pop television

pop television
   The watershed in pop music programming was Six-Five Special with Pete Murray and Josephine Douglas in the early 1950s. Broadcast at teatime on Saturdays, the programme aimed simultaneously to cater generally for a family audience and specifically for teenagers. This BBC show was soon rivalled by ITV’s Oh Boy! From the beginning, these programmes believed in fast pacing and quick cutting, giving the (assumed to be restless) audience the feel of a dynamic show on the move, in keeping with both the upbeat music and the desire to dance. Even at their inception, following the postwar birth/ recognition of the teenager, music programmes challenged studio formats and also television’s technology. The 1960s (and much of the 1970s) was then divided between seminal pop shows like Ready Steady Go and formula family programmes hosted by the more insipid pop stars: Lulu, Cilla Black or Cliff Richard.
   The early 1970s was dominated by two stalwarts: Top of the Pops for those interested in singles and The Old Grey Whistle Test for the album market. The first is one of the longest running shows on television and has regular facelifts (it still gets over 8 million viewers in the late 1990s). The latter has been eclipsed by more lively music shows with more dynamic presenters than the seated hippie, ‘whispering’ Bob Harris. The late 1970s, alongside the challenges of punk rock, saw the redefinition of the genre by exciting but often short-lived programmes such as Something Else and Revolver. In the 1980s, Channel 4’s The Tube was noted for its technology as much as anything, bending and mixing the picture frame before the audience’s eyes. Hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates, the programme was beamed live from Newcastle and built a large following not just for its music but also for its irreverent attitude—which backfired when Holland recommended the show to ‘groovy fuckers’ and was taken off the air. The rise of the promotional video also radically changed music programme formats, allowing a blend of live performances, based on the concert, and videos, which aimed at creating more mysterious associations and repackaged the band’s tour image.
   Consequently, with the emergence of the music video and VJs, in the last decade music programming has been dominated by the rise of MTV (launched in the USA in 1981), followed by other all-music stations like VH1 and The Box. However, for those without cable and satellite, innovative programmes like Jools Holland’s Later have been considered exemplary because they assemble a musical and ethnic range of performers who take it in turns to perform live in the studio. In the late 1990s, Top of the Pops also finally allowed its performers to dispense with miming.
   See also: youth television
   Further reading
    Goodwin, A. (1995) ‘Popular Music and Postmodern Theory’, in N.Wheale (ed.), The Postmodern Arts, London: Routledge (this chapter offers an incisive comment on the intersection of popular music with postmodern theory).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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