TV and Twitter
20 years ago making a tv programme, at least at the final stages, must have been very different. The night the programme was shown you'd be sitting on your own at home, hoping people would like it. But the only way you'd actually know what they made of it -- reviews apart -- was when a few phone calls came, or when days later the letters of praise or blame came through the letter box.
It can't have been all that different 10 years ago, though email must have made the responses come a bit speedier.
Now you find out what people are thinking of it as the programme's still on, because they tweet instant reactions from their mobile phones. Which makes it all rather more of a shared experience. And I decided last night (which was D Day for my Meet the Romans) a good deal more fun.
And I'm not just saying that because most of the comments were extremely positive (though -- be honest, Beard -- that was of course nice).
Strangely the character of the twitter comments changed over the course of the week. I was feeling pretty gloomy a few days ago, because there was a minority strand of the usual sexist/ageist stuff. Some kid (I think it was a kid) took the trouble to ask if I made a particular effort to look haggard, someone else said I should sex myself up... and another called me: Mary 'Beard' (something about being an aged bearded lady I guess..). I was beginning to wonder whether I could face a whole evening of tweets telling me to get my hair done, try some botox, or whatever.
I'm not meaning that I'm ony interested in the praise tweets, not the critical ones. In fact the critical ones can be some of the most interesting (in so far as you can get an argument into 140 characters -- and some people have a good go at that). But the 'whats an old lady like you messing up my screen" variety really gets you down. And they certainly breach the key rule (which applies just as much to tweets as to blog comments): only tweet it if you would say it to the person's face.
So it was with some trepidation (and a lot of Dutch courage) that I say down to watch Meet the Romans last night. But I needn't have feared. For some reason (and I'd like to think it was the compelling quality of the programme, but that might be a rather self serving view) once the thing actually started, that kind of stuff just dried up.
So thank you all who took the trouble to tweet!
Meanwhile we are waiting for that other test of success: how many people actually watched it. First estimate in an hour or so... were we completely swamped by all those other tempting options at 9.00 last night? did we claw a few viewers off the Syndicate..? I'll let you know in due course (if I'm brave enough).