The last 'Top of the Pops'
’Top Of The Pops‘ is finally being dragged around the back of TV Centre to be shot through the head and put out of its misery. You can watch Jimmy Savile present this summary execution on Sunday at 7pm. In the meantime, Time Out looks at ten reasons why it all went wrong
1. Moving the show to FridaysThis had already been tried in 1973 – after complaints that teenage viewers went out on Friday nights, BBC schedulers relented and moved it back to Thursdays after six months. No such luck in June 1996, when a series of disastrous scheduling errors (like putting it opposite ‘Coronation Street’ at 7.30pm and then shunting it to the graveyard slot on Sunday) ensured that the show was regularly beaten in the ratings by its retro brother ‘TOTP2’.
2. Changing the rulesFrom the programme’s inception in 1964, there were strict playlist guidelines: singles would only be played if they had risen up the chart; no single could be played in consecutive weeks unless it was Number One. This worked for three decades, when singles entered low and crept up the charts. But, by the early ’90s, singles began charting high and would then plummet. After ignoring the implications of this for a few years, ‘TOTP’ started to invite bands who hadn’t charted on to the show…
3. The ‘exclusives’Introduced in the early 1990s by ageing variety producer Stanley Appel, who was perhaps showing his age when, at the height of grunge and rave, he was eagerly screening ‘exclusive’ pre-release performances from the likes of Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand and Genesis, who’d invariably fail to chart.
4. Bands playing more than one song‘Ohmygod Oasis/Coldplay/Red Hot Chili Peppers/U2/Sting/Stevie Wonder have deigned to play “Top Of The Pops”! Let’s get them to play THREE songs! No, make it FOUR! Bugger it, let’s get them to do a WHOLE SHOW!’ This school of thought reached its nadir in 2002 when Herbie Hancock was invited in to Television Centre to play three songs in front of a crowd of bewildered London teenagers.
5. Making acts sing ‘live’Another Stanley Appel innovation in 1991, this ludicrous policy basically rendered most of the great dance music to emerge in the early ’90s unplayable. Some bands were even instructed to recreate samples live. Pete Waterman argued that he’d never allow his acts to sing live on the show. ‘I spend months making my music,’ he said. ‘Why should anyone hear it being mutilated by TV sound engineers who’ve thrown together a mix in half an hour?’
6. The ‘Star Bar’Introduced by producer Chris Cowey in 2003, this pointless interview segment was supposed to take viewers ‘backstage’ to meet assorted gushing pop brats. The number of acts on the show dropped from 11 to seven, and the proportion of actual music dropped by 36 per cent.
7. Tim bloody KashA digitally enhanced cyborg who looked like he’d been genetically spliced together in a TV recording studio, Kash – who was central to Andi Peters’ ‘All New’ 2003 overhaul of the show – may well beat Jonathan King and Tony Dortie as the worst presenter in the show’s 42-year history.
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