Bad Robots, BBC Brit, 120

Q&A with BBC Brit's Bad Robots producer.

Let’s face it, we’ve all come close to losing our minds over a piece of faulty machinery. With hypes in technology exceeding limitations every day, there’s bound to be some messages lost in translation between us mere mortals and the machines we come across in our daily lives.

But what if the fault was not accidental, but rather just to wind you up? We interviewed one of these culprits. Meet Ben Spiteri, the producer for BBC Brit’s latest prank show, Bad Robots, starting Monday, 7 September at 21:30.

What makes Bad Robots stand out from similar prank shows?

Firstly, the fact that the general public lets its guard down when using every day machines – it allows us to see real characters and reactions from ordinary people. This also means we can build stories with them and get them really wound up. Visually, there hasn’t been a hidden camera show where you can get such clear reactions from the public - because we can hide the cameras inside the machines to get their point of view. You can see every little bit of emotion in their faces close up rather than from a camera 20m away.


Why robots?

This show could not have been made five years ago. The people we would have pranked would have thought that a voice automated photo booth was witchcraft! This generation of interactive machines, which has become second nature to everyone, means that it is the perfect time to be making a hidden camera prank show based on machines. Everyone has complete trust in everyday technologies, arguably more than they trust members of the public, and we are able to use that trust against them to really wind them up. It works because we are on the verge of an age of automation. 


What has been your most successful/ hilarious prank?

Frank and Send from episode one! The concept is that it is a large automated postage machine which completely destroys the parcel you are trying to send. In episode one of the series a guy called Barney from a student union in Wales was told by his boss to post his only framed wedding photo to his mum. Poor Barney didn’t know he was using one of our machines. As soon as the machine started smashing the package to pieces he completely lost it. It was the perfect combination of an amazing character in Barney and an amazingly made machine.


If you were the ones being pranked on your show, which prank would you struggle most with?

It has to be the phone charger. We are all so impossibly attached to our mobiles that the idea of having them melted down in front of your eyes and recycled for a few pounds is more than I could take.


How did you manage to get a clear view of everyone’s responses? How many cameras did you use, how big was your team?

We have a fairly small team. On location we would have around 10 people with two or three out in the open and the rest in the makeshift gallery. The gallery has multiple camera angles which we monitor our contributors from. Depending on the size of the location and sketch we would either have four or five unmanned static cameras covering the hit or we would have two cameramen with their cameras in prams for the larger shoots. We have an art team of three who would look after the machines and how they run, then a technical team of two who would look after camera operation and the machine technicalities.


What are you most excited for audiences to see from the series?

We love all of our machines, but our custom built humanoid “B.O.T” is a firm favourite. We’re really excited to see how the viewers receive him. The fact that the people we film even believe he is a real operating machine is one thing, but the level of frustration he brings is amazing. Also, it’s been great to see how the public in the UK have taken to Tezcorp as a company (albeit a fictitious one). Across social media we see people say how a machine has gone wrong at work and how it “must be made by Tezcorp”. We’re excited to see if the show penetrates the social psyche and vernacular in South Africa as it did in our own country. 


Catch Bad Robots on BBC Brit, channel 120, from Monday, 7 September at 21:30 to see what all the Bzzz is about!