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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999


Record sales begin their irreversible fall at the turn of the new millennium and the lack of public interest in pop music results in ever falling ratings.


The return of the show to Television Centre.


The 2000th edition


Out of the cupboard

Broom Cupboard alumnus Andi Peters becomes the new Executive Producer and makes a curious decision to give more airtime to new releases and even has unsigned acts on the show, alienating the few remaining viewers and possibly treading on the toes of the producers of Later. Former MTV presenter Tim Kash was brought in to host the show, but due to unpopularity Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates were quickly parachuted in to replace him. Cotton still co-presents the Christmas Day / New Year's Eve shows to this day.

The programme is shown on the BBC World Service for the first time.


The lack of confidence the corporation and producers have reflects a poor public image of the show. The Andi Peters re-boot fares badly with the public and by the middle of the year the show is getting just 2.6 million viewers.

In November it is announced that the show will be moved to BBC2 and broadcast on a Sunday night. However it would take another seven months for this to occur. Roly Keating, Controller of BBC2 claimed at the time "It's an exciting era for 'Top of the Pops'. We want to make it bigger and better so that it becomes the ultimate pop music show for music lovers of every generation." This was seen by fans and critics alike as moving the show into a retirement home, never to be visited again.


Maybe I'm crazy

On the 17th July the show moves to BBC2 on Sunday nights to co-inside with the announcement of the new top 40 chart at 7.00 pm. With Fearne Cotton as its sole host the new format would include an archive spot with an old clip inappropriately cropped for widescreen which proved unpopular. The Pops had encroached into Later's territory and the two didn't get along at all. Not cross-promoting each other was a terrible mistake and one that should have been obvious.

2005 saw Britain's first number one which (for the first week) sold purely on downloads alone. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley became the shows' final talking point with the group appearing each week sporting different outfits and performing the song live, albeit in a completely different arrangement to the hit version.

The audience halves but a BBC spokesperson claims "For us, this is not a problem, but a sound transfer." BBC2's Later with Jools Holland is now the music show that people pay attention to, while CBBC's UK Top 40 show also proves popular.

However, it would be one record company's marketing project that would take The Pops to the brink. It was during 2005 that Sony, owners of the Elvis Presley catalogue decided to re-issue all his British number one singles in a limited edition format, with one new release each week. Despite overall sales veering towards cheaper downloads physical sales must have still worth perusing as most of these 'limited edition' releases somehow managed to make it to number one, leading to a poser for the show's producer. What should the show represent? New and established pop and dance acts, or just go with the biggest sellers, which was the remit of the show in the first place. Having Elvis at number one each week proved embarrassing for the show and probably helped the BBC in the decision making process regarding its future. It seemed that the concept of the show confused the people working on it.

Talent shows like The X Factor had taken place of Top Of The Pops by this time, but the irony of an audience not getting the point of The Pops went un-noticed. It wasn't an annual show to see who will win the coveted top spot like X Factor, it was a weekly show to see who will win the coveted top spot.


Go now

The ever changing number of high profile producers who, initially effervescent with joy to be associated with the legendary show realised quickly why the previous producer was to only too happy to move on to "more exciting opportunities." For the last ten years it was just a matter of which producer would be unlucky enough to have plug pulled on them on their watch like a game of musical chairs. The show was expensive, wasn't an award winner and didn't look good to be associated with what was then perceived of as an elderly embarrassment.

On Sunday 30th July 2006 at 7.00 pm Top Of The Pops - The Final Countdown is broadcast, along with a revised repeat of The True Story documentary. The final show gets 3.9 million viewers. No stars turned up for the show, or even sent a pre-filmed greeting. It was not so much a funeral that no-one wanted to go to, but one that no-one wanted to be seen at. While several noted Hollywood legends have made it to their hundredth birthday, no one is truly sad to see them pass away, noting the usual "good innings" quote. There was no such sympathy for The Pops' passing. It was a cheap funeral for an elderly relative no one really liked anymore. Everyone knew it had to go, but curiously no one really knew why. The show had become a nuisance.

At the final show closes Jimmy Savile is seen shutting off the studio lights. Ironically it would also be the last time the public saw the man in anything like a positive light.


On Thursday 7th April 2011 BBC4 begin showing a near-complete run of shows starting with April 1976, however as news of historic sexual assaults committed by several of the hosts becomes public later in the year the run would see many shows skipped over. But the nostalgic lure of repeats on Thursday night at 7.30 pm proves successful with the public and continues to the time of writing, albeit and ironically, moved to Friday nights just as the original show was.


Not surprisingly given the bad press there was no fiftieth anniversary show, while the BBC's own Top of the Pops website www.bbc.co.uk/totp/history/ has not been updated for years. It did for a while have a companion TOTP2 website with a complete database of appearances on Top Of The Pops, albeit in need of amendment, but by the fiftieth birthday even that had been taken down.

The future?

The name and logos (the 'brand') still exist and new clips continued to be recorded for international versions of the show and for TOTP2 until its own own demise. The annual Christmas Day and New Year's Eve shows are still broadcast on BBC1 hosted by Ferne Cotton featuring the biggest hits of the year and are still a concrete part of the Christmas Day schedules, only matched by the Queen's Speech. The Top Of The Pops magazine, launched in 1995, is still (in 2020) published monthly and has survived in a print run where all the previously established music magazines have either folded or gone digital only.

It's possible that the show could take a Top Gear style re-invention, but that show was organic in its re-creation and would also mean involving a dying and disinterested music industry. However, Later with Jools Holland has at time of writing just celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday with no let up in its success and genuine admiration from participants and fans, and those fans would have been brought up on The Pops from the seventies onwards.

A couple of brave attempts by the BBC at a re-imagining of the format occurred. Sound on BBC3 in the late 2000s took an imaginative approach with all the acts performing al fresco, even in the rain sometimes and Sounds Like Friday Night on BBC1 from late 2016 onwards brought back some of The Pops ideas, but it made the mistake of using hosts in comic scenarios between songs. It didn’t make it to a second series.

Talking to Music Week in 1979, celebrating the show's fifteen birthday, Johnnie Stewart claimed "The reason Top Of The Pops is on the air is because of the chart and as long as there is a chart, there is no reason why the programme should not continue." As of the early 2020's there is still a chart of sorts, but despite changing inclusion criteria seemingly every few weeks no one pays it any attention, and despite media speculation that the BBC will bring back the original format and name for a weekly show it so far has resisted.


The 2000s