1. Lee Mack is the first person in a British studio sitcom to be broadcast in HD.
Not Going Out was the first British sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience that was broadcast in HD. Because Lee Mack’s face is the first thing you see in episode one, Mack is the first person of the genre to be broadcast in HD. A lot of that has to do with very few British sitcoms being shot in from of a studio audience anymore, and many of them don’t even have laugh tracks. Sometimes, Not Going Out does pick-up lines in the afternoon without the audience, but they still need to pause for the laugh, which is added in later. Since babies aren’t allowed in the studio after 5:00, and tapings are in the evening, if you see a baby in the shot, it’s not in front of a studio audience. Same with dogs.
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2. The character Kate was named after Catherine Tate.
Kate was named so because in the pilot, Kate was played by Catherine Tate. Catherine Tate and Lee Mack would later try to reprise their sitcom screen time with The Smiths, a British remake of Everybody Loves Raymond where Tate and Mack play a married couple, but the show never got greenlighted. Also in the Not Going Out pilot, Kate’s ex was a city boy named Colin. He had stubble and a leather jacket. Eventually, he was renamed Tim after Tim Vine and became a little more buttoned up. Although Lee is played by Lee Mack, Kate was played by Catherine Tate, and Tim is played by Tim Vine, none of the characters have last names.
3. Not Going Out was inspired by a sketch in Lee Mack’s Bits at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
It was the late 1990s. Many of the young comedians and comedic actors you know today were still playing the circuits, trying everything to find their big breaks. Catherine Tate, now known for The Catherine Tate Show and Doctor Who, was trying out for a standup comedy new act competition with her later signature “Nan” role. Lee Mack, who was the host of the standup television show Gas, saw her five-minute set and recognized sustainable talent. So much so that he invited her to be in his sketch show Lee Mack’s Bits at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1999, which he was doing with Dan Antopolski. Dan was also doing The Comedy Zone with Tony Law and Rob Rouse during the festival. There was a 10-minute sketch in Bits that evolved into the sitcom that would be Not Going Out.
4. Not Going Out is not supposed to take place in London
You’ll notice that there is nothing in the scripts that places Not Going Out in London. Lee Mack never wrote it with London in mind, but the cityscapes that were chosen in editing always include recognizable London places of interest, placing the apartment somewhere near the Docklands. The apartment is meant to be on the eighth floor, making it especially funny for the live audience when Lee Mack walks behind the set to make it look like he’s flying around outside the window. The cityscapes, as well as the large un-Londony apartment, is inspired by American shows like The Apprentice.
5. The actress who played Ruth was the warm-up comic and was pregnant during shooting
Julia Morris, who played Kate’s Australian friend Ruth in Aussie, had been the warmup comic for the pilot, and this part was written just for her. She wears baggy clothes during the episode because she was pregnant. She gave birth that December and moved back to Australia after living in the U.K. for seven years. Since then, she has written a memoir, had a second child, studied acting in L.A., hosted Australia’s Got Talent, and raised $200,000 for breast cancer research. She is also non-royal internet-bought nobility.
6. Tim Vine’s real-life sister was considered for the role of Lucy
After Megan Dobbs called it quits at the end of season 1, Not Going Out was on the hunt for a new female romantic lead. They changed the formula ever so slightly so that instead of Tim’s ex living as Lee’s landlady, it would be Tim’s sister. Before Sally Bretton was initiated in, Tim real-life sister Sonya was considered for the role, as she was also an actress. However, it was deemed that Tim and Sonya were too much alike and it didn’t work out. Sonya Vine is also a painter and one half of the comedy duo Bronya and Siony. Tim Vine also has a brother, Jeremy, who is a popular BBC TV presenter and journalist.
7. Lee Mack wanted the theme song to sound like Sinatra, so they hired the guy who played Sinatra in the West End
Director Alex Hardcastle wrote that catchy Not Going Out theme song. Lee Mack wanted it to sound like Frank Sinatra, so they got Stephen Triffitt to sing it. Triffitt played Sinatra in the original West End production of The Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas, as well as in the U.S. tour Broadway Across America. In the end credits of Band episode, you can hear Tim Vine’s rock’n’roll remix.
8. “Death” was meant to be the last episode of season 1
In season 1, they had a rule in the script that Tim wasn’t allowed in the flat, and Kate wasn’t allowed in the pub, which was intentionally broken in the final episode of the season, “Death.” However, even though Lee Mack wanted “Death” to be the last episode of the season, Alex Hardhastle wanted it to be first, and it wound up being second. Therefore the rule was broken almost immediately.
9. Not Going Out received complaints about the episode “Baby”
The origin of the episodes often started with just one word, like “baby.” The teenager in season 1 was originally meant to be a toddler, so they brought back the idea of a baby in season 2 with the episode titled “Baby,” an episode that is a favorite among the cast and crew. As a father, Lee Mack was comfortable holding the baby (babies, actually), but Tim Vine was always afraid of breaking him. The show received complaints because there was a lot of screen time where the baby was crying, but in reality, the baby cried on his own and then the mother picked him up. You never see a shot of the baby crying for more than five seconds. Each shot is a different moment. Everything else is done in audio and editing. Baby Dylan is played by twin boys Felix and Maxi Forbes, who are now seven years old.
10. Damian Kell plays all the bit parts in rehearsals, and a few on screen, too
Rehearsals take place in Twickenham. During rehearsals, Lee Mack’s only goal is to get the biggest number of laughs as possible. This might include writing “CRAP” on Miranda Hart’s script binder or putting pink tape over his eyebrows. During rehearsals, Damian Kell does the voices of all the characters who are not present. He also plays Lee and Daisy’s waiter in “Dating,” the insurance man in “Winner,” and the cable car attendant in “Skiing.”
And a few rapid-fire facts for those of you still not impressed
- The original titles for the show were Three’s a Crowd, Three, and the number of the apartment.
- Despite what you see in the bloopers, Lee Mack actually cheats his lines on things around the set less in Not Going Out than on The Sketch Show.
- Sally Bretton’s husband is also named Lee.
- Tim Vine’s friend Chris is in most of the background scenes, at least in the early series.
- Tim is forced to wear a polo shirt against his will.
- James Dillon, set designer, was also the production designer for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Sean Lock’s 15 Storey’s High, and The Mighty Boosh. The speed dating set was the set from Space 1999.
- Katy Wix, who plays Daisy, was never meant to be a regular. She now has a book out called The Oberon Book of Comic Monologues for Women.
- Lee Mack does some prat falls in the show, but he’s wary of them because he broke his ribs doing Dick Whittington’s panto in 2002 by prat falling on some cheap toilet paper rolls, but because it was in front of a live audience, he had to carry on in agony.
Resources: Mack the Life by Lee Mack Not Going Out commentaries http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/comedy/macktate.shtml http://www.danantopolski.com/history
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd.com. She lives and works in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.