Michael Ball: The Michael Ball Show
~ By Elaine Penn for TV Choice - 10/082010 ~
Michael Ball has been entertaining people for 25 years on stage, screen and radio with his music. Now, the 48-year-old, who lives with former Ready, Steady, Go! presenter Cathy McGowan, is hosting his own daily show packed with chat, cookery, music, real-life stories, and a quiz.
Will you be leaving the cookery to your guests, or will you be getting involved yourself?
I want to learn how to do it all, so I'll be joining the guests. I'm very hands on. At home, I'm a make-it-up-as-we-go-along sort of chef - unless ‘Saint' Delia is involved, in which case we always refer to her cookery book. I'm kind of a basic cook, but I want to learn because I don't know how to make pastry or a batter. I want to learn lots of styles. I need controlling in a kitchen!
You've said you'd love to invite Camilla Parker Bowles onto your show. Why?
I feel that people would be really interested in what she'd have to say, but, at the start, they'd think, ‘What on earth is she doing on there?' I believe she'd be fascinating, though. Wouldn't you be interested? We want the best talkers, the most entertaining people and that's what this is. We want to entertain and inform people. The best guests are those who have great stories and who you know will surprise the viewers.
People with great stories aren't necessarily famous…
That's right and I'm very keen to talk to people who haven't been groomed to appear on TV and who aren't plugging this and that. Just ordinary people who have a really interesting story that can inspire and inform people. I love meeting people and I love chatting. I love people with life experience – because that's how we learn.
You're a natural talker. I think you'll put people at ease…
I've got no agenda. I'm not trying to stitch anybody up. I think that because I've been interviewed so many times over the past 25 years, you get a feeling for what's good and what works. And if people listen, like you're listening to this conversation, it's great. But it's amazing how many times you see people on TV who are just looking at questions on a card. The interviewee answers with a fabulously interesting answer, which opens up so many possibilities. But then all they do is read the next question. It's all about listening. Just like in the theatre – the best acting is actually reacting.
Who have you been watching for style techniques?
I watch a lot of TV, and I'm so sad that Jonathan Ross' BBC show has finished. He promised to come on, but he's going away. So if I do anymore series, he'll be there. He's someone who knows how to entertain and keep an audience amused and interested. I also really admire Alan Titchmarsh. I didn't think he was going to be good – people might think that about me. Alan's really good, fiercely intelligent and very disarming. It's a shame when you're pigeonholed and people think he's just a TV gardener. He's never going to shy away from issues.
Does the live element of the show worry you?
Always. But you use those nerves, that kind of adrenalin, in a positive way. It also means you can't worry about mistakes. If it happens, it happens. They're gone. There's nothing you can do about it and it's far better to own up to mistakes and say, ‘That's gone wrong, hasn't it?' than try to pretend that what's happening is meant to. Viewers are more sophisticated now. They know when something isn't really working. [Laughs] We'd much rather be in on the joke than embarrassed.
You've been a judge on Soapstar Superstar and Dancing On Ice . Would you be interested in doing more shows like that?
Oh yes, Dancing On Ice . Well, I was Gloucester Junior Champion! It wasn't until Jayne Torvill pointed out that there isn't even an ice rink in Gloucester that my ruse was discovered! [Laughs]. I've been asked to do a few things – some I turn down, but some I can't do because of my schedule. It's a juggling act. But I do love TV and I love seeing new talent. I'm like every punter – I watch The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent . I get the same kick out of them as everyone else does.
You'd make a great mentor for a week on The X Factor…
I think that because my music is rooted in musical theatre, even though I make other records, I wouldn't be asked. I know that Simon Cowell isn't a fan of that style [laughs].
But musical theatre is so popular…
Exactly. That's what we're discovering. The music that kids are into now, well it started with High School Musical and has moved on with Andrew Lloyd Webber's TV shows and Glee . Glee is a perfect example. It's great fun, great music and a great way of bringing people together. Maybe there'll be a case for it?
You've been in the business for 25 years now. Is TV presenting where you see yourself for the next 25 years?
I've got the Hairspray tour, then I'm producing more shows and am starring in Sweeney Todd alongside Imelda Staunton next year. Musical theatre is how I came into this business and I'm not going to forget that. But I love doing TV as well, and it's great to find something new to do and hone a new skill. Do you know what, though? I might be rubbish! It would be terrific if ITV like it. Life's ever so short – you might as well try everything.