15 years on from meeting on Pop Idol, I caught up with Sam & Mark to discuss their new BBC One gameshow, Ready or Not, their friendship and whether or not a return to music is on the cards.
From the supermarket to the seaside, Blackpool Tower to Birmingham city centre, Ready or Not brings a hilarious twist to the traditional gameshow. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, a crack team of quiz show hosts will be ready to surprise unsuspecting members of the public with their crazy games.
Paddy McGuinness provides the voiceover for the show and Sam and Mark’s section of the show takes place in a South London shopping centre car park! Once someone calls for a lift, what they don’t know is that Sam & Mark will be there waiting for them and all they have to do is answer a general knowledge question right and guess correctly which floor either Sam or Mark are waiting on to claim their prize. Simple.
You both first met 15 years ago on Pop Idol, what’s been the secret to your friendship?
Sam: I think it’s just the fact that we get on! We like the same things and if you don’t like the person you’ve been working with for 15 years then I think people would know straight away. It’s just easy being in each other’s company and we have a laugh doing what we love.
Did you ever envisage when you auditioned for Pop Idol that this is how your career would go?
Sam: Definitely not! Obviously we both entered Pop Idol separately and we entered it both as singers but the whole presenting thing sort of happened by fluke really.
But we loved it and it came at a great time because I don’t think we’d still be around if we’d have carried on singing. It was brilliant but we never expected it at all. It’s been the best thing that could have ever happened to our career.
Does it even feel like work anymore?
Sam: It definitely doesn’t feel like work. Which is nice. We just have a laugh in front of the camera.
Mark: It’s a lot better than the music industry I think. It’s a lot more fun and we can be ourselves. That’s probably why we’ve had such longevity because we don’t really think it’s work.
As Sam said, we just enjoy ourselves and I think that comes across.
Do you miss the music at all? Would you ever return to music?
Both: No! (Laughs)
Mark: I don’t think anybody would want that. (Laughs) Definitely not, that boat’s sailed thankfully.
Can you ever imagine not working with one another?
Mark: Well it depends how nice he is to me! (Laughs) No, absolutely not. We’re just better together and I think that’s so important. Not only do we get on really well but I think we work together really well. So until Sam wants to get rid of me… (Laughs)
How would you best describe Ready or Not?
Mark: It’s basically a surprise around every corner gameshow. It’s a sort of new take on a gameshow which is really really nice.
It’s just something quite different. Other that just set in a studio asking questions which has obviously always been great and it’s tried and tested and it’s brilliant but this is just something a little bit different.
I think mixing up general knowledge with candid camera and surprise is a really nice twist on two well-loved format. People love watching hidden camera pranks and people love watching gameshows, so the fact that they’ve been put together for this Saturday night show is great.
Sam: It’s taking the shiny floor studio and putting it in an everyday situation. It’s like the two worlds merging together.
It’s like doing the everyday thing of going to the shops, opening the lift door and seeing our ugly mugs in a shiny lift and thinking, what’s going on here?! I thought I was just going to get a loaf of bread and now I could be in with a chance of winning a prize.
It’s not really about the prize is it?
Sam: Well this is the thing, especially our segment, it’s not like we’re giving away life-changing amounts of money or life-changing prizes. We kind of just saw our little bit as hopefully just brightening up someone’s day. Making someone’s day just that little bit better if they manage to win something.
So that’s how we saw our segment and it was really nice because those moments were great. It was really nice to see people just really get into it and if they won the prize then it was like “Oh I didn’t expect that today. That was really nice.”
Mark: And also, it was really nice having different types of people in the lift and the different types of prizes we were giving away.
Did you find that everybody was positive and up for it when the lift opened?
Mark: I think everyone who got into the lift was really up for it. The only negative stuff that we had was that it was a genuine working lift in this shopping centre and there were free lifts. Obviously we’d taken up one of the lifts and one of them was out of order so only one was a working lift!
So I must admit, there were a few people who didn’t get into the lift to play the game who were really peeved off that they couldn’t get to the car park that they wanted to get to.
It’s a simple game isn’t it. Is that why it works so well do you think?
Sam: They’re the best types of games aren’t they? The ones that are simple when you think about it and easy for people to play along with. Hopefully because of that, people will enjoy it!
What are your favourite gameshows to watch on TV?
Mark: I love The Chase and I love Pointless and back in the day I used to love The Generation Game as well. Classics that you can enjoy in front of the telly on a Saturday night. They’re the best ones.
Sam: Yeah, I’m the same as Mark. The Chase, Pointless, I love Catchphrase as well. I think that’s brilliant. Again, I think old school Family Fortunes was brilliant with Les Dennis.
Growing up as a kid I used to love watching that. And Bullseye on a Sunday night I used to love watching that before you had to get up for school the next day.
Are there any favourite moments you had from the series that we should look out for?
Sam: There were loads actually. We had some really really good characters but sadly I can’t remember anybody’s names. But I remember that there was a young guy who got in the lift and he was so up for it.
As soon as the doors opened he gave us the reaction that we really wanted. Completely shocked. He started screaming and laughing and he was just so brilliant. I think as a viewer you’ll be really wanting him to win. There were quite a few moments like that really.
Mark: One of my favourite parts when an elderly lady won a drone and she didn’t actually know what on earth it was! It was hilarious. We had a lot of fun with that and it certainly brightened up her day I think.
And there’s a real mix of people who become contestants isn’t there?
Sam: Yeah and I think it’s the actual essence of the whole show. To get a mix of different people, different personalities and different games. I think that’s why hopefully the show will do so well because it ticks so many boxes for the different types of games that we’ve got.
Especially in our section of the show, we dealt with so many different lovely personalities, so we’re just looking forward to actually watching it back.
Mark: That’s what’s nice about it as well. We never knew who was coming into the lift.
Most gameshows have an amazing research team who have researched and cast all the people to take part in the show and they’ve auditioned them so they know that they’re god talkers and stuff like that.
Whereas we just never knew what we were going to get every time. That was nerve-racking, but made it really nice at the same time.
I feel that 6pm is a perfect slot for Ready or Not because it’s a family show isn’t it?
Sam: Of course and that’s so important to us obviously because of our background we do a lot of kids TV so for us for it to be a family slot on BBC One is perfect!
Sam: We still work for CBBC and we’ve got a new show that we’re going to be filming over the summer but sadly it’s that boring thing of not being able to talk about it yet because it’s not been announced.
Our show Sam & Mark’s Big Friday Wind Up has just been given an 8th series which is lovely so we’ll be doing that again at the end of the year.