TOTP’s Demise – An American View 

22 June 2006

by Joseph Gallant

Living in the United States, I only got to see one season of BBC’s long-running Top Of The Pops: in 1987-88. That season, CBS transmitted the programme in a late-night Friday slot, adding segments presented by Nia Peeples and taped at the network’s Television City facility in Hollywood to make it TOTP a full hour.

I was a regular viewer of the American TOTP, and was sad to see it go. But I was heartened to learn that the original BBC version of the programme continued on, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2004.

Today, I am sad to learn that after 42 years, the BBC has dropped TOTP, with the final programme to be transmitted on 30 July.

In recent years, I have read various articles on the Internet about the changes in hosts and formats, and opinions that the show’s quality and relevance had declined. But I always held out hope that somehow, the BBC would be able to straighten-out TOTP’s problems. Sadly, this did not turn out to be the case.

What many on both sides of the Atlantic may not realize is that TOTP was actually the Beeb’s “answer” to Rediffusion-London’s Ready, Steady, Go!, which premiered in 1963 and had become quite popular by the end of that year, especially among younger viewers. The BBC needed to find a similar pop show to attract young viewers, and they struck gold with TOTP. While RSG left the air in late 1966, TOTP would endure for generations.

The TOTP archive is no doubt Europe’s most extensive archive of videotape or filmed performances by rock-and-roll artists; Dick Clark Productions’ archive here in the States is probably the only such archive in the world more extensive than that of TOTP. It is thus no surprise that in recent years, the BBC used the TOTP archives to mount Top Of The Pops 2.

The basic idea of TOTP is still a good one; it’s a shame that over the last few years, no producer was able to take that basic idea and guide the programme to new heights of success.

Hopefully, BBC-2 will give TOTP on July 30 the proper send-off it deserves. I would like to see original presenter Sir Jimmy Savile as part of the finale, and for him to close the show by saying “This is the end… of the beginning!”.

It was commissioned for only six weeks. It stayed on the air forty-two and a half years. And while millions will mourn the end of it’s long run, perhaps the best way to close this article is to salute the people who, since 1964, made Top Of The Pops the legendary programme it became.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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