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Popular Music on British Television

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ALL SYSTEMS FREEMAN!

BBC1
5th January 1968 - 22nd March 1968

According to a Radio Times article to promote the first edition of the show Alan 'Fluff' Freeman and his agent proposed the idea for a new type of music show to BBC commissioners back in Spring 1967. The format would feature live guests, interviews, reviews and film clips. However, this format looked very similar to the pilot for the un-commissioned Discotec, hosted by Simon Dee back in 1966.

Freeman had proved an immensely likeable TV personality, his occasional mistakes on Top of the Pops had brought him his own kind of celebrity, so a pilot was commissioned for the end of 1967, which featured The Herd.

After favourable reviews the show was given the go-ahead and ex-Jazz 625 head Terry Henebery was assigned as the producer. The show would be recorded in the old Top Of The Pops home of Dickenson Road in Manchester on a Wednesday and broadcast Friday evenings, the day after Top of the Pops, at 6.40 pm for thirty minutes. Freeman was relieved of his 'Pops' duty during the run of the show, bar one show on the 25th January.

As far as the set design was concerned Freeman found himself behind a desk again, similar to the one on Top of the Pops, looking a little like his Radio One desk setup with two 'grams' (turntables), headphones and microphone, but at the end of its run BBC’s Head of Variety Bill Cotton Junior said that the show had tried to “capture the drama of a recording studio”.

The show's thirteen week run would feature many of the chart stars of the day in the studio backed by the Northern Dance Orchestra, or if they couldn't make it to Manchester a film clip of the artist would be included. A guest reviewer and an interview would break up the music to distinguish it from Top of the Pops. Fluff would also feature in a filmed insert sequence quizzing members of the public about their musical tastes.

The show was seen as the successor to Juke Box Jury and was transmitted the same night as Southern's New Release show, but just as Freeman's show was coming to its conclusion Southern Television gave his Radio One colleague Tony Blackburn a similar show with a more prominent Saturday evening time slot.

After initially reaching six million viewers it soon settled down to four and a half million, enough of a shortfall to pique interest from the press who saw it as a disaster. When it was suggested that the show would not have its run extended Freeman told Melody Maker "I've heard nothing. This is a terrible shock. My agent has heard nothing at all about the show coming off." The show would not be given an extension and was duly sent packing with Freeman reporting for duty back at Top of the Pops almost immediately.

Talking to Record Mirror in July 1974 Freeman said "The BBC gave me three months to get that show off the ground, and that wasn't really long enough. It took Top Of The Pops nine months to get the audience interested in tuning in, yet I was only given three. The idea of the show was to try and bring other artists and other acts on the box, perhaps some of whom would never have seen the light of day on Top Of The Pops. There were a great many critics of the programme, mostly saying that all of the turntables and all of the panel was only back-drop. Everything you could see did really work, and I was cueing in records, and if you remember I was also wearing cans, because the whole time I was talking to you the listener, the producer was shouting instructions in my ear. I thought the whole show was fabulous, and I was very sorry when it was given the chop."

It's assumed that there is no surviving footage of the show.