10 Things You Didn’t Know About “Not Going Out”


ngo-couch1. Lee Mack is the first person in a British studio sitcom to be broadcast in HD.

ngo-mack1Not 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.

Do you prefer television comedies with or without a laugh track? Leave thoughts in comments.

2. The character Kate was named after Catherine Tate.


The Smiths

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

tatemackantopolski210It 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

ngo-londonYou’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

ngo-felixmaxiThe 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

ngo-damiankellRehearsals take place in Twickinham. 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.ad-ngo
Mack the Life by Lee Mack
Not Going Out commentaries

22 thoughts on “10 Things You Didn’t Know About “Not Going Out”

  1. I’m trying to find out the music (what sounds like saxophone) that appears between one of the scene changes. Does anyone know?

    • Each and Every One by Everything But The Girl has a very similar sounding intro to those sax incidentals on the show. But it’s not the same. Check it out though……you’ll see what I mean.

  2. I hate laugh tracks. They make a show feel sorta’ phony. This does sound like it or at least with laugh track enhancement….the applause helps quite a bit though!!!
    I knew it wasn’t ‘Frank’ but damn if he isn’t almost!!!!

    • It’s funny, when I saw the first episode, I thought, “Oh my god, this show is so cheesy.” I think most of it has to do with (a) the acting style usually chosen when doing a sitcom in front of a live studio audience and (b) the laugh “track” of the audience itself. But before too long, you get used to the style and it stops feeling so unnatural.

    • I don’t know what it is but a comedy is never as good without the laugh track. It always feels like there something missing and most of the gags seem less funny., but only is the laugh track is the audience and not a canned laughter track, which is why the 2015 Christmas Special is disappointing.

  3. You said that the producer wrote the theme and Lee wanted it like a ‘Sinatra’ sound. To hell with that. Who are the band? As an old big band freak – Kenton, Woody Herman, Basie et al – this band (or at least this take which may be doctored to sound better than it would live) sound brilliant. They’ve got the lot, great trumpet and sax sections which have precision and swing like mad as well. A rare combination. Only the best big bands in my experience can sound like this. I’ve got a horrible feeling it is in fact a studio band made up of musicians who may not have previously met and there’s a lot of technical help to make them sound better. But they do sound great. Have they done anything else?

  4. It seems odd that no-one seems either interested or knowledgeable about the big band on the title track. I suspect they’re a scratch unit made up of session musicians. If so they’re brilliant. The singer gets in the way. I would travel large distances and pay considerable sums of dosh to sit in the front row and be blown away by this lot. Leave the vocalist at home.
    On a different tack, dubbed laughter especially when badly done, is anathema. A case in point if the US sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men’, which slumped disastrously when they obviously lost their script writers some way through. They compounded the disaster by substituting an authentic live audience for extremely lazily dubbed laughter that can’t have convinced even casual listeners. Trust you will be more forthcoming in terms of empathy with your audience than the makers of this series.

    • Ah, that’s really interesting, I didn’t know that about Two and a Half Men. I don’t mind a laugh track as long as it’s live and not canned, so I agree with you there!

  5. The British Comedy Guide has received a number of enquiries about the theme tune of the show – it’s written by director Alex Hardcastle and sung by, we believe, Stephen Triffitt who played Frank Sinatra in the West End show Rat Pack.

    • Does no-one know the name (if they have one) of the band that plays the signiture tune. Ignore the singer. The band are an excellent example of big band playing. I suspect they may be session musicians. If so they are brilliant.

  6. Re laugh tracks: When the BBC bought M*A*S*H to show in the UK, they made it a condition that the canned laughter was removed. The show’s genuinely funny script was allowed to breathe and the Brits consequently enjoyed a much better viewing experience than its home audience ever did. Unfortunately, versions reshown on cable TV and sold in box sets are all polluted with the original snipped-up bursts of maniacal tittering laid over every mildly amusing quip. I find them completely unwatchable, and despair of ever being able to enjoy this comedy classic again.

    • That’s interesting–I didn’t know that about MASH. Is it the canned laughter that you don’t like, or if it was real (live audience) laughter, would it be better?

    • I don’t know about the UK DVDs, but in the US at least, you can choose “no laugh track” in the audio options. If you don’t see something on the DVD menu, just cycle through your “audio” button on the remote. The laughter-free option might very well be there.

      • But doesn’t that only work if the laugh track is “canned,” added in later? You wouldn’t be able to filter out the laughing if it’s taped in front of a live audience, I imagine.

  7. Ah.Actually Fact number 2 is wrong where it says none of the characters have last names Tims last name is Adams. See the karaoke in the programme “Debbie” where Tim is introduced as the next singer and therefore Sally is called Adams too.

  8. Aaaaarrgh! There is no such thing as a “laugh track”. “Canned laughter” is used in The Flintstones, not on British comedy programmes. Multi-camera sitcoms are either filmed before live audiences, or the show screens filmed footage before a studio audience. Not Going Out mixes the two.

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