I apologise for the blog absence over these last couple of weeks. Preoccupation has been the name of the game. However, I hath returned feeling the need to comment upon one of ITV’s summertime offerings! Now I realise that that is a sentence likely to provoke horror within the very core of anyone with taste. All year round, the channel’s schedule reads like a something that may be broadcast inside specially designed torture chambers for anyone with an IQ over 94. But I urge you to persevere, for I am shunning any discussion of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus search” reality show bungle in favour of pretending it doesn’t exist.
No, instead I shall endeavour to pass judgement on ITV’s recent music-based programme “The Nation’s Favourite Number One Single”, (July 8th, 14th, 15th.) As the hideously simplistic title suggests, the broadcast aimed to discover the nation’s favourite number one following 60 years of the official UK singles chart. Being a confirmed pop music fan and a borderline obsessive chart fiend, it might be imagined that this entails an evening’s ideal viewing for someone such as myself. Unfortunately, the end result left a lot to be desired for those tuning in for the minuscule chance that they might just end up with something worth watching.
The programme wasn’t without it’s highlights. Observing how the goofiest bugger (of all the goofy buggers) from seventies glam rock outfit Mud composed Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” was a simple delight. As was the entire input of Phil Oakey and the lasses from The Human League… who surprised me with their amusing anecdotes and bouncy wit. However, the flaws were decidedly not few and far between. So in true ITV style, I am going to do a shiny countdown to explain the reasons that I found this programme lacking. I was unfortunately unable to obtain Noel from Hear’Say for his exciting observations so you, dear reader, will have to make do with me. Let’s begin with number…
5. The fact it was on ITV.
Now, this may seem like a snobbish cheap shot but it has long been my opinion that ITV have the unique ability to take a subject that I am notably enthused by and produce something entirely unwatchable about it. This sentiment was shared on Twitter by BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny, who also believed that ITV are quite remarkable in their idea-ruining skills. To provide an example in addition to the one i’m documenting more substantially in this post, one only has to look to the recent “Britain’s Secret Treasures” (16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 22nd of July, 9pm). This effort is another that possessed the potential to be immensely interesting but was scuppered by the tacky, loud background music, the usage of random celebrity guest presenters and the very fact that the only way the channel was willing to engage with history was by placing artifacts in a countdown. As most British readers will know, ITV’s output tends to be uniform in it’s glossy magazine aesthetic and cheap fast food-esque quality. So similarly, consuming it can leave one with a glazed expression and accompanying migraine. The channel never fails to inject it’s programmes with a substantial dose of it’s trademark populist brashness, regardless of how inappropriate this tone sits within the context of the subject matter. Watching this left me feeling that the atmosphere would be been far more favourable were it on the BBC or even Channel 4 and as though the opportunity was somewhat wasted on TV’s uber-commercial stalwart.
4. The presentation.
I understand that it is often difficult to determine the appropriate host for these kind of programmes, but this is yet another thing that ITV approached lazily and therefore produced a misfire. Quite unbelievably, I am not going to use this entry solely to goad Fearne Cotton! However, I will say that her small linking segments between the VTs proved to be so insincere and bland that she could have been replaced by a mannequin wearing a wig omitting a consistent dull humming noise and only a few of the most observant viewers would have noticed. Acknowledging this, it is unsurprising that ITV enlisted the services of DJ, TOTP2 voiceover bot and all-round good egg Mark Radcliffe for the rest of the presentation duties. However, I couldn’t help but find these lacklustre also. I feel as though Radcliffe has become the default contact for anything mediocre and music-based that is requiring some blabbing over the top of it. Radcliffe was obviously on droning Northern autopilot and it’s almost sad that he was yet another thing I found hard to abide. Though considering my increasing impatience with his and Maconie’s rambling radio stylings, this may not be so surprising.
3. Even more pointless ‘talking head’ action than usual.
The talking head has always been a source of televisual anguish for many simply seeking out an evening of palatable viewing. The contributions are so rarely insightful that it leaves one consistently wishing they’d just recorded the abomination on their PVR and rewarded themselves the ability to electronically wade through the guff. Although this documentary was thankfully lacking in my primary hate (that hate being unknown, unfunny comedians failing to engage with the provided video clips of things that usually happened before they were born), there was inane commentaries aplenty from the likes of Atomic Kitten hitmaker Liz McClarnon and surprise Clash fan Beverley Knight. I guess I should have realised before now that the anarchic offerings of Strummer were the clear inspiration behind “Shoulda Woulda Coulda.”
2. The fact that Adele was at number three.
Never have I been so acutely reminded of the fish-esque short term memories of the British public! The tendency to overly laud the current has always been synonymous with countdowns such as this, but the absurdly high positioning of Adele’s “Someone Like You” still left me annoyed. I cannot claim to dislike Adele… I even enjoy the aforementioned song. But Adele claiming the number three spot of this countdown to me strikes of people simply over-inflating the importance of the present. In a similar vein, I suggested to friends and family that Daniel fucking Bedingfield might have glimpsed the upper echelons of the countdown had the poll been taken 10 years ago. The same could apply to Terrence Trent fucking D’Arby in the late eighties. I’m not suggesting that Adele will have quite the flash-in-the-pan success that these artists had, but merely that “Someone Like You” will almost certainly not be considered the 3rd best number one ever even a few years from now. I suppose I should be grateful that it wasn’t Ed Sheeran, as we should always be grateful when something isn’t Ed Sheeran.
1. The overwhelming predictability of it all.
The over-admiration of Adele is surprisingly not the biggest bugbear I had with the musical preferences of those polled. Infact, I was more perturbed that the list was packed to it’s very rafters with songs that I have long considered overplayed toot. It’s not that I dislike the majority of entries, it’s simply that I can probably list the entries on the list that I still enjoy listening to on one hand. I liked most of the songs at one point but can no longer tolerate them. I also find myself in a position bemused that so few people appear to feel the same way. I have the same issue in nightclubs, where DJs are seemingly insistent in only ever playing the single most memorable hit of a chart act whilst ignoring the rest of their material. Watching this countdown felt like a night sitting unhappily in that club. To give the British public one iota of credit, it probably should be mentioned that the shortlist of songs was actually compiled by a list of supposed industry experts, but they can still only take a fraction of the blame. My problem with this list can be summarised by it’s victor. It became ever more inevitable as time passed that Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was almost definitely going to be crowned the winner. And yet when the moment came, my family still released a collective groan of fatigue. I was convinced at this point that Bo Rhap was the universally accepted overplayed song to end all overplayed songs. So upon hearing it’s certification in the top spot, I traveled over to Twitter to gaze over the reactions displayed on the show’s designated hashtag, “#nationsfaveno1.” Imagine my unmitigated horror and confusion when hundreds appeared to be lining up to confirm their approval of the winning song! Scores of people that certainly didn’t appear as though they required at least a three-year amnesty from the song before even considering the possibility of liking it again… and to think, it isn’t even my most-hated overplayed Queen track! That bizarre honour belongs to the ever-present irritant that is “Don’t Stop Me Now.” As someone already struggling having only been required to cope with the proliferation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the short 22 years of my life, it is essentially unthinkable that someone that has dealt with it since the original release in 1975 could still harbour feelings of warmth. Who knows, I may still appreciate it and the other overexposed ditties on this countdown once again, but it seems likely that I may require a long spell in a darkened soundproofed room for this to happen.
So basically my message can be explained simply in my final sentiment. We are not all crowd-pleasing DJs and there are other songs available. How about we all have a look beyond? Perhaps we’ll realise the brilliance of an artist’s second most popular hit?