Behind-the-scenes interview with Melissa Grelo
Behind-the-scenes interview with Traci Melchor
Behind-the-scenes interview with Lainey Lui
The first season of CTV's new talk show THE SOCIAL has been a hit. Launched last September and hosted by Melissa Grelo, Cynthia Loyst, Lainey Lui and Traci Melchor, the series was touted as "what feels like a can't miss lunch date with friends", and I would have to agree (although I PVR the 1 p.m. episodes and watch them in the evenings, providing me with treadmill motivation, rather than a lunch date).
While most of us immediately assumed that this would just be a Canadian version of THE VIEW (there's no denying the similar format: four women discussing hot topics around a table, followed by lifestyle segments) we were told that it wouldn't be that simple, and THE SOCIAL has proven itself to be distinctive, especially with a high rate of viewer interaction through social media.
As they gear up for a second season which will kick off this September, I was thrilled to have the chance to hang out with the team and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a day at THE SOCIAL.
First, of course, was my personal preparation, starting with the mani and pedi, even though I already knew I would be wearing closed-toe shoes. Carefully chosen ones, since they had a big conversation on the show one day about judging people by their footwear. I was especially worried about Lainey's opinion, but she did qualify on air that she holds the highest standards to those who are supposed to be fashion experts, not just the everywoman on the subway. I in no way identify myself as a fashion expert, so I was fairly confident I would be safe.
I also made time to get my brows done pre-SOCIAL, and in one panicked moment even thought "bikini wax!" before reassuring myself that it was most likely unnecessary for this event. I mean, they may have discussed "pelvage" on the show, but I'm pretty sure they don't require visitors to bare their own.
After arriving downtown early, I hung out at the Starbucks across the street from the studio on Queen Street West, so as not to appear too eager and uncool. I enjoyed a slice of cinnamon loaf and went over my notes, which included questions for each of the co-hosts. I was hoping to get a chance to chat with the ladies one-on-one, but there were no promises due to the tight timelines of a live TV show.
As I waited in the lobby a short time later, I watched a portion of the live taping of THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW until Tanya, the publicist for THE SOCIAL, greeted me and we began our whirlwind day.
First stop: wardrobe. There we ran into Traci Melchor, who was warm and welcoming despite her pressing task at hand, which was getting dressed to go and interview her crush (or, as she put it, her "next husband"), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who was at the Ritz-Carlton. She even found time to look me up and down, point at my outfit and say "This is nice. I like it." If the compliment was a ploy to get on the good side of a writer, then I would like the funny and charming Traci to know this: it worked.
Next, we were headed to the office where the four ladies have work stations. Cynthia greeted me with a big hug, and although we've only ever communicated on the phone and through email, she already feels like a friend. A producer was just finishing up a quick meeting, and then the co-hosts were hard at work on their computers, researching the discussion topics for that day's show. They have to be on top of what's trending each day in news, pop culture and lifestyle topics, and make sure their conversations will be supported by facts. The show floats different topics out to viewers through social media early in the day to get responses which are often shared on air, either verbally by the co-hosts or shown at the bottom of the screen.
At that time they were looking into the fact that Brody Jenner, who skipped his stepsister Kim Kardashian's wedding, had just attended the wedding of her ex, Reggie Bush, leading into a discussion on the tricky etiquette of wedding attendance.
As you can see in the photo below, the hairstylist was doing her thing right there in the office as the co-hosts prepped.
I was then invited down to the makeup room with Melissa, and not a moment was wasted as a producer worked with her to run through the comments she might make about the day's hot topics (reminding her that one point would require the disclaimer of "allegedly" tacked on to it. That's what producers are for.)
As I listened, it was clear that some of the funny comments Melissa threw in were never meant to be shared on air, and though I was never once asked during the day to keep anything off the record, I don't think her ex really wants all of you to know what was said. What's discussed in the makeup room stays in the makeup room.
Nice collection, right?
It was also important for the co-hosts to let staff know what photos they may need to have ready for topics of discussion. Those who work behind the camera don't have time in a split second to react to a mention and search out a picture (e.g. Jessica Simpson in her infamous "mom jeans"); they need to have them ready beforehand just in case.
One thing that surprised me was how the co-hosts seemed to be moving in all directions, with different times in wardrobe and makeup, and differing schedules before and after the show, especially because Lainey and Traci also work for eTalk. When I took a look at a week-at-a-glance that was posted for the ladies it absolutely boggled my mind.
