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1990 on BBC Four

JA
james-2001 Central (East) East Midlands Today
Apparently Brian Whitehouse and Stan Appel were responsible for a large chunk of episodes during the 1986-89 era (I have the first 2 episodes from 1986 a well as one from December 88- Whitehouse is credited as producer on all three, and Stan Appel credited as producer on an episode I have from January 1987), even though Michael Hurll and Paul Ciani were officially in charge- both are still with us (albeit in their mid-80s), so I'd like to see if BBC4 could get them for the Stories Of for those years too. As I said, getting interviews with those in charge has been sadly lacking from these documentries (though for obvious, sad, reasons).
Last edited by james-2001 on 16 January 2018 2:01am
VM
VMPhil Granada North West Today
What were the reasons given for the show ending again? The internet (despite Youtube having just started where modern clips of it could have thrived)? Low audience figures (despite airing on a Sunday afternoon)? Low physical sales (despite the download boom just about to kick off)? Or just that the BBC couldn't be bothered with it anymore in a late 80s Doctor Who sort of way?

I think it could have easily lasted a few more years - put back to primetime and with the budget increased - but I seriously doubt that the show would have survived Savilegate, and therefore after 2012.


I think one of the main reasons was the plethora of music channels that were widely available by that time. That was probably why they tried to make it more of an event television programme with the flashy performances (like Blazin Squad), stuff like music news/reports and, before the 2003 revamp, the Star Bar.
SW
Steve Williams
I admit I've always found the Cowey era quite dull too for some reason, when watching back the 1993-98 episodes I have, the episodes after Cowey took over seem to lack something of the earlier episodes (even the 1993 Appel ones!). I don't think it helped he all but scrapped music videos, which limited what could be played (you often had songs going down the charts or the same song on consecutive weeks in his era- presumably to fill out the show and which artists they could book), which meant if an artist couldn't/wouldn't perform you likely wouldn't get it on TOTP at all- and often meant you saw the same performance over and over when a song hung around high in the charts for a while and the artist couldn't/wouldn't give a repeat performance (when in the past they would have included the video some weeks to mix things up). The show being stitched together from performances recorded at totally different times during his tenure didn't help either- it helps with a show like that that the artists are there in the studio, not just turning up to record it like 3 months earlier when they had some spare time.


I was actually quite enthusiastic when Cowey took over and I thought for the first year or so the shows were quite good - there seemed to be more imagination shown in the production and you had the return of performances shot in front of the audience which made it look like it was on quite a big scale. In Richard Marson's new book about Blue Peter he talks about making a behind the scenes film when Katy Hill presented it, and he says that while Cowey was ostensibly the director, he wouldn't work off a script and instead sit in the gallery saying "I like camera one!" or "Those are good shots, four!" (he'd stopped using camera scripting at the time) and just get a general feeling for the show, and it was up to the Vision Mixer and Camera Supervisor to actually make the decisions. He also says that because it was at Elstree, miles away from TV Centre, it had become a complete self-contained unit and Cowey had total power, with everyone always saying "I'll just check that with Chris" and "Chris says yes".

But as you mention, the enthusiasm seemed to wear off quite quickly and it soon became as mechanical and predictable as any previous incarnation - if not more so, because you soon got used to how Cowey made the show and his usual turns of phrase in the presenters' script (this was probably the age the presenters exhibited the least individual personality, it seemed very heavily scripted) and the framework of the show. It didn't surprise me very much at all in those days (not helped by the pre-recorded format meaning any real excitement was already revealed in the press ages in advance).

