Home video clip show You’ve Been Framed! is an ITV Saturday teatime stalwart. It first arrived in 1990 and is now in the enviable position of airing its 29th series. Its current incarnation, presented by Harry Hill since 2004, hit preciselythe sweet spot between comic absurdity and human suffering.
It’s the show, as producer Chris Thornton says, “everybody watches but nobody admits to watching. We’ve gone into more detail on the joys it provides, here.
Over email, we caught up with Thornton to find out the secret to the show’s longevity, how the advent of smartphones has affected submissions, and why that £250 fee hasn’t changed since day one…
The £250 fee has remained the same since You’ve Been Framed! began in 1990. Have there been discussions about increasing/decreasing the payment over the years?
Yes! Our companion shows around the world operate their clip fees in a different way to us, and we occasionally discuss whether or not we should be looking to fall in line with what they do.
For example, on America’s Funniest Home Videos (our parent show) they don’t pay per clip, but the audience pick one clip every series to win $100,000… imagine that! A hundred grand just for a flash of a grandad’s boxers as he drops his trousers at a wedding.
But we keep coming back to the same question – do our viewers want to see just one clip win a staggering amount of money, or would they rather that every clip shown won a little something? We still think it’s the latter – in Britain we like all our losers to be winners.
Is there a policy for dealing with clips that have obviously been staged?
If the clip is genuinely funny, perhaps because it is so obviously staged, then we sometimes show it anyway – and name and shame the person who sent it to us as an obvious faker.
Unfortunately most staged clips are just disappointing – it’s beyond most people’s acting abilities to fake a genuine reaction to an “accident”… we can’t all be as skilled in the acting department as The Stath.
The frustrating thing is that with a bit of imagination it is possible to produce a fantastic staged video – as we don’t only show accidents. For example, pranks require staging yet deliver genuine reactions from the victims.
And Animal Tricks are all staged – but still impressive. Who doesn’t love a cat who can play the drums? One of our favourite staged animal tricks involved a novelty gnome and an enthusiastic dog…
It can’t have been a coincidence that the dog chose this moment to come over and give the gnome a good licking, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. We suspect a bit of Pedigree Chum delicately placed on his left cheek, but we don’t want to ruin the magic. Form your own theories, it’s half the fun.
What has been You’ve Been Framed!’s most successful clip?
That’s a hard one to judge as everyone has a different sense of humour and likes different things. Some people love the spectacle of clips like “Zero-Gravity Dog” (a dog that floated weightlessly after the plane he was in performed an aerial manoeuvre) whilst others like their laughs more visceral and go for the school-play vomit videos… ask them their favourite and they’ll pick “Horse farts in Nan’s Face” every time.
So success is hard to measure, but two clips do stand out as viral hits…
One CCTV clip originally shown in 1998 (and repeated in our “Best Of” specials many times since) went viral in the early days of You Tube, making an internet star of the lady featured. The Jimmy Kimmel Show eventually contacted us and asked if they could fly out the star of the video and her family to the US for an all-expenses paid holiday – and they even filmed a continuation of the video, showing staged footage of a CCTV camera allegedly in the cellar… in their video she landed in a wedding cake!
In her interview on American TV we learnt exactly why she’d been so distracted and fallen… apparently the video was filmed in 1997 and she was watching the funeral of Lady Diana on the TV. No wonder she wasn’t watching where she put her feet!
The other video “Slingshot Boy” started out on our Australian show – Australia’s Funniest Home Videos – and after showing it in 2004 it also found success when viewers started posting excerpts from our shows on You Tube.
What kind of legal issues have arisen from the clips sent in by the public? Is there ever cause to involve child/animal protection services?
To avoid legal issues arising we require our contributors to complete paperwork that contains signed consent from on-screen participants and attests to their ownership of the video they are submitting.
We’re fortunate that no-one has submitted anything too disturbing to our upload page on ITV.com but we work closely with the RSPCA and NSPCC who view every clip we are planning to transmit on TV in advance of broadcast and make welfare recommendations, vetoing anything they consider unsuitable for broadcast.
That’s a bit of a dull answer to that question isn’t it? But for obvious reasons we do have to be vigilant to ensure that no unsuitable material makes it to young and impressionable eyes watching on a Saturday night…
On this front we’re lucky that people are getting much more savvy with their smartphones as time goes on. A few years ago there was a period of people uploading “intimate” videos from their handsets by accident… that was quite an eye-opener!
Is there a ‘blacklist’ of the sort of clips You’ve Been Framed! would never use? Particular events or behaviour that would not be deemed appropriate for broadcast?
Oodles. Despite being a team of people who are paid to laugh at the misfortunes of others, we have to take our responsibilities as programme-makers seriously when it comes to clip selection, and there is an enormous range of material that we can’t show.
