I’m Not Confident!

Paul Balm with his own personal view on the madness that is Cat’s Whiskers TV

I’m not doing an article about the play-offs this year (been there done that and besides you’ve already been bored to tears by my rough guide to how much fun I had in Belfast) but there’s nothing on TV and I’ve got nothing better to do so I thought I’d write about how I ended up appearing on, well, I don’t know what you’d call it really – the “some sort of internet TV programme” that is Cat’s Whiskers TV.

I suppose I’d better start at the beginning (in any number of ways). Firstly, what am I talking about? Cat’s Whiskers TV could be described as the (un)natural progression from articles like the one you’re hopefully still reading. In an evening fuelled by alcohol and very little else I got talking about the future of this website with its founder and all-round Tie Domi look alike Jono Bullard.
Jono was keen to take things in a new direction after the end of TCW Live and we talked about podcasts and eventually, as we got drunker, more towards the idea of a TV style magazine programme that he would host (remember that part it’s very important later on) with guests and features etc. The merits of the two were weighed up and I distinctly remember saying (which almost certainly means Jono said it) that there was no point just doing a podcast if we were going to move to TV further down the line and that we should just jump straight ahead to TV. He could present and I would do the filming.

Writing that down now it seems like an incredibly naïve notion and, in fairness it probably was. Neither of us had an experience in this sort of thing, it was simply the Top Gear adage of “how hard can it be?” We hadn’t got a clue (I’m not sure we still have) but we did have an ace up our sleeves (or so we’d hoped). We started thinking about this early in the summer of 2012. Earlier that year we had helped to organise a charity event called the 4 on 4 Road Trip (what do you mean you’ve never heard of it?) and we’d been contacted by a local (hope I get this right) TV production company called Turnaround Productions who produced a promotional video for us. We hit on the idea of asking them what they thought about our idea and set up a meeting with Kirsty & Aaron Lord (yes, that Aaron) to discuss it. Looking back at it now it seems so stupid but I remember how nervous I felt before that meeting. It still feels like a pretty stupid thing that we do but as we started to lay out our simple, naïve plan it seemed ludicrous. They were going to think we were mad, maybe we were but they didn’t (or they’re really good at hiding what they think).

It was all going well but there was a stumbling block – they thought I was going to be doing some of the presenting. I’ve never wanted to be in front of the camera. I know that probably sounds really phoney but it honestly isn’t. I’ve never had an urge to be a Blue Peter presenter (I don’t like trampolines) and I really would have been quite happy to be the one behind the camera (does the fact that Jono always does the interviews make anymore sense now?). The problem was we were asking people who had far more experience using a camera than we did (anyone who had used one once would have far more experience than us).

I’m really not sure how it happened but in the end I ended up agreeing to cross the divide and join Jono on the screen. I think I thought I would just go along with it and they’d realise how bad I knew I was going to be. If I look back, and I try not to, at the first few episodes (the first full one is best because I’m barely in that) I’m dreadful. I used to be so stiff that by the time we’d finished filming I’d have a stiff shoulder. The worst of those has to be the short trailer we did on our own. It’s no more than three or four minutes long but it probably took us about three hours to film and it’s truly embarrassing.
It’s. So. Obvious. That. We. Are. Reading. The. Dialogue. We (cunningly we thought) had a laptop with the hastily cobbled together script in a large enough font that we thought we could read it without looking as though we were on it right next to the camera. It didn’t really work but it did tell everyone what it was about.

We’re a fan show. I hate the phrase “by the fans for the fans” but that’s what we are. We’re not the Elite League show and I don’t want us to be. OK, we’ve had clips from games over the months and the odd player interview (at least one of those we got because their mother watches the show, I won’t name names) and they all add to what we’ve tried to create but at the heart it was always going to be Jono and me (well, Jono and a guest) and now Aaron talking about events and trying to inject a little humour in to things along the way. We get a lot of people commenting on how slick the show is and that’s entirely down to Kirsty and Aaron (Kirsty’s the clever one – she’s almost entirely managed to stay behind the camera, I must ask how). Their guidance and expertise make the show look the way it does (we thought a quick graphic and a panther growling was quality edit) but we never wanted it to look too polished and thankfully it doesn’t. My first idea would be for it have the feel of that old Baddiel & Skinner show Fantasy Football League with two blokes, a sofa and what I so eloquently described as a couple of shelves full of **** behind us. Fortunately we’ve moved on a bit from that meeting back in August (but equally as fortunately, for me, not too far).

