Every evening millions of people sit in front of their TVs and tune into live panel shows, reality shows and game shows. The television landscape is littered with them — shows that are a cross between a stage show and television viewing, and try to provide decent entertainment for all involved.

To a large extent, these programs rely on a studio audience to provide the atmosphere — all those rounds of applause, those whoops and cheers, and the generous amounts of laughter need to come from someone, and it might be time to step out for the night and make sure that person is you.

One evening I embarked on such a journey. I braved what is laughably called a Melbourne spring and headed to the Channel 10 studios in South Yarra to watch the filming of The 7PM Project, a show that I’ve come to appreciate for its news value and comedy (even though it does lay it on a bit thick as the channel’s PR outlet).

The show isn’t entirely geared towards the live audience of 50 in the room, and the view is a bit obstructed by crew and cameras, but you’ll be able to appreciate the talent and fast thinking that go into producing this lightweight comedy. Carrie Bickmore (once unveiled by three make-up technicians) is a professional and capable newsreader, Charlie Pickering has a dry sense of humour that serves him well during interviews, and Dave Hughes (or as it was that night, Tom Gleeson) is never short of a YouTube clip to throw to. You also get a sense of how on the ball a live show has to be, and the timing at the end of the half hour comes down to the wire. I never got to find out why the last guy in the state round-up was dressed as Woody from Toy Story.

Even though it was over all too soon, you get some laughs and you can make a night out of it — a night that you otherwise would have spent in front of the television. This isn’t the only show that relies on a studio audience, however, and there’s plenty out there to cater to all tastes. There’s a variety of shows from which to choose, and all tickets are free — from comedy (Good News Week, Spicks and Specks, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation), to current affairs (Q & A, Insight), to sports (The Matty Johns Show, The Footy Show) to game shows (Hot Seat, Deal or no Deal). There’s large-scale productions where you’re part of a screaming X-Factor audience, all the way down to standing outside the Sunrise studio in Sydney, holding up your sign to say hello to your mum.

If you’re looking for a night out in Sydney or Melbourne, and enjoy a show that is currently on television, consider going and seeing it in person. Sit among the studio audience, and be part of television magic.

*Matt Smith teaches media studies at La Trobe University, and has a blog at The End of the Spectrum.

** has a complete list of shows that have audiences and how to get tickets.