Today I caught up with Luke Franks, who's one of the four presenters of ITV's weekend morning show Scrambled!
There was a time in the nineties and early noughties when Saturday morning kids TV was some of the best telly around, with shows such as Live & Kicking and SMTV:Live entertaining audiences in their millions. However in recent years those type of programmes have disappeared from our screens in favour of cooking shows or other entertainment formats aimed at adults, not kids.
But then in January 2014, Scrambled! arrived on CITV which aimed to bring a bit back a bit of that flavour. The show is fronted by four young presenters every Saturday and Sunday morning on ITV and the CITV channel.
The series returned last week (until around Easter) fronted by London Hughes, Luke Franks, Sam Homewood and new presenter Arielle Free.
So you've recently finished filming The X Factor where you were their online presenter. What was that like?
It was amazing, it's the biggest and best talent show in the world really isn't it? So it's amazing to be a part of it. The first day, within an hour I had to sit down and interview Simon Cowell (see video at the end of this interview). It was almost so surreal that I didn't get time to get nervous really.
He really is a genuine guy, he made me feel part of the team straight away and he remembered my name straight away. If I saw him again he'd say "Hello Luke" which blew my mind a little bit. We had a really normal down to earth chat but yeah, he was a nice guy.
Now the show's finished would you say that Simon was your favourite judge?
(Laughs) Yeah, you know what, I think he was. There's something about him, and the other judges say this as well, that as soon as he's there the whole show ramps up a gear. It's his baby and he was right a lot of the time... I mean he had the two finalists in the end. So he's down to earth, but you definitely know when he's in the room!
Do you know if you'll be back on The X Factor this year?
Well I mean I'd love to do it again, so I'll have to wait to hear what they say, but I hope so! I haven't had that chat yet but it was wicked fun so yeah I'd love to do it again.
Let's talk about Scrambled! then which returned last weekend. Now for anyone who doesn't know what Scrambled! is, how would you best describe the show?
It's a Saturday and Sunday morning kids show. If you remember SMTV:Live and T4, it's that. It's telly that's fun and silly, and we link inbetween kids shows but we have sketches and different characters and it's really good fun. I mean it is for kids but there's stuff for adults as well. It's really well written as well. We read the scripts and genuinely laugh, it's funny!
You mention sketches and characters, can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yeah, so we have different characters, one of mine is called Juan Direction, so he's a Mexican member of One Direction who didn't quite make it into the band... that's pretty much my calling! (Laughs) I have to sing in a Mexican accent every week which is erm... interesting!
There's a sketch called 'Lady Gargler' which is my friend who dresses up like Lady GaGa and has to gargle water to a song. So there are all these silly things but it's a real good laugh and you have to be having fun for it to work! There's a lot of playing games and a lot of being silly characters and the four of us get on really well so yes, it's a right laugh.
Laura Jackson was in the last series, but she isn't in this one. Instead you've got Arielle Free, how is she settling in?
She's great! I knew about her before actually because she's done some stuff for 4Music and she brings something a little bit different. She really knows her music, she's an absolute laugh and she's slotted in straight away really. I'm surprised actually because we only had one day together before we started filming.
It sounds cheesy but it genuinely felt very natural having her there. You can't take it too seriously, if you mess up or whatever you've just got to laugh it off, because the show's got to have kind of silly vibe to it.
The show starts at 7:30am, which is really early. How are you with the early mornings, and having that much energy first thing on a weekend?
(Laughs) If I'm honest, it's tough. I'm always the last person on set. I always forget my scripts... I leave stuff everywhere. I'll have the six scripts for about 5 minutes and then for most of the day I'm stealing other people's scripts. Early starts are a bit troubling...
You touched on it earlier, but did you look to shows like SMTV:Live and Live & Kicking for inspiration for Scrambled!?
Yeah absolutely. I mean I grew up with T4 and SMTV:Live and there was some genius stuff on that. Scrambled! is made by some of the same people as SMTV:Live so it's that same kind of tone. Ant and Dec were great, I remember things like Wonky Donkey which I think was just genius!
Yeah it's a shame, I think Scrambled! is the first kids Saturday and Sunday morning show in like 10 years. Stuff has changed, people are watching a lot more stuff on YouTube, and that's great, but I think there is still a massive need for kids to feel like there's something on TV that they can be involved with. We do competitions like the Eggs Factor and then we've got Sharezies where we can shout out any messages they want, and that's nice.
I think that's what you don't get if you just show cartoons back to back. There's something really nice about involving the kids in that way and it becomes a bit like a club, hopefully kids get up to watch a show that they own a bit of in a way. And it does do well, the ratings are great.
You mentioned it just then about the way kids watch a lot more YouTube now than TV. You do a lot on YouTube, and you're on telly as well. How do the two compare?
It's interesting, I find YouTube really exciting. There's so much going on there, there's a massive audience online and I think it's really caught on in the last couple of years. It started off quite silly, cat videos and stuff like that.
It was a bit random to start with. But now the standard is amazing. Some of the content on there is unbelievable, you'd have thought it's a massive production company behind it but it's them in their room. I think it's different to the TV.
We hear the term 'YouTuber' a lot these days, you are a YouTuber, tell me a bit more about that...
Yeah, so I have a channel where I post weekly videos which is a mix of comedy videos and challenges, which hopefully are funny! And it's very interactive as well, that's probably the thing you maybe don't get with telly so much, people don't get to chat to the people who watch it really, but on YouTube you've got a community. People comment on the videos, you can reply to them, you can tweet them and you'll meet them every now and again at events. The fan base is really strong and they help each other out a lot as well.
It seems every kid wants to be a YouTuber these days. What made you want to start, and how did you make it work for you?
It's still very early days for me. Collaborating is the other big thing with YouTube and I live with a girl who started about four years ago, she's a singer, and she got quite big on her own doing covers and we've done some videos together. So that kind of helps I think because you share fans that way.
I do a lot of music stuff as well, I do some stuff for a blog called Maximum Pop, so I met a lot of pop artists like Union J and The Vamps, and I think meeting those guys has helped a little bit. But it's mainly being regular. Lots of people will start a channel but very few will keep it up. I started because that's where the audience are. Kids are watching TV, but kind of less and less really and a lot of teenagers will go home and watch a lot of their favourite YouTube videos and maybe watch Breaking Bad or whatever online.
You get to do silly stuff and people interact with it and you don't get that on TV.
What's next for you YouTube wise then? Any plans?
So at the minute I'm doing comedy sketches, but I want to do more daily vlogs. I find that weird, wandering around with a camera. Everyone says it, but you can't really work out why people want to watch but they do. I want to do stuff more regularly really, and bigger as well. The standard is getting bigger so if you're doing stunts they're next level.
I also want to collaborate with a few of the other guys as well. I'm writing a show at the minute actually, which is a live show from YouTube featuring a lot of other YouTubers. Hopefully it will work, because TV and YouTube are different for different reasons, but I'm hoping this kind of show will be the right crossover.