As for the removal of videos, I suppose the idea was that you could see them on a million other places and the USP of the show was the performances - and they certainly achieved their aim in luring people on, because they used clips of performances during the Top 20 countdown and I remember counting how many of the Top 20 acts had been in the studio, and it was usually the vast, vast majority. But it did mean that they would always prioritise a performance - even if it was one that had been seen umpteen times before - over a video, so the show got more repetitive, and you got daft things like when Ray Of Light by Madonna wasn't played despite it being at number two. And in the end it didn't make it seem much of an event because even the least attentive viewer could tell it was all being put together in the edit suite (whereas under Ric Blaxill, when they did the performances via satellite, they would always go over to them "live", even though the show was always pre-recorded and they could have done them at any time, because it made the recording itself and that particular episode feel like an event).

According to a latterday chart book, that (as it turned out) one-off double A-side single, by someone who had clearly outlived whatever usefulness she had ever had in pop terms, was on a label called 19 Recordings/Moody (!), who I presume were an independent label who had staked everything on it.


Well, 19 Recordings would presumably have been Simon Fuller's company, so I don't know about this. But the Victoria Beckham business was a major selling point in the first few weeks as the idea was the viewers could vote for which of the tracks would be the official A-side and the one she performed. Except the record was released as a double-A side and she performed the other one the following week anyway.

Col posted:
Thinking about the introduction of the '85 line-up, sadly, the number of eligible records which could have appeared on TOTP was quite small within the Top 40:

Outside the Top 10, they couldn't feature songs which were climbing back up the charts, as they hadn't matched their peak position (including Alison Moyet); nor could they feature songs from the last previous regular edition of TOTP (in this case, 20-12-2014, hence Thompson Twins, Spandau Ballet, Bronski Beat - leaving only three tracks they could have featured - Grandmaster Melle Mel, Smiley Culture and Sal Solo - which they did.


Actually I thought last week's episode was quite successful in that they managed to play, yes, "more top hits" with plenty of songs from the top ten. But that was clearly never sustainable as they'd so rarely be able to get so many top ten acts into the studio at the same time.

Apparently Brian Whitehouse and Stan Appel were responsible for a large chunk of episodes during the 1986-89 era (I have the first 2 episodes from 1986 a well as one from December 88- Whitehouse is credited as producer on all three, and Stan Appel credited as producer on an episode I have from January 1987), even though Michael Hurll and Paul Ciani were officially in charge- both are still with us (albeit in their mid-80s), so I'd like to see if BBC4 could get them for the Stories Of for those years too. As I said, getting interviews with those in charge has been sadly lacking from these documentries (though for obvious, sad, reasons).


Stanley Appel and Brian Whitehouse were also regular producers in previous years - Appel produced more or less the last four months of 1984 because Hurll was concentrating on The Late Late Breakfast Show and was less hands-on, as had Whitehouse in the last few months of 1982 and 1983. Hurll would still be in overall control of the show but Appel and Whitehouse were quite frequently in day-to-day charge.
MA
madmusician Central (West) Midlands Today
In Richard Marson's new book about Blue Peter he talks about making a behind the scenes film when Katy Hill presented it, and he says that while Cowey was ostensibly the director, he wouldn't work off a script and instead sit in the gallery saying "I like camera one!" or "Those are good shots, four!" (he'd stopped using camera scripting at the time) and just get a general feeling for the show, and it was up to the Vision Mixer and Camera Supervisor to actually make the decisions.


I read that too, and it made me think of how Hamish Hamilton directs this U2 concert:



To be fair to Hamilton, I think he was very much involved with putting together the camera script, so although he's not calling the shots on the night, it is very much his vision on the screen.
TV
TVEngineer London London
In Richard Marson's new book about Blue Peter he talks about making a behind the scenes film when Katy Hill presented it, and he says that while Cowey was ostensibly the director, he wouldn't work off a script and instead sit in the gallery saying "I like camera one!" or "Those are good shots, four!" (he'd stopped using camera scripting at the time) and just get a general feeling for the show, and it was up to the Vision Mixer and Camera Supervisor to actually make the decisions.



You'll find this in many shows - it's the sign of a good director and production team when everyone goes into the gallery and studio and gets on with it knowing exactly what they need to do! Prep is everything and chances are they've been through it two or three times already in rehearsal.

