A tale of two programmes 

25 December 2006 tbs.pm/196

Two programmes that are in some way related to two long-running series that originally started barely two months apart many years ago (during the winter of 1963-4) ended up by some quirk of fate being shown next to each other on Christmas Day. But the resulting programmes couldn’t have been more different if they tried.

One of these long-running series has returned after a long break and has now evolved into something that still feels fresh, magical, and awe-inspiring, but the other by contrast now seems distinctly well-worn and a bit amateurish, so unsurprisingly is now strictly reserved for special occasions after years of relative neglect.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m talking about Doctor Who Confidential (1pm on BBC One) which was shown immediately before the now-traditional Top of the Pops Christmas Special, therefore as a result they both ended up as unlikely bedfellows and paradoxically helped to illustrate just how different they have become over the years.

Despite Top of the Pops being filled with tunes from the past year’s charts, this Christmas special was full of unwanted reminders as to why the weekly editions had been axed earlier this year; the dated feel not helped by the slightly reheated early 90s theme tune, and the amateurish presenters (come back Chris Moyles all is forgiven).

Not to mention the occasionally insulting presentational style.

Indeed the whole of the TOTP Christmas Special seemed to lack a genuine sense of fun as well as having a strangely stale and unfestive feel to it. What should have been a seasonal celebration of the best of British popular music felt more like a tired and cheap rehash of past performances and the whole thing seemed to lack spark, wit and polish.

The previous Doctor Who Confidential couldn’t have been different if you tried; the whole enterprise has a confidence which comes of being top of its game as the centrepiece of the BBC’s whole drama schedule. Love or hate it, you can’t ignore the fact that an awful lot of effort has gone into its production and the resultant viewing figures have defied all expectations.

The moral of this story seems to be that if one-tenth of the effort that was put into Doctor Who had been also put into Top of the Pops, then TOTP wouldn’t have turned into a sad travesty of a popular music show. Terrestrial television still badly needs a popular music show, especially given the current sorry state of the likes of music channels such as MTV.

Happy Christmas to all MediaBlog readers!

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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David Hastings Contact More by me