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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

The Roxy was ITV Network’s attempt to steal some of the thunder from BBC’s Top Of The Pops which was enjoying a new lease of life, not only in Britain, but abroad, particularly in America. The success of the Network Chart, a weekly top forty show, run on the ILR radio network since 1985 was the reason the ITV Network gave for the commission. However, off-screen problems led the project to be nearly abandoned.

The show was hotly contested by many of the ITV’s franchises with Zenith Television (an off-shoot of Central Television) the joint leader with Tyne-Tees, who had made the successful, but recently de-commissioned The Tube. In addition the ITV Network were certain that they didn’t just want a Top Of The Pops clone, despite both shows being based on sales charts.

The host of the show was in no doubt, Dave Jensen, who was the host of the radio equivalent was immediately hired. He had also presented the final series of Razzamatazz in 1986, so already had a contact with Tyne Tees. The co-host was to be the real problem. The original female co-host had backed out three weeks before the first show, and was replaced by the relatively unknown Irish TV presenter Kevin Sharkey.

The producer of the series was Alistair Pirrie, the man behind Razzamatazz, while the studio was the one that had been used for The Tube. The set design was based on a Victorian ballroom, with just one stage, restricting the ‘live’ aspect. In fact the show was never broadcast live, being recorded the night before. The chart was compiled by The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) and announced on Friday morning, giving the producers until Monday evening to put the show together. BMRB had been compiling the chart for Top Of The Pops until 1983, but had lost the contract to Gallup. ITV awarded the show its own Oracle text number 196 so viewers could see the chart and who was going to be on the show as the TV Times couldn’t predict who would be on that far in advance.

The first show went on the air, but there were still problems since many of the ITV affiliates couldn’t agree when to show it. Tuesday evening had been agreed by the Network (with a repeat on the Saturday morning), but it was left to the individual stations to make a timeslot available. Fearing that it would mean moving the successful farming soap Emmerdale Farm, The Roxy was put head to head with BBC1’s EastEnders, Britain’s number one rated show at the time. The programme was jockeyed from slot to slot in the regions from 6:30 to 7:30, causing friction between ITV and the show’s sponsor Nescafe. However the first show reached a respectable 7.3 million, plus another 1.7 million for the Saturday morning repeat.

Although the thirty minute show featured a top thirty chart it often went outside the chart remit when the artists made themselves available. But despite attracting several major names including Paul McCartney most acts were reluctant to make the trek to Newcastle just for a single performance. At least with The Tube you could perform a short live set.

Benny Brown was brought in to look at the international music scene, but this section didn't last long, while the show would have a scrolling music news banner at the bottom of the screen. There would also be a chart update as a voice-over at the end.

By the beginning of 1988 the show underwent a re-boot. Now re-Christened The Roxy / The Network Chart Show Dave Jensen was now only to be heard in voice-over while Paul Nolan and Pat Sharp had joined to co-host with Kevin Sharkey. The Simon May theme is now replaced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman featuring Bananarama. The show is now produced by Gordon Elsbury with Associate Producer Dave Jensen, a job presumably given to him as a sweetener. The set and scenery had also been given an overhaul, but it was too late. On Tuesday 23rd February 1988 ITV announced that the show was to be cancelled. By this time Thames TV had been showing it at 12.35 am and playing fifteen year old repeats of Bless This House in its intended early evening slot instead.

The final show was broadcast live on Tuesday 5th April 1988. Co-host Kevin Sharkey refused to appear so it was down to Pat Sharp, Dave Jensen and Paul Nolan. The costly set was blown up at the end, while The Shangri Las' Leader of the Pack played.

Critical reaction was predictable enough, nicknamed “The Poxy” by more than one journalist. After the plug was pulled ITV fell back on Saturday morning’s The Chart Show video clip show to fill the pop gap.

Pop would become London-centric again as the only reasonable replacement would be CD:TV in the nineties.


Tyne Tees

9th June 1987 - 5th April 1988