Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Top of the Pops: End of an Era

For those of us raised for even a short time in Britain, today's news that the BBC is cancelling Top of the Pops is simply gutting. It was MTV before the concept of MTV had ever been considered; it was Soul Train for British people, American Bandstand for British people. Any act that was anyone HAD to appear on TOTP to be considered worthwhile. Before the ubiquity of music videos, TOTP was often the only opportunity someone had to see their music idols "in person." Yeah, much of it was lip-synched, as I recall it was tres cheesy in the extreme. But it was the axis around which all of my childhood viewing rotated; I never wanted to miss a single show, especially when Blondie or Chic were going to be on. It was awesome. And now it is but one more facet of my childhood that will reside only in my memory and in the dustbin of time. Damn you, MTV!!! I'd give anything to see a young Debbie Harry on stage surrounded by fake fog, singing into a big, green puffy microphone the size of an old-school bicycle pump. Good times, good times.

The British Broadcasting Corp. announced Tuesday that it is canceling "Top of the Pops," its flagship music chart show, after more than four decades on the air. BBC director of television Jana Bennett said the show, which first appeared in 1964, would air for the last time on July 30. "We're very proud of a show which has survived 42 years in the U.K. and gone on to become a worldwide brand, but the time has come to bring the show to its natural conclusion," she said. "Top of the Pops" has featured everyone from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Nirvana and the Spice Girls. At its peak, the weekly rundown of Britain's best-selling acts attracted more than 15 million viewers. The show has suffered flagging ratings in recent years as it faced competition from cable and satellite music channels and the Internet. Last year it was moved from the main BBC1 channel to BBC2, which attracts a smaller audience. In a statement, the BBC said that "in a rapidly changing musical landscape 'Top of the Pops' no longer occupies the central role it once did."

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