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Creating The Matt Lucas Awards with my childhood friend

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Ashley Blaker Ashley Blaker | 12:34 UK time, Tuesday, 10 April 2012

This corner of a school quad in Elstree, Hertfordshire is where this story begins in in the winter of 1986.

Matt and Ashley's school quad

The spot where Ashley and Matt first met

Over 25 years ago I approached Matt Lucas on this exact spot to tell him that the day before I had been off school sick and I had been watching a television show that featured a phone-in about TV, and I had heard a call from a 'Matt Lucas from Stanmore' and wondered if it was him.

It was: he had been off school unwell too and despite the fact that he was in the year above me we became good friends based on our apparent shared love of TV and being off school.

We have also collaborated professionally several times over the years as well.

Possibly the finest thing I've ever produced is a tape we made of phone calls to our teachers including Matt impersonating one in conversation with another on Christmas Day.

So despite having worked very closely with Matt and David Walliams since, it was an exciting proposition to make a solo Matt show when we first talked about it in 2008. It was this that became And The Winner Is... on Radio 2 and now The Matt Lucas Awards on BBC One.

We made our radio pilot on 27 April 2009 at the BBC Radio Theatre with guests Jon Richardson, Lucy Porter and Adam Bloom and for what it's worth, the first ever award was the Lucas for Most Incomprehensible British Accent.

Of course making a show for radio and making a show for television are very different and so Matt and I have spent a lot of time basically knocking the format down to its bare foundations and building it up again.

Matt Lucas and Ashley Blaker laugh together

Matt Lucas and Ashley Blaker

When we made the TV pilot, perhaps understandably, we embraced the award show theme and had the audience at tables.

However we quickly realised while it was the obvious thing to do it didn't actually work for us.

It looked amazing but there was something overly formal about it so we set about thinking of ways to recapture the relaxed mood of the radio recordings.

The result is the show that you will shortly see.

We decided to have the whole thing come from Matt's 'flat' and even have his real mum in the kitchen chipping in every now and again.

(I think some of the BBC people thought we were joking when we said 'not an actress, Matt's actual mum' but having known Diana for a very long time and having seen her chemistry with Matt I always had real faith in this idea.)

We'd had a house band in the pilot - David Arnold and the Available Session Musicians - but they had been a long way away and were rather underused.

So in the series we just had David on his own at a keyboard and brought him much closer to the action so he could also join in during the show.

Unlike on radio we also starting thinking a lot about the structure of the show.

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Watch Matt and guests discuss flat-pack furniture stores

We wanted to be able to change the pace more, have surprises and things happening between the awards and to also have some kind of climax at the end.

Always trying to make everything moveable within an episode, I initially wanted to avoid any costume changes that we wouldn't be able to drop if we didn't want them.

But Mark Freeland the BBC's head of comedy made the point that if you're making a sitcom you commit to the ending so why not do that here too and just say 'this will be the end of the show no matter what'.

That was the moment we starting thinking with each episode 'what are we building up to this time?'.

I hope people enjoy the show.

I'm very proud of it because I think this is exactly what a Matt Lucas show should be.

It's upbeat, jolly, has some singing, lots of silliness and Matt being charming and likeable as ever.

I hope you agree but if not you can always ring a TV phone-in like Matt did over 25 years ago.

Ashley Blaker is the co-creator, co-writer and series producer of The Matt Lucas Awards.

The Matt Lucas Awards starts on Tuesday, 10 April at 10.35pm in England and Northern Ireland on BBC One and BBC One HD. It's on at 11.05pm in Wales and 11.35pm in Scotland. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.



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