I've worked in galleries that have been practically silent for the duration of the show apart from counts into junctions and occasional reminders to a presenter to move onto the next item.

You'll find news/magazine/fast changing shows that haven't had time to rehearse are often the noisiest as it's the director's job to make sure everyone is at the same point when everything is up in the air. In some cases the cam ops know which shots are needed and will offer them up, the VM will then decide and select them leaving the director to focus their attention on getting across the next item.
I work in telly, I sometimes get time to watch telly. More of a technology geek than a presentation geek!
SW
Steve Williams
You'll find this in many shows - it's the sign of a good director and production team when everyone goes into the gallery and studio and gets on with it knowing exactly what they need to do! Prep is everything and chances are they've been through it two or three times already in rehearsal.


Marson does say in his book that the team were clearly all in sync and knew what they needed to do, and it clearly worked for them.

One of the other books on the history of Pops explains why Cowey got rid of camera scripting - the week before he took over, he watched the show being made and Rosie Gaines was on performing Closer Than Close, and she started ad-libbing and riffing and Cowey thought it was brilliant, but they asked her to stop and do it "properly" because the cameras couldn't keep up. So the following week he stopped using camera scripting and got Rosie Gaines back to do what she was doing off camera the previous week, and instructed the crew to find the shots.
JA
james-2001 Central (East) East Midlands Today
This edition from March 1986 (the month before the revamp) is a bit of an oddity (looking at Popscene, all 4 editions that month were like this):



Notice how the 40-11 charts are run over a music video (like how it was done for much of the 90s), but you have one of the presenters reading the charts out- albeit only reading the climbers and new entries, but not the ones going down (with a couple of exceptions). The new style end credits are in place as well.

Another oddity is October 1996 where they introduced a new title sequence- only to go back to the previous one the following month- though the end shot from those short lived titles continued to be used at the end of the show until the 1998 revamp.
VM
VMPhil Granada North West Today
Ha, nice jumper Steve Wright!
LL
Larry the Loafer Granada North West Today
Or is it Weird Al?
RW
Robert Williams Founding member London London
Notice how the 40-11 charts are run over a music video (like how it was done for much of the 90s), but you have one of the presenters reading the charts out- albeit only reading the climbers and new entries, but not the ones going down (with a couple of exceptions).


There was also a strange period in 1991, before the revamp, where they seemed to be experimenting with different ways of reducing the time taken up by the chart countdown, first of all with songs going down the chart being omitted altogether, which was rather annoying, and then once again running the countdown over a video, but going all the way down to number 2, which meant that, for the first time since 1980, the number 1 was no longer immediately preceded by the Top 10 countdown, which felt rather odd.

Then when the revamp came in October, to me it felt like watching an entirely different programme that just happened to bear the same title. Only the Top 10 was now counted down, which was very annoying, though they eventually reinstated 40-11 over a video. The much bigger studio gave a completely different feel to the programme, and I missed the comparatively more intimate feel that came from the studio at TVC. From that point TOTP never seemed the same again, even when miming and the Radio 1 DJs eventually returned.

As a result I still feel that 'real' TOTP ended in 1991, and if BBC Four get that far, it's at that point that my interest in the repeat run will probably evaporate. I was losing interest in the way chart music was going by that time anyway, even though I was still only 15, and I don't feel much nostalgia for the music of the 90s. So by the time the Andi Peters revamp came around, I was pretty much past caring!
VM
VMPhil Granada North West Today
If we get that far, it's probably a good idea to not watch it as regularly during the Stan Appel era, but when Britpop happens it'll be worth watching again.
JA
james-2001 Central (East) East Midlands Today
Ha, nice jumper Steve Wright!


And funnily enough NBC changed their logo a matter of weeks later (60 days after this episode aired funnily enough!)- maybe Steve wearing it on British TV embarrased them too much to keep it Wink

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