TOTP vs Popworld

So Top of the Pops has been shelved.

Should we be sad? Probably not. TOTP was only really worth watching for those moments when defiantly underground music somehow gatecrashed the charts.

Seeing this show, with its eternal Smashey and Nicey-ness, try and accommodate things like acid house was always fun.

TOTP had to try to appeal to both 'the kids,' and their Daily Mail-reading parents, a gloriously impossible task that gave rise to the odd moments of TV gold, such as Altern8 donning chemical suits and bring 'ardkore to the nation's living rooms or Nirvana's very obviously mimed performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' a masterpiece in the art of piss-taking.

But recently, with the charts buried in the living death of neo-AOR and X-Factor sludge, those moments where TOTP could be a clash of very different worlds have become few and far between. And so, the programme lost its point, settling down very comfortably to men on stools singing ballads.

While I don't mourn the passing of TOTP, I do hate what its passing says about TV and pop culture in general. See, it's all about context: in particular, the rise of channel 4's Popworld, its every success mirrored by TOTP further sliding into oblivion.

TOTP was, at least, genuinely enthusiastic about pop music, gamely trying (and dismally failing) to understand all this new-fangled stuff where you couldn't even hear the words. Popworld, by comparison, doesn't - can't - show enthusiasm for anything, except its own cleverness.

For Popworld, everything is to be smirked at: pop music exists as the object of a snide putdown and nothing more. Everything is wrapped around invisible, ironic quotation marks. Actually, scratch the 'invisible': presenter Miquita Oliver's hands routinely flail into the air, out of her control, and you can tell that, deep down, she wants to do those little inverted commas, over and over again, but she stops herself at the last second, aware that such a gesture just wouldn't be cool.

The problem is, I think, about distance. Popworld is unable to enjoy anything, or show any passion, because its always at a distance from life: it exists behind a post-modern barrier of sarcasm and affected superiority.

That's sad, hateful and pathetic, of course. But, perhaps more importantly, it's also just very boring. The presenters' self consciously display their boredom towards those around them, but, really, there's little more tedious than a smirking, passionless smartarse sneering in an impeccably arch manner.

TOTP might have been shit, but its cheerfully enthusiastic heart was in the right place. Popworld, by contrast, doesn't have a heart at all.

[Simon Hampson]
Found in FACT magazine

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