I admit I always prefered The Chart Show to CD:UK personally.
At the beginning, CDUK seemed a step down from The Chart Show if only because CDUK was a bit of an unknown quantity so they couldn't entice any big guests on, so you went from the guaranteed big hits on The Chart Show to a load of stuff at number 36 in the charts. But as it became more important to the industry, the line-ups improved hugely and I would say that around the turn of the century, it was a great show, they got everyone on there.
It's a bit like when Planet Pop was replaced by Popworld, Planet Pop had ended with Lauren Laverne making cool indie references and being all arch and it seemed a massive step down to go from that to Popworld which had two nobodies as hosts and Simon Fuller lurking in the background. Of course, not long after Popworld was brilliant, and everyone forgot about Planet Pop.
Ultimately with SM:tv they played around with ideas for that first year and found things that worked (it's not flaming good enough with the two Anne Robinson's), Wonkey Donkey (brilliant from day one) and Challenge Ant to name a few. Thank goodness they were commissioned for 52 weeks, it gave them time to slowly morph the show in response to the viewers and through new writers and producers and Saturday Aardvark as summer competition it found its feet and became a much loved Saturday morning institute.
There's some interesting stuff in Ant and Dec's book about those early days, they were terrified it was going to be axed which is more or less why they agreed to do panto that Christmas, they say they used to have to fly to Sunderland straight after the show to do the matinee on Saturday (although as they point out, nobody in the audience were impressed by their dedication because they weren't watching the show anyway). They say that while they were doing the panto they were getting loads of laughs from messing around and bantering with the audience, and realised that's what they should be doing on the telly. So after they did the panto they decided to do that on the telly and it was 100% better.
As everyone else says, I started watching SMTV after Live and Kicking finished for the summer in 1999 (in those days, even if you stuck with the Beeb, you would always end up watching at least the end of ITV's show because the Beeb finished much earlier in the summer). When the new Live and Kicking began I moved back to that, but it was so bad I defected back to SMTV within about a fortnight. I was in my twenties at this point, by the way. Later on they would always target the Beeb, I remember in the summer of 2000 they stopped doing Chums, Challenge Ant and so on and then brought them all back on the day Live and Kicking came back, and trailed them as such for weeks.
Although the "Saturday Chart" was hadly new, as The Chart Show had been using it for years, though CD:UK did push how you could og out that day and buy records to influence the final chart the following day. The first few shows had OBs from a record store finding out what people were buying, though it didn't last long.
Yes! Pete Mitchell and Geoff Lloyd, then of Key 103 and now on Absolute, did the first show from Manchester, but it wasn't very successful, they were a bit uneasy on camera and the concept itself was pretty dull. I also remember they did it on the second show, but then abandoned the idea. They also had Phil Swern in the studio, billed as "Doctor Pop", who wore a spangly jacket and said things like "There are ten new entries in the chart this week!" while looking about eighty, and he soon got the push.
When the show was in its pomp, the other benefit of the chart was that it was less than 24 hours after Top of the Pops, which was still using the previous week's chart, so it seemed much more up to date. The comment about Pops trying to replicate it with the features is a good one - on CDUK they had a record review for a bit and they managed to get in the papers quite a lot, some of it was a bit contrived but I remember Mel C and Louis Walsh having a bit of a spat and it caused a bit of a stir. That's what Top of the Pops wanted to replicate, but they never managed it.
A 10:40 start time due to the Grand Prix, in later years it was CD:UK that was pushed back to a 30 minute edition to allow for more SM:TV time. For what it's worth I did enjoy the early CD:UK as it felt wonderful, live and as though the chart was changing there and then, something that nowadays would work a lot better with the chart based on streams and downloads (the UK Big Top 40 make a point of this).
