Matt Baker: Behind the Scenes – One man and his dog

Presenter Matt goes behind the scenes of the stories featured on Countryfile and his other TV shows. 

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For the first time in its 36-year history, this year’s series of One Man and His Dog was filmed live.

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As I know all too well from presenting The One Show, live telly comes with its own challenges, but throw into the mix mardy sheep, 16 sheepdogs and the Gower Peninsula’s changeable weather, plus the first ever broadcast of the Women’s British Open golf tournament on the same channel (also live), and we had the recipe for a very interesting weekend.

One Man and His Dog is usually a relaxed programme to record. It used to be filmed over two days and then spend more than three months in an editing suite, but this year it all had to flow seamlessly as one.

Michaela Strachan and I opened the show, introducing Gus Dermody, our sheepdog expert. As soon as Gus and I were out of vision, we ran to our commentary box overlooking the course in unison with the sheep that trickled out of a little pen at the far end of the field.

Malcolm, our head of sheep, had a shepherding task like no other: I could hear the producer in my ear telling him: “Just make sure you get the sheep to the post on time; we’re live don’t forget.”

Meanwhile, at our end of the field, the ‘floor manager’ Marco was shepherding the competitors and their dogs into position in front of our commentary box, as the nation watched the film of the first competitor and his dog. Fortunately, everyone arrived in position at the right time and the competition started.

Michaela squeezed into the commentary box to hear what we were saying, then dashed out to get the reactions of the shepherds.

As the rounds flew by, it was all going like clockwork from a broadcasting point of view, but as we got to the brace round (one man and two dogs), the sheep weren’t keen on being split up in the shedding ring and they made a run for it. It happened three times.

When the day’s filming was over, there was an air of disbelief that we’d pulled it off. But could we do the same again the day after? Not quite.

News came in the early afternoon that the golf tournament was over-running and so we waited for our programme to start. But the light was fading and we couldn’t wait any longer, so the show would have to be recorded ‘as live’.

Fortunately, once again everyone pulled out the stops for a great show. It’s just a shame the nation couldn’t enjoy it at the same time as we did.

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Image: Getty