I also couldn't believe what a maze the place was, though I shouldn't have been surprised, knowing that several CTV shows are housed there. Up this elevator, down this hall, past a bunch of doors, up these stairs, around a corner...oh, hey Ben Mulroney over there on the set of eTalk. I felt a bit guilty taking up the publicist's day as she so generously escorted me around, but really I would have been lost without her.
Once the ladies are prepped for segments 1 and 2 (the hot topics), they head down to the studio and rehearse for segments 3 and 4 of the show, when guests come visit to cover topics ranging from travel to relationships to hair (my favourites) to food and fitness (not so much). Segment 5 is when they wrap things up with a quick chat on the couch.
The day I was there, Jess Allen was in the studio for a segment called The Social Chapter, where the ladies give their ratings out of five for their latest book club selection, and their casting call - who they would choose to play the lead roles from the story. You can see them with a producer and the floor director in the photo below rehearsing for this part. While the "Talent" (i.e. the co-hosts) is fantastic, there's a whole lot of unsung "talent" behind the scenes as well. There were people bustling about everywhere and I couldn't even keep up with their names and titles, and they all work together like a well-oiled machine to get this live show out to the world every day.
I was happy to have a quick chat with Jess, where she shared that staff from THE SOCIAL actually came to her and offered her this role, impressed with her work writing for Maclean's and her blog Foodie and the Beast, as well as videos she made covering the Toronto International Film Festival.
In person, Jess comes across just as she does on TV (smart and earnest with a bumbling, self-deprecating sense of humour). She's thrilled with what she's doing now for THE SOCIAL: writing The Jess Files blog for the show's website, doing location shoots (for example at a farmer's market), and joining them on air for The Social Chapter (or whenever they need her).
Next the co-hosts ran through the segment on herbs which would take place near the end of the program (sometimes only two co-hosts do these segments, but this time it was all four of them), and made a few jokes about a couple of tools the guest brought with her. Let's say one looked particularly phallic, and the other looked like another part of the anatomy which, when combined, give a male his reproductive system (hey, Lainey's the one who put the two together!) Lots of laughter on the set for sure.
Behind-the-scenes note: the teleprompter shown below is prepped with scripts (especially for Melissa, the moderator, who does the opening and transitions) but a lot of the conversations really are off-the-cuff.
The photo below was part of my audition to be a future guest co-host.
No, not really, but you never know who's reading this post, right?
Throughout the day, there was certainly no diva-ish behaviour in my eyesight or earshot from the ladies, who were extremely accommodating of me and friendly with each other.
When Sarah, the talent coordinator, offered to get the co-hosts sushi, Lainey declined as she had a big breakfast, and Melissa proudly waved her packed lunch. (You can see the cute little black bag on the table below.) "We eat well here, but I have food at home that needs to be eaten," she explained. She's also open about trying to make good choices as she works to lose the baby weight - though she looks amazing considering little Marquesa is only four months old!
Not a shocker to anyone who knows Melissa (especially viewers of THE SOCIAL), she spent lots of time on her smartphone! Since she was favoriting and retweeting some of my tweets, I certainly didn't mind!
As viewers are aware, fashion plays a big role on this show. "Our amazing stylist Alisa knows us so well, and tries to push us just past our comfort zone," says Cynthia, who's rockin' the outfit shown below as she gets a pre-show touch-up from a makeup artist. "One of the best parts of the job is playing dress-up like this every day!"
As I was whisked backstage for a quick group photo before the show, Cynthia commented: "You look like you're ready to join us out there today!", which I took as an ultimate compliment. And she didn't even see me sitting at the table! Uh, in her chair...
The co-hosts are working right through the summer, and the first week of August they'll be busy doing photo shoots and a new opening sequence for the second season - these need to be updated, especially considering Traci's major haircut and Melissa's major addition to her family! Season 2 kicks off in September, and I know my PVR will be set.
If you haven't already, make sure to join the conversation:
The Social on Twitter
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting about each of the co-hosts, sharing my impressions and tidbits from the little chats we managed to squeeze in during the day. Some teasers: Melissa and I talked about the backlash she took for her decision to return early from mat leave, Cynthia shared why she thinks The Social is not like The View, and Lainey (with whom I disagree fundamentally about the importance of sleep) gave me the inside scoop on my favourite celebrity. Stay tuned!
And in case you missed them, catch up on the two hottest posts on my blog so far in 2014:
My Momterview with Cynthia Loyst
My recap of Lainey's most recent Smut Soiree