After nearly 3,000 episodes and more than ten years on our screens, there have been plenty of bonkers moments on Deal or No Deal.
Power cuts, a 97-year-old contestant, the studio being flooded, a falconry demonstration (yes, really)… we thought the Dream Factory had seen it all.
However, this week marks one of the maddest in the show’s history. Noel Edmonds and the 22 red boxes are boarding a plane and taking to the skies for a special instalment filmed in the skies above the UK on board a Boeing 737.
But it’s not the only special episode. Ten locations up and down the country have been chosen for Deal or No Deal On Tour – two weeks of programmes filmed out and about to send off the teatime favourite after it was cancelled by Channel 4 earlier this year.
There were caves, ballrooms, museums and castles. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that DOND has taken to the skies. Rather unsurprisingly, this is the first time a UK game show has been filmed mid-air on a plane.
To find out just what it takes to make such a thing happen, RadioTimes.com spoke to Deal or No Deal producer Richard Hague about transporting the Dream Factory – and Noel Edmonds – from a Bristol studio to ten incredible locations… and 37,000 feet up in the air.
‘On TV, the Boeing 737 belongs to The Banker’
“This came about because of Noel’s enthusiasm and Channel 4’s interest in doing it. I think quite early on we were like ‘let’s do it on a plane – but how the hell are we going to do that?’
“There’s actually a very helpful company who charter and fly planes, so we were able to hire it out of Birmingham and we had it for the day. So we had to work out how long we could go up there for, and the game can go on a lot longer than you think. So we had to plan and work out whether we could film a whole game up there and in the end we started on the ground before getting up in the air. We then did two hours up there.”
‘Noel dressed up as an air hostess’
“We thought ‘Let’s have a bit of fun in part one’ and got him dressing up. Noel got why we wanted to do it and there’s not many people who would say ‘Yes, I’ll wear that’ and not be embarrassed and get on with it. So he was a sport, but I think he wanted to take it off – and I think we thought it’d get too distracting. And he’d have laddered his tights.”
‘There was only one chance to get it right’
“Once you were up there, you just had to do it. You just have to go with it and hope nothing technical goes wrong. You have some back ups but not really in the same way you would have normally. You had no real back-ups. You don’t know what’s there, and luckily it came out OK.”
Deal or No Deal being filmed in Warwick Castle
‘Planes are loud’
“We had three cameras, a couple of technical assistants, sound assistants, a director and we had some auto feeds, but it’s not 100% robust because you’re in the air and you have to make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything.
“So we had a back gallery and we could monitor stuff there with the director and producer. But it is quite hard – planes are loud! So it was hard to do but I think we could hear most of it. It was a bit like a radio play at times, but Noel was very good. It was quite challenging, and it’s just making sure you can get the coverage, which is hard on a plane when you can’t do what you can do in a studio.”
‘There weren’t any panics’
“We had a nice tour down the south coast and came back up to Birmingham, but it was pretty challenging. The air regulations company we were working with said it had to be done promptly so we had to make sure everything was safe – and when the seatbelt signs were off we filmed it. But we had to be very mindful of the regulations of what you do when you’re flying.”
Noel Edmonds filming at Alexandra Palace
‘We needed special insurance’
“Everyone – the contestant and all their box owners – had been pre-registered to have security clearance like on a normal plane. There was a lot of stuff to make sure that all happened – risk assessments and we needed special insurance. You don’t notice it on the show, but there was a lot to do to make that happen!”
‘The boxes had to go through security’
“I think everything did [go through security]. Everything was definitely checked. It was all weighed and if it was electronic it was what it did and how it did it and check all that. It took the longest time to make sure that on the ground the flight crew and the security at the airport…that was probably the most logistically complex thing and probably took more time than flying.”
‘We had to be realistic’
“In terms of timescales, the availability of Noel but also of just being able to do this in six weeks. It was really where we can work with locations where it just feels it’s a bit different. We did some more straightforward ones like Alexandra Palace and the Trafford Centre, because there were a lot of people there and that’s what the show’s about.
“And then taking it somewhere like Warwick Castle inside the main hall there, Longleat Safari Park, on the Flying Scotsman and down Wookey Hole caves. We didn’t quite have an automobile, but we had planes, trains and a cave.”
‘…but an offshore fort was impossible’
“We wanted to do one on a fort in the sea but the cost and the logistics… You can only get there if the weather’s good. You can charter a boat out there but you probably have a limited weight. It would have been so logistically hard. We did it in Blackpool Tower right at the top, which is also a very hard place to film because it’s quite small. We had to have a plan B if it was too windy, so the Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a backup.”
‘The boxes succumbed to damp’
“The caves at Wookey Hole were quite hard to film in. For Noel and the team down there it’s a constant 11 degrees, which is fine but when you’re there for a few hours and there’s a chill factor. It is actually quite damp and the boxes got a bit damp. They just felt like they’d been left in a damp greenhouse for a few days. They didn’t look great, but they’re quite hardy. Over the years I think we’ve got through a few thousand boxes.”
Deal or No Deal on Tour airs weekdays at 4pm on Channel 4 until December 23.