Sometimes as a reality producer, what you don’t do is as important as what you do. When Joan decided to record her voice on a GPS navigation system and surprise Melissa with it, we all thought it was a great idea. First of all, Joan’s voice and style of humor is so iconic, we knew that the product would turn out great. Second, the idea of Melissa having to suffer through her mom’s voice telling her where to go in the car made us all laugh. But how could we keep Melissa in the dark until it was installed in her car?

The trick as a producer was how to avoid letting Melissa know that all of this was happening. With Joan living in Melissa’s home, and working together on a constant basis, nothing happens to one without the other knowing.

First, Joan had to make sure that Sabrina and Melody would not spill the beans as they discussed the scheduling for both women. They decided to disguise the recording session as a pedicure appointment. How often do women check each other’s feet out – especially in the fall when sandal season is over? Second, we had to make sure that our crew’s call sheets (the paperwork that tells everyone when and where to show up) made no mention of the recording studio where Joan would record the voice for the GPS system. Then we had to make sure that Lynne, who is Melissa’s friend as well as Joan’s, wouldn’t let it slip over a glass of wine. There’s only so much we can control. But Lynne thought that surprising Melissa sounded hilarious, so she promised to keep silent.

The final piece, shooting Melissa in the car after the system was installed, was the easiest part. We helped Joan input the new voice card into the system early in the morning. Then we put some incorrect directions on one of Melissa’s scheduling sheets for the day, so that she’d choose to turn on her GPS while we were taping her. The results were hilarious – but we had to put the scene in a later episode – since it took several weeks for the system to be ready.