer, Laura has been enlisted numerous times to bring a fresh approach. A string of success stories that include long running British programs like Your Face or Mine and 8 Out of 10 Cats have resulted in a greatly respected resume for this producer and a full work schedule. It’s the golden handcuffs of success for a producer like Elwood who finds herself constantly at work because she tuned into the public’s frequency, no pun intended.

Panel shows are the most popular form of comedy in the UK; the British audience loves them. If the formula for this type of show is perfectly calibrated, it has the possibility of running for years. BBC1’s Have I Got News for You is currently the longest running production of its kind, appealing to a decidedly older audience and presuming that they are familiar with detailed aspects of politics. 8 Out of 10 Cats covers, for the most part, topical news stories and appeals to a younger audience. Hosted by Jimmy Carr with current team captains Rob Beckett and Aisling Bea, it’s a comedy panel game designed for at home play along. Many of the questions in the show relate to what people are talking about or how they feel about certain aspects of the news. The idea is for discussions to edge into cheeky territory but never cause outright offense. With a resume that includes hits like Roast Battle, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and others, Elwood is recognized in both the UK and America for her ability to “take the temperature of the room” in regards to what will play to a viewing audience. Ruth Phillips (Managing Director of Zeppotron and Executive Producer of 8 Out of 10 Cats and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown) professes, “Laura makes producing look effortless whether dealing with on-screen talent, script editing, or painstakingly crafting a show in the edit. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of comedy, a real depth of experience, and her comedic sensibility is brilliant. She’s proven herself utterly invaluable on our productions.” The show has received numerous nominations such as Most Popular Quiz Programme and Most Popular Entertainment Programme (National Television Awards) as well as Best Panel, Quiz and Chat Show at the Televisual Bulldog Awards.

When the powers that be for Your Face or Mine felt that the fifteen-year-old program required an update, they reached out to Elwood. Her first thought was, “How can I create a game show for the Tinder generation?” In this comedy game show, couples compare their looks against others to win big money. While facets like diversity in casting were key to her vision, the main focus for Laura was on working with the writers. She was responsible for gathering twenty-two episodes worth of jokes, links, and introductions while putting together scripts. While she has received great praise for her work with comedy writers, it’s a covert one. Laura communicates that her process is based on being unassuming and making the writers feel in charge while gently leading them to the areas she needs covered for the show. Ed Sleeman, Head of Talkback (Part of FremantleMedia) and Executive Producer of Your Face or Mine comments, “ Laura has a phenomenal way of making talent feel completely at ease even on the most challenging of productions. On top of this, she has an extraordinary ability to get the best out of people.”

These two productions clearly illustrate that we don’t need to discard those things that we enjoy but there is a need for them to adapt alongside society. This is most effectively done with the guidance of an astute professional like Laura Elwood, who can confidently advise and direct. The way we relate, live, and laugh are all parts of our experience, from the Greatest Generation to the Tinder generation.

Author: Kelly King
Making TV Hits with Laura Elwood Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:26:00 AM Rating: 5
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