So Top of the Pops has finally wheezed its last pathetic breath. Watching TOTP these days was like seeing a Gazza get wheeled out in some ill advised attempt at reviving his career (again and again). Of course, the last one was never going to be a normal show. It was always destined to have the obligatory look back at its chequered career. From a programme that started off with The Stones… a band that frightened parents into thinking that they’re children were being subverted by the merest hint of a wiggle from Jagger’s hips, to stale R’nB sung by, and for, cloth eared morons.
Most of the old presenters were present for the last rites. DLT, Tony Blackburn, Jimmy Saville, Janice Long, Pat Sharp (without mullet)… and the new ones that no-one really knows the name of. Most notable absentee was the mighty figure of Fern Cotton. Someone who championed new music, and didn’t care one bit when breaking a new underground act. Of course I’m telling a massive lie. The person sadly missing from the show was John Peel.
The lack of any nod to Peel in the show wasn’t too surprising, seeing as he’s pretty much responsible for 99% of the credible acts on the show, and somehow gave the programme an air of credibility… even when introducing some turgid boy band or other… again… I’m being sarcastic… but it spoke volumes that Wham were given a full song, whereas John Lennon wasn’t. If the programme wanted to celebrate Peel, they could have shown The Faces performance of ‘Maggie May’ in full, where Peel pretended to play mandolin, as opposed to showing Gnarls Barkley, which has been on and off TOTP for the past two months.
Herein lies the major malfunction of Top of the Pops. Instead of the genuine enthusiasm of yesteryear, you now have the perfunctory bands going through the motions, with some dickhead presenter feeling like he’s owed something. Tony Blackburn, simple as he is, was equally rapt about David Bowie as he was George Michael. Reggie, the new bloke, was trying to act ‘too cool’ for everything going on. This is fine, but surely when he said ‘It’s the end of an era’ with a mock tear in his eye, he surely didn’t expect anyone to even care?
Worse than all of this, you could see the acts featured on the show in decade groupings. The sixties, obviously looked like great fun. The seventies looked glittery and camp. The eighties obviously reeked of hair-spray, but good fun nonetheless. The nineties showed how bands like Nirvana were still able to make a gesture on TOTP and make it iconic and memorable. Then… the ‘noughties’. The rot had well and truly set in, and you could see that the older presenters didn’t care much for the newer bands… and neither did the younger presenters.
The demise of Top of the Pops was its complete inabilty to take itself lightly. For 30-odd years, the show had poked fun at its presenters, and taken the whole thing with a pinch of salt. Sure, we all know that it was rubbish all those years… but at least the presenters could have a giggle AND unveil some genuinely stunning pop music. Now, you just have a cynical bunch of TV wannabe’s peddling inane pop music made by marketing people.
The show ended with a dreadful moment involving Jimmy Saville. First, he fluffed the show’s famed catchphrase ("It’s still number one, It’s Top of the Pops" was replaced by "It’s number one, it’s still Top of the Pops"), and then he closed the show with some shandy weak woe, pretending to look unhappy, and turning off a bit knob, a metaphor for the close of TOTP. If only we’d found out about this knob 10 years ago. So the final show was over and what was the final Top of the Pops number one? Wyclef Jean and Shakira singing the dismal ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. Neither, it would seem, to viewing figures. Sadly, the modern version of the show will not be missed one bit, all we have is our memories… and none of them were the ones shown by the last ever Top of the Pops. Shame.[Mof Gimmers]Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip