Well, if nothing else it's already lasted much longer than the last time the BBC tried a Doctor Who repeat run. For the second week running we have to start with bad tidings, this time not legally but broadcasterly. At the weekend a researcher for the programme let on via Twitter that the 1978 documentary and thus repeat run was going ahead, yet just yesterday at a press launch BBC4 controller Richard Klein said he hadn't decided whether it would continue.
Now, public indecision is not a blanket rejection per se and the quotes do smack a little of someone who wasn't expecting to be asked - and let's be fair, scheduling a repeat run is less about budgets, studios and suchlike then it is ordering some tapes from the BBC Worldwide library - but clearly that's not what we want to hear. Klein also mentioned declining viewer figures, which is kind of borne out and in such not due to recent events. Discounting the Kenny Everett night TOTP has been in BBC4's weekly ratings top ten once between mid-April and the last published figures, compared to thirteen times in the same span in 2011, and has topped 400,000 viewers three times in 2012 (the last that mid-April show, the one recovered from Diddy's collection as it goes) as opposed to eight last year. 1977 hasn't really had any different scheduling or any less wide advertising than 1976 had, and this for I think I'm right in saying the only all year round regular programming the station has. I know some argue people will flock back for 1978 because of the music but that's rot - 1977, for its associations with punk and disco, is regarded as one of pop music's banner years, whereas 1978 is Grease and Boney M in similar strata of popular culture. We shall have to wait and see, and then perhaps think of something else to do here next year.
Mind you, never mind BBC4's treatment of the show in 2013, it's BBC4's treatment in late 2012 that's looking precarious. With The Sky At Night confirmed for the 7th and just the one show for the week after, the as yet unpublished schedules for the week before and the two weeks around the festive season mean three* normal TOTPs will have to be fitted in between 16th December and whenever the Christmas shows are scheduled for, which last year was the 20th and 22nd. It's as if someone lost count. Or doesn't care that much, obviously.
(* One of which is hosted by Dave Lee Travis, but I haven't heard anything about whether all his programmes have been pulled for the time being or if last week was a one-off, but his job on Magic AM has been dropped until enquiries are completed)
Still, I'm pretty sure we're here for the rest of 2012 at least, so we must press on, sword of Damocles overhead as it may be.
So what do you think of when you hear of Peter Powell? Shape Up And Dance? Anthea Turner? Five 45s At 5.45? Being director of the management company that act as agents to several ITV prime-time's worth of talent? The Record Race? This? (Not the kites, that was another Peter Powell) Whatever, he'd almost literally just joined Radio 1 (bar three months in 1972) and was reputedly so excited at the prospect of hosting the show of shows he lost his voice minutes before recording. The excitement, it's fair to say, shows, even though all he has to say is hello and welcome. Positively bursting at the seams, he is, and that's not the half of it. And he's wearing a Radio 1 T-shirt tucked snugly into his jeans. The exciting new youthful face of radio, there. ELO's Turn To Stone over the charts.
The Jam – The Modern World
Rickenbacker on high alert, and one going on close-ups with an unreadable address on an affixed label and 'I AM NOBODY' written in Tipp-Ex or similar on its body. This is the sort of performance that could, and for all the show lets on might have been, recorded last time the trio were in, so used are we already to the suits and the stances, though Rick Buckler does chance a grin at the camera looking up at him. Bar the full upper body movement of a chap in a flat cap and the similar motions of a friend who joins him halfway through, perhaps that being the designated punk appreciation side of the stage, it's not convincing too many down the front to move wholeheartedly no matter how much Weller gurns in anguish at society and stuff. Those two, and this man...
He jumps in the air.
HE JUMPS IN THE AIR.
And whoops. "Woo! Hey! Wild stuff from the Jam" indeed.
The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
And just to top off this opening link of opening links: "let's just think about those occupants of interplanetary craft, shall we?" Richard and Karen on video in front of shots of the milky way.
The Barron Knights – Live In Trouble
The Barron Knights! THE BARRON KNIGHTS! The group the Grumbleweeds could have been! Stop the rerun now, BBC4, the apex has been reached. "A bigger bunch of loonies you're never likely to meet" is Peter's somewhat overheated introduction, so much so he then goes and gets the title wrong. Live It Up indeed. What were they, Mental As Anything? This is the song with the celebrated reworking of Angelo, chip shop in Walthamstow and all that, in the middle, so obviously that's the bit of the song the producer made them cut for time reasons. Red satin jackets and ruffled shirts are the order of the day and if they look direct from their cabaret act that's because they probably were. Just before he starts singing... the singer does a leap in the air and air guitar. One of the Barron Knights taking the piss out of Paul Weller. Oh, those were the days of levelled impetuousness. The kids of 1977 are either stony faced or seem to enjoy the You Make Me Feel Like Dancing section, especially when... the singer unveils his comedy pinging braces. That just leaves the Float On section, which it's fair to say has not wethered the changes in moral attitudes well, rare as it is to see a man corpse at the weight of his own comedy Irish accent. Towards the end one of them does a spin on the spot. "Can you spin like that?" Powell enquires of a lady in a very thick pink cashmere sweater. She obliges. Powell does likewise, in the counter direction. I, watching this in the future, have no idea what future anyone saw in this. So wrapped up is Powell in this idea introducing the next song is an afterthought.
Queen – We Are The Champions
The live video clip wherein to a crowd of scarf wavers Freddie dons the black and white catsuit of fate. "Best thing since Bohemian Rhapsody" Powell avers afterwards. What, out of absolutely everything?
Dorothy Moore – I Believe You
"And now, a little bit of beauty" says Powell in voiceover in the tone of a Radio 3 announcer, a very grandiloquent way of introducing Legs & Co. Entering through some McDonalds hoops, Flick clearly had some spare bathroom curtain material she wanted to get rid of and got it fashioned into six green and yellow dresses, matched to leggins. It's a neatly worked out routine, the girls positioning themselves between the hoops and dancing around and between them, but given I think we've even seen those props before it looks like they made it for 80p.
Status Quo – Rockin' All Over The World
I cannot make out what Powell says before introducing this performance video - "well, wolvey guy?" is my best go - maybe because he can't wait to get the title out before chatting a bystander up. "Hello blue eyes." "Hi!" "Hi hi! Let's get down to this one. Yeah!" Afterwards he delivers a succinct summary: "Status Quo, you know?"
David Bowie – Heroes
My, is he keen to be here. Powell, not (openly) Bowie. "We're rocking on the very best show on television. This is the biggest party in the whole lar." Well, that's what it sounds like. It's not 'world', it's not 'lot', it's not 'bar', again it's not anything distinct. Peter, you're a radio DJ with years of experience. You're supposed to be a clear, enunciating vocal presence. No wonder Sweater Girl back by his side keeps looking at him with some trepidation. As for Bowie, a repeat the original of which we didn't see, the guitarist is clearly no Robert Fripp in style or effects and the drummer is on begrudging session time (though apparently Tony Visconti popped in to play bass) but Bowie is his charismatic self singing live and committed in a shirt with big floppy cuffs. And yes, he's actually there in his pomp and glory, with a crowd, recorded on a proper studio recording night. Now what's your excuse, Mercury? Although having said that Bowie didn't return to Pops until 1995.
Showaddywaddy – Dancin' Party
And to prove the yin and yang of TOTP is in full effect, keeping us all on our critical toes and all that... this is a repeat to everyone but us as well. A cover that still sounds like a ripoff of Runaround Sue, it starts with everyone bar the drummer huddled over Dave Bartram as he launches a call and response, the latter filmed from the crane camera overhead. So was that all in one take or is some of their famed visual perception trickery in evidence again? All in red suits and black shirts Bartram then takes an immediate step into the crowd as two groups of two behind launch into involved routines, including an awkward chorus line. Before we can consider the likely casualty rate from a TOTP camera and its man following Bartram around an audience given their usual GTA-style success with the trolley our man has spotted two people in massive tinfoil top hats like Isembard Kingdom Brunel misunderstanding Noddy Holder and has purloined one for himself. Stolen off the head, in fact, before delving deeper to find its mate, a couple of others following and finding women to dance with as they go, and whomsoever possesses the twin hat shall be joined forever in matrimony, possibly. The hat has written on one side 'HELLO MUM', this being the 70s when that was nearly original, and on the other 'VOTE FONZIE'. Viral Happy Days advertising/vote rigging? On the BBC? Questions must be asked. Powell challenges those given around him to name one each of their other hits. Interactive in this brand new era too.
ABBA – The Name Of The Game
Back to their glares, their anguished soft singing, their dinner table and their Fla. Powell wishes the best "from all of us here to all of you back home" and because the show can't go a week without them, Smokie play out over a weird graphical effect of wavy coloured concentric circles which is never going to overtake the kaleidoscope of studio lights in the nation's affections, I'll tell them that right now. Were this 1977 you'd be about to see the first Citizen Smith. Were this 1977 and you Peter Powell you'd probably be going for quite the lie down with a cool flannel in a darkened room.