In the summer of 1999, sometimes in Grand Prix weeks they wouldn't do a normal CDUK but CDUK Popumentary which would be an extended feature on something or other. I remember one about the "new breed" of pop bands who, gasp, played instruments, featuring Hepburn, 21st Century Girls, Next Of Kin and The Moffatts, who had about one and a half hits between them. During the 1999 Rugby World Cup it got shoved around all over the place, one episode of CDUK went out at 5.20, which seemed at the time like a bit of an experiment to see if it could work there full-time, but nothing came of it. I remember they also did a ten minute CDUK one week, where at the end of SMTV they just did the chart and showed the number one.
Also during the summer of 1999, there was a brief contractual issue with the F1 where they couldn't show qualifying live but instead had to show it on a delay, which lasted for a couple of Grand Prix. Then at the last minute, the dispute was solved and they could show it live again, but unfortunately that week's SMTV and CDUK was pre-recorded, so Ant and Dec had to come in and film a new bit for the end of SMTV, outside the studios, to say that CDUK would now be on later that afternoon.
A pal of mine used to work at LWT around this time and he said it was great fun being there on Friday afternoons when they were doing the rehearsals for CDUK and anyone who was hanging around was asked to stand in for the bands.
Wasn't the original producer Ric Blaxill, the same person who "saved" TOTP from the dire 1991-94 era?
Indeed it was, he didn't last long though - I think he might have gone by Christmas.
Maybe it's nostalgia on my part but I think with the right presenters the show could work, after Ant and Dec left you had a period of who is hosting the show and some weeks H and Claire from Steps were there and James Redmond appeared and disappeared quickly then Cat left and you had Tess and Brian which I believed worked well then others joined and disappeared quickly and people left so it was never the same.
What happened after Ant and Dec left was awful, they completely messed it up. At the time I thought James Redmond was a really good choice, because he'd been on the show a lot and had been a great guest - for ages I had on tape an episode from a few months before he took over and in the Dec Says sketch he was absolutely brilliant, the rest of the cast and crew were in absolute hysterics at his performance throughout. I'm assuming that was the moment they decided to offer him the job.
But then when he joined they also hired Tess Daly and Brian Dowling as well, which in itself was not a bad idea, but it meant James was immediately overshadowed. The problem was that Brian was probably more famous and certainly more of interest to the papers than James, so it meant James could never make an impact. What they should have done was just have him and Cat for at least a couple of months to establish him, rather than try and replace him before he'd even started. And then when he left, they did that terrible thing programmes do in never referring to them again, no matter how stupid it looks.
And then you had that bizarre interlude where H and Claire presented for a few months, then they left without any notice at all, but the week after appeared as guests to perform their new single, and were introduced as if they'd never been on before! So within a year you'd gone from this really popular and famous team to a revolving door of hosts and nobody knew who presented it.
As mentioned - Slap Bang tried to recreate SMTV for adults in 2001 - it didn't quite work. For me (watching eps of that back now) - was down to very limited space. It was a lot of SMTV features on the one long studio. If they had the 360 type layout or even used the SMTV studio just with different branding then it might have worked. Also no Cat Deeley kind of took the glue out the middle.
There was lots more wrong with Slap Bang, mind, they admit as such in their book. They say they were no point to it other than being Ant and Dec just doing stuff, and they weren't famous enough for people to tune it just for that. They were very famous and popular by the standards of Saturday morning, but in the grand scheme of things they weren't so most of the audience had no idea who they were.
And if you did know who they were, the stuff taken off SMTV just wasn't as good as SMTV, so you had Challenge Ant with old people, but it was rushed through in about two minutes. If you liked it on SMTV, it wasn't as good, if you didn't know it from SMTV, who cared? Also as well, they mention in the book that you can mess around and do crap jokes for several hours on a Saturday morning, but on a Saturday night you need something more substantial. So they had the spoof sitcom like Chums, but Chums worked because it was knowingly cheap with a load of crap jokes. But when you've got a big budget and a live audience, you're now passing off crap jokes as the actual jokes. You're not parodying a crap sitcom, you are a crap sitcom. It wasn't good enough.
Gosh, went on a bit there, didn't I?
Last edited by Steve Williams on 26 February 2017 5:17pm - 2 times in total