It isn’t really that slick though, far from it. I sometimes think they must have wondered what they’d got themselves into trying to control the two rank amateurs who turned up with a few half-baked ideas and thought they’d got a TV show. Not much has changed, the news stories are always a last minute rush (my excuse is they have to be to stay topical) and there’s barely a week goes by that the opening or closing sketches are written before we start filming. If there’s one barely hidden fact about Cat’s Whiskers TV it’s that Jono can’t do anything in one take. I hope Kirsty and Aaron have saved all the mistakes he makes. I know Jono put out the first set of bloopers but they’re from the very beginning and we all made mistakes then. Some of us have got a lot better since then – some haven’t. The Student, that mean miserable totally unfazed character on screen is almost completely incapable of keeping a straight face around anything remotely funny. Remember Jono’s Gangnam Style dancing in Coventry? Six takes. The child’s bike? Four. Both of those though pale in comparison to a simple introduction of Chris Ellis. Ten takes. Ten. One zero. Why? Because Chris said hello each time. That’s all. Now do you see what I have to put up with?

It’s the fans themselves that make the show what it is. We’re just three blokes (and a Student) who basically sit about and talk rubbish about the events of the day like so many people do night after night in pubs. The fact that people watch it gives us the incentive to keep doing it. There’ve been times when I’ve doubted what I bring to the programme and considered packing it in but thankfully (or maybe not, I’ll get to that) those days have gone now. We all really enjoy doing it and when the last couple of shows have been filmed (I’m writing this on the Wednesday before the play-offs) Monday nights aren’t going to seem the same. I’m going to feel lost but then again I feel lost on Saturday nights in summer and I always seem to manage to get through to September somehow so I’m sure I’ll manage. All I know is that no matter where Jono is on a Monday night I’ll always have to be on his right hand side. I don’t know how it happened but somewhere along the line we became ice hockey’s Ant and Dec (only a lot taller in my case).

One thing I never thought about was that we’d have fans coming up to us telling us how much they enjoy the show. It never crossed my mind once, honestly. Must be that naivety again. Did I ever want to be famous? No. Am I famous? Of course not, but those people who take their time to come and talk to us really do make it all worthwhile. I actually think they’re quite brave because there’s no way I’d do it. I once stood next to Bob Mortimer at a urinal in the gents in the old entertainment building (can’t remember the name of it for the life of me and they’ve knocked it down now) at Trent Poly (as it was in those days) and never said a word. I think we’d keep doing it now if nobody watched just for the fun of it but it’s nice to think that people out there agree with us.

Actually the agreeing with us is a bit weird as well. I talk rubbish I know I do and I ramble (like this article) but people have said they respect what we’re saying. How did that happen? But then again how did any of it happen. Am I as grumpy as I appear to be on screen? Probably, but not really. I don’t think I’m that grumpy anyway. I’ve just been watching the Panthers too long to get carried away, or that’s my excuse. I’m not going to be a happy clapper but I hope I’m fair. If something isn’t great I’ll probably say but I won’t make it personal, none of us will. That’s not what we’re about. It doesn’t get us anywhere.

We’ve done things this season that we never thought we’d do – watched a game over Gary Moran’s and David Beauregard’s shoulders as they did the commentary with one of Owen Bradley’s Christmas jumpers (sorry Owen and sorry to anyone who bought that Braehead DVD for the suppressed yelping in the background when Benedict scored), interviewed players and Gary Moran, seen the Student’s face when DAB walked into The Castle and talked to so many people about what we do. We wouldn’t have got to do those things if we weren’t fair, or at least I don’t think we would.

This might be a bit of a spoiler but I missed this week’s filming so I can actually look forward to watching the finished article without already knowing what’s in it. I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to it or not. I want it to be good but what if I watch it and decide my fears were right? What if they are better without me? I’ll have to see. I hope not though. I love doing it and I don’t want to stop now. I’m even sort of glad I stepped in front of the lens but confident? No, never confident.


2 Responses to “I’m Not Confident!”

  1. 1 Geraldine April 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Please carry on during the summer – I’m sure you can find lots of funny clips to cheer us up while miserable from lack of hockey!

  2. 2 Dawn Bowen April 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Paul, you do a great job, all of you do. Makes me laugh every week. Gonna miss it during the summer.

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