Broadcasting anything that could lead to dangerous copycat behaviour is out – some fantastic clips hit the cutting room floor as a result, but we can’t show anything that a child could be inspired by and easily copy.
Once a clip has been aired, is it ever taken out of circulation, or can it be used indefinitely from that point?
In every new episode, every video Harry narrates is brand new to telly – but after those videos have been seen in that episode, they do enter our pool of repeat clips that we recirculate into music packages for future episodes.
The funniest clips also return to feature in our “Best of” compilation programmes, sometimes with Harry’s original narration, or occasionally we write a new script for them if it’s for one of our themed show – i.e. Top 100 Shockers, or A-Z of Animals, etc.
And of course all the new episodes after first transmission on ITV head over to ITV2 where those shows are repeated forever!
Does You’ve Been Framed! know whether injuries are ever caused as a result of the incidents shown on clips? Is there a process to make sure serious injury-causing acts aren’t broadcast?
We’re not monsters – the clip wouldn’t be funny at all if someone was seriously hurt!
We obtain signatures from all the individuals featured on screen to affirm that they are happy to have their accident/funny moment broadcast on TV around the world, and during this process we learn of any serious injuries. Occasionally someone may have singed and eyebrow or chipped a tooth, but if they saw the funny side and want it to be shown then we’ll go for it.
Why are video camera date stamps sometimes blurred out on the show?
You hate that too? We made an effort to stop doing it in 2013, but every series from 2004-2011 is currently transmitting on ITV2 so there is still a lot of blurred date stamps on screen!
The dull truth is that previous production teams were asked to blur the year as it was considered to be distracting to have a year on screen that wasn’t the year of transmission… we think those blurs are much more distracting than seeing a date, so we’ve phased them out where we can.
Helpfully, in new episodes every clip Harry narrates is brand-new and unseen on UK television – and because date stamps are rarely added on modern cameras or smartphones, the problem is going away anyway.
We’d love people to be able to just enjoy the show and listen to Harry without worry about dates, blurs or anything else!
What is the volume of submissions like today in comparison with the show’s history?
Nowadays we receive around 3,000 videos a week via ITV.com – which in terms of volume is much higher than in the old VHS and DVD eras of the show. In 2004 (Harry’s first year on the show – doesn’t time fly?!) we only received 30,000 videos & DVD’s a year, so clearly the rate of submissions has greatly increased since the advent of the smartphone.
But thank goodness the submission numbers are up – as the hit rate in submissions is much lower, as smartphones do miss a lot of the action.
When people filmed on camcorders they would press record and film long continuous takes, so the odds of catching an accident were much higher than nowadays where people tend to film in short abrupt 7-8 second takes and regularly clip the beginning or end off the action.
What the secret to You’ve Been Framed!’s success after all this time?
Harry Hill, let’s face it, is the real reason this show is still on air and no longer the national joke that it once was. We’re under no illusions that YBF! is still a guilty pleasure – it’s the show everyone watches but no one admits to watching!
But Harry is a genius – he sees the world from a completely unique perspective and continually challenges us to find fresh material that inspires him…
Fortunately as filming technology evolves our viewers help us to do this. We started phasing in phone clips in 2005, but in 2016 the packages narrated by Harry are entirely filmed on smartphones, webcams and digital cameras… camcorders are a thing of the past.
And our new series sees the introduction of drone footage, stuff filmed on Selfie Sticks and POV footage from Go-Pros, etc. As the technology changes, the accidents evolve! We’re especially interested in Dashcams – they seem to be taking off in a big way and we’d love to know if viewers have filmed anything funny with them.
What advice would you give somebody who wants to get a clip shown on You’ve Been Framed!?
Film it the right way round!
So many videos are filmed in Portrait, which look distant and small when re-sized for TV… like the viewer was filming through a keyhole. And who wants to squint a skinny video that only takes up a third of their TV screen? Maybe we should only pay a third of the £250 fee? If it reminds people to hold their Smartphones the right way round, it has to be worth a go.
Seriously though – smartphones need to be tilted on their sides to fill the screen on 16:9 TV set… so film it in Landscape and you’re already twice as likely to get your video accepted.
Best advice – film everything.
The more often people film the more they increase their chances of finally capturing something going wrong. You got a wardrobe that needs building? Film it. You planning on rehanging your pelmet? Film it. You planning on chatting to your baby by the poolside… film it, as you never know when a dog will come along and crimp one out in the foreground of your conversation. That’s a great clip by the way – coming to TV this series! [a screengrab of said clip was provided but vetoed in the name of taste – Ed]
We make 13 new episodes a year and the clip hunt is underway for the 2017 series, so if people have anything (especially it’s its filmed in landscape!) we want to see it.
New episodes of You’ve Been Framed currently air on Saturdays at 6.30pm on ITV1.