My Life in Telly with… Rick Edwards: 'Tool Academy was slightly ahead of its time!' - Exclusive

To celebrate his brand new History show River Hunters, Rick Edwards reflects on his life in telly - from T4 to Made in Chelsea Reunions - exclusively with BT TV.

Rick Edwards has one of the most varied TV presenting careers in the biz.

He started his TV career presenting T4, a laid-back weekend show for teens, before going on to front multiple reality, panel and quiz shows.

Fans might recognise him from Tool Academy - the hit E4 reality TV show about fed-up girlfriends who enrolled their underperforming other halves in a school where "tools became men" - as well as keeping the Made in Chelsea cast in check in the reunion specials.

But 39-year-old Rick, who grew up in Portsmouth, has also funnelled his personal passions into his work.

Having graduated with a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge, he co-presented the podcast Science(ish) alongside Dr Michael Brooks, delving into the science behind popular films, before publishing a book of the same name.

He also actively campaigns for youth engagement in politics and voting, and presented youth debate and discussion show Free Speech on BBC Three. He’s delivered a TEDx Houses of Parliament talk offering solutions to get more young people to vote, and released a politics guide for youths, None of the Above.

Another one of Rick’s interest is wild swimming, so of course he was thrilled to sign up for River Hunters, a new UK show where he dives the depths of the nations’ rivers with shallow water hunter Beau Ouimette, searching for hidden treasures.

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And he hasn’t forgotten his reality roots. He currently does the voiceover for Love Island-style reality show Make or Break on Channel 5, and is eager for Tool Academy - described as “horrifyingly watchable” and “compelling television” by the Guardian - to make a comeback!

Speaking exclusively to BT TV, Rick reveals the highlights of his television career so far, including his favourite celebrity interviews on T4, which Made in Chelsea star he has a soft spot for, and why he thinks it's a "crying shame" that Free Speech doesn’t exist on TV anymore...

T4 - 2007-2011

Describe your time on the show…

It was a really amazing thing to do for four years, it was really fun, with people I really liked and really got along with and made me laugh. We got to do lots of stupid things with famous people. It was the dream job when you’re that kind of age. I watched T4 anyway before I started doing it. I loved it, I really did.

What’s something people won’t know about your time on T4?

Obviously we interviewed a lot of pop stars and stuff, and never at any point did I have any interest in any of the music. There was a lot of music in it that I pretended to be interested in, and I absolutely wasn’t. I didn’t care, I didn’t listen to it. You can blag listening to it, can’t you?

Whereas the films and TV shows, great, loved that! But with the music, I like the music that I like and it wasn’t really the stuff that we were promoting on the show. But people have probably figured that out.

So I don’t miss having to keep up with Lady Gaga’s output or whatever it was, because I did listen to it, because you’re sort of obliged to, but it wasn’t really for me.

What’s your one highlight from filming?

I really loved Hugh Jackman. He’s probably the only one I ever interviewed and I thought “I wonder if me and Hugh will be friends now?”. We’re definitely not. I interviewed him a few times and loved him every time, and sort of felt like we could have just gone down the pub, me and Hugh. It didn’t happen! It’s my only regret that I didn’t pursue him. But he was excellent.

There were a few sticky interviews along the way, but that’s to be expected. I did one with Russell Crowe that was tricky. I was sitting very close to him, which already was uncomfortable.

It was a junket set-up where you should be a little distance away, but our knees were almost touching. And he didn’t like the first question that I asked him at all, and he literally just said “What’s the point of that question mate?” and I was like “Well, now you ask, I don’t know really! I wish I hadn’t asked it I know that.” So that was a long six minutes.

T4 ended in 2012. I left the year before and it was basically dead after that!

Tool Academy - 2011-2012

Describe your time on the show in three words...

I know you’re not supposed to say it about your own work, but it’s one of the greatest shows! 'Bunch of tools' will do. I don’t know, I can’t do the three words thing unfortunately, but I really, absolutely loved doing Tool Academy.

I was really given free licence on that show to do or say whatever I wanted, and write my own voiceover and stuff. It was really good, and that doesn’t happen very often.

I think it’s a slight shame it didn’t carry on. We did three series, and I don’t really know why we stopped. I don’t think we should have done. I think it would do really well now. It was slightly ahead of its time.

People didn’t really call each other tools back then, it was a slightly odd name. If you talked about it back then, to people who had never seen or heard about it, they would genuinely think it was a DIY show. It was an American format, and they do call each other tools in America, but then they just took it, and used the name. It is an odd name because I don’t think British people call each other tools particularly. If only!

Would you do Tool Academy again?

God yeah I would, 100% I’d do that. It could be a 10-year anniversary special couldn’t it? Let’s start thinking. A celebrity one would be really good. It really could work.

Free Speech - 2013-2015

Describe your time on Free Speech in three words…

I’m quite verbose so the three word description is tough! Important. Lively. Engaging.

I loved that show, I think it’s a real shame that something like that doesn’t exist any more, particularly now, I’m just like “How are you not serving that need somewhere?” I think it’s ridiculous, yeah. It makes me a bit cross actually. I think it’s a mistake from the BBC.

This is not about me thinking “I should be working”. It doesn’t need to be me, but someone should be doing a show, directly about politics for young women, where young people can talk about it.

Because it’s all very well doing issues stuff, and issues stuff does well for the BBC, but if you don’t make the connection between issues and politics, then you end up with a really disengaged electorate, particularly young people.

Young people aren’t voting, and there’s lots of reasons for that, but we should be trying to help inform and engage them. It’s a crying shame, and I do think it’s a mistake, I think something like that should exist.

Would you do it again?

