By Luciana Chavezluciana, News & Observer
When the TLC hit reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8” returned May 25, viewers noticed that Jon and Kate Gosselin sat separate for interviews.
The solo interviews, addressing their marriage and eight children, don't signal a happy, united front in Gosselin land.
The couple's woes on their Pennsylvania homestead – as reported in supermarket tabloids – aren't an idle distraction in Raleigh. Employees of Serious Robots and Blazing Music + Sound, divisions of Trailblazer Studios in Raleigh, do the post-production work for the show.
The editing experts at Serious Robots and the sound experts at Blazing Music + Sound toiled nonstop last month, not knowing what was going on with the Gosselin marriage or what those troubles might mean for the show.
And no one at TLC or Figure 8 Films, the show's Carrboro-based production company, is talking.
Before all the drama, the show's producers sought to give it a different sort of update. Serious Robots and Blazing Music + Sound have been reshaping the look and sound of the show since the Season 4 finale aired March 24.
The show “had 54 episodes last season, so it can get long in the tooth pretty fast,” says Leah Welsh, executive producer at Serious Robots. “How do we continue to have people tune in? There are so many options on TV, if something becomes boring, it's gone.”
Some last-minute scrambling is normal for Figure 8 and the show's post-production crew in Raleigh.
For the premiere, seven editors, five in-house and two freelancers worked four days, with visits from TLC and Figure 8 personnel and many coffee runs and pizza deliveries, to put the show together.
“What has become challenging on ‘Jon & Kate' is, the network and the audience are so hungry for new episodes, every episode we make gets (broadcast) instantly,” she says. “Getting behind is not an option.”
The visual folks at Serious Robots were expecting Season 5 to be more complicated; the show's producers want the content to mature as the Gosselin children do. Welsh says the interviews should feel different, too: less rehashing, more analysis.
The show will also have more destination and theme episodes. Welsh says the update won't strip the show of the raw quality fans love.
“There are no setups,” she says. When Kate snaps at Jon and he rolls his eyes or the sextuplets erupt into giggles, it's real.
“We let those moments play out,” Welsh says. “We don't really edit around (Kate). We haven't really found any need to.”
Three weeks ago, during a recording session in Durham, composer Dan Miller briefly stopped work on new music for ‘Jon & Kate' to pick up a guitar and give a dead-on rendition of Eddie Van Halen's finger-tapping solo from the Van Halen classic, “Jump.”
The virtuosity and energy, though not the guitar-god gymnastics, is exactly what sound/audio executive producers Eric Johnson and Aaron Keane have been working to inject into the show's fifth season.
The show had used canned music from two composers working alone in its first four seasons. Miller and Raleigh native Jim Crew composed 30 new songs for Season 5.
Though Blazing Music + Sound has been in charge of sound mixing for the reality show since the beginning, in 2006, this was the first time that Johnson and Keane rocked out the actual music for the show.
“I think what we add is feel,” Miller says.
“You get a little nervous, because you know a lot of eyes will be on it,” Keane says. “No one is going to get off scot-free on (such a high-profile show). But as the time goes on, we're getting less and less nervous.”
Figure 8, Serious Robots, and Blazing Music + Sound work well together, churning out “Jon & Kate Plus 8” and TLC's other show about a big family, “18 Kids and Counting,” among others.
Figure 8 also signed a contract to take over production of “Table for 12” from ABC for the show's next season. Serious Robots and Blazing Music + Sound will work on those shows as well.
Everyone is busy. The days before the “Jon & Kate” premiere, the post-production people existed in a haze of work, phone calls and more work.
Welsh says it is no hardship. The New York native, who worked for years in Los Angeles., finds Raleigh the right place to do grueling work.
“By the end of the week, people will be dead, but it will be fun,” she says.
“That's what makes Raleigh such a great place. It's refreshing. We're truly grateful to be working on a show as successful as ‘Jon & Kate Plus 8.' We're very proud of it.”