I would love to, but I don’t know if I’d be the right person to do it now. Like if they asked me to, I’d say yes, but if they didn’t and they got someone else to do it, I’d be absolutely fine with that. I just want to see it back on TV in some form.

Also I think it had kind of hit its stride by the time it finished, because initially it was just Question Time for young people and the thing about Question Time is whether you like it or you don’t, it’s very well put together, but it’s also very orchestrated... they’d know exactly who they were going to in the audience. It’s rehearsed, it’s planned out, which you kind of need to do.

Also, Question Time is not aired live. They film it, and then they air it in the next hour. Whereas Free Speech, we started off like that, they we were just like “It’s better to just do it, to be organic”. We knew the four topics that we wanted to talk about, we’d have a link at the top of the show, and a link at the end of the show, and in the intervening 55 minutes we’ll just see what happens.

Which is harder, from the point of view of producing it, and it was live, totally live, but it gave it a much better energy, and it did feel like quite, not exactly anarchic, but it felt like you didn’t know where it was going to go, because we didn’t know where it was going to go necessarily, we just knew we were trying to cover these topics.

I think that works, especially for that age group as well. I regret that that no longer exists in any form, I think it’s a real shame.

Made In Chelsea reunion specials - 2011-2017

Describe your time on the show in three words...

*Rick struggles to find the words* Infuriating… Mad... Err... I mean, I loved it, I did love it, I was obsessed with the show for a long time, so it never felt like work, I never had to do any prep for it, but also, they’re difficult people. Entitled little berks!

I did really like doing it, but I got to the point where I couldn’t carry on doing it. I sort of miss doing it, but then I’m also glad I’m not doing it if that makes sense.

It’s that weird thing where the cast that you grew to love, most of them had sort of left, and it was the new ones, which are good value, but you feel less of a connection.

What’s your one highlight from filming the Made in Chelsea specials?

Weirdly, my highlight was when Spenny [Spencer Matthews, former Made In Chelsea star] was in it, he’d call me up beforehand and say “Rick, mate, you’ve got to go easy on me for this, and this…” and I’d be like “Mate, I can’t say to you that I’m not going to do that, because I am going to do all of that stuff, that’s the point of it”. He’s like “Come on mate!” and I’m like “No!”

What’s something people won’t know about your time on the show?

Maybe the fact that I got on with most of them pretty well, which probably didn’t come across, because I was too busy needling them. 

I’m still in touch with Jamie [Laing] and [Oliver] Proudlock and people. I haven’t watched the Spencer and Vogue show but I really want to, apparently it’s good! I think for Spencer, having a girl that he loves, a wife, is the best thing that could have ever happened to him, because all of the things that you don’t like about Spencer, were related to the way he treated girls.

And now, he’s treating a girl really well, and he’s happy. He’s a good guy. He’s smart and he’s funny, he’s good value. To be fair, I’ve always liked him and I was just like “Stop being a p***k”. Unbelievable.

He was really young, you sort of forget how young he was. I don’t know if it’s do to with very posh people seeming older, but when Spencer was first on Made in Chelsea, he was in his early twenties. He looked about 35 from the start, but he’s not, he’s just a kid, and when you’re that age, maybe you don’t behave that well, I don’t know. He certainly didn’t! But I do like him, and I will watch his show, because people have said it’s good.

Would you do it again?

No, I don’t think so. Like I say, I did a lot. It’s never easy. It’s like when I finished T4, I could have easily done another year, probably. I sort of wanted to leave before people said “He’s been doing that for a really long time, why’s he still doing that?”. You kind of want to be ahead of that, even when you’re enjoying it, it’s a good time to go out, effectively.

River Hunters (2019)

Describe the show in 3 words…

Do the 3 words need to make a short sentence? Hmm… I’m gonna go with: aquatic history fun. That’ll be the new tagline!

How did you feel when you found out that you’d get to combine your hobby with work?

To be fair, I like swimming in rivers casually for fun. At no point did we go to a river where I thought “I would like to swim here”. It’s a different feel. It didn’t turn me off it, but it didn’t make me think “Oh I can’t wait to get back into a river” if I’m honest, because the places that are good to search are not the places that are nice to swim.

What’s your one highlight from filming River Hunters?

Probably finding the Viking game piece. Spending time with Beau [Ouimette, Rick’s co-presenter] is also a highlight. The fact that he wears the same clothes every day is amazing.

He’s sort of like an Einstein figure you have seven identical suits so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to wear. Actually to be fair, I don’t know if he does have a lot, or if he just wears the same thing every day, that’s also possible. He’s a river man, he doesn’t care if his clothes get wet.

Spending time with him really made me chuckle a lot, but in terms of finds, definitely the Viking game piece, and I found a nice Roman coin as well, that was cool.

What’s something people won’t know about your time on the show?

I sort of wonder with shows like this whether people think “They’re probably not in the river that long, they’re probably not doing the searching themselves, there’s probably a team of people who come in to do it”, and that could not be further from the truth.

We were in there a lot. and only searching ourselves, apart from when we got amateur detectives in on camera. It was just us in the water for hours and hours searching, very very much willingly as well.

The crew would call a break, and Beau and I would be like “We’ll spend another five minutes in here, just in case”, because it’s very addictive. So yeah, I think the fact we were doing it for real a lot, because I think when I watch stuff like this, I’m like “I bet they’re not doing that”.

Would you do another series of River Hunters?

Yeah definitely, I’d love to. I mean there’s a lot more rivers, both in the UK and elsewhere, and I think they’re all pretty unsearched. So yeah, if we got the opportunity. I mean Beau would definitely do it because he just loves it, he can’t get enough of rivers that guy, and I’d definitely be up for it.

River Hunters premieres Monday, March 18 at 9pm on History (BT channel number 327/379 HD).

History is one of the extra entertainment channels available for BT TV customers.

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