TV Pop Diaries

Popular Music on British Television

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THE WHITE ROOM

C4 / Initial
11th March 1995 - 23rd August 1996

Live music was the backbone of this, probably the last great pop music TV show of the century.

Not the return to The Tube that everyone was hoping for, but none the less another important step in the rehabilitation of rock music on British television. Produced by Initial Television and featuring many backroom names from The Tube like director Geoff Wonfor and producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey it set out like a fun version of The Old Grey Whistle Test and broadcast on Saturday night, the same time as Later on BBC2.

The first show was a one-off special, made to kick off a reggae night on Channel 4 in the summer of 1994.

It would be one of the first shows to make a virtue of the fact that it was broadcast 'in digital stereo', a technology that broadcasters had been tinkering with since 1974. Eurythmic Dave Stewart wrote and played the theme.

The studio set-out was similar to that used by The Word, basic white with coloured patterns shone on to it with room for the audience to dance, while the professional dancers were either on podiums or behind illuminated screens casting shadows.

The chosen host was Mark Radcliffe, Radio One DJ and host of the previous year’s Channel Four Glastonbury weekend. The series attracted guests who were previously presumed banished from television, unless they had a hit single to plug on Top Of The Pops. The first show (of the series proper) featured a fabulous live set from Stevie Wonder, while the popular mix and match approach was exercised with Ray Davies and Damon Alburn in the next show, while Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher appeared together later in the series’ first run. Prince, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and his transparent trousers, Shane MacGowan tripping over his bass player, all made live appearances as did many of the Britpoppers. Thankfully there were no interviews, boogie woogie or jamming, just big pop stars playing live, just as you'd want them to be, with one or two classic archive clips shown each week as well.

The first series of seven was well received and a New Year's Eve show was commissioned which saw Jo Whiley introduced as a co-host.

After a successful second series a third set of nine shows was commissioned for autumn 1996, but only five were broadcast. A series of repeats were shown up until February 1997.

After a significant shake-up in the Channel Four arts programming department the series seems to be on hold until the announcement that a new series of six had been commissioned. A series featuring no significant new album releases meant that ratings were similarly poor and the series was cancelled in September 1996. The same month saw a spate of re-launch programme suggestions. A rescue plan was announced in which the new Channel Five would take the series while the back catalogue would be shown by LWT / Granada on the ITV network, while a compilation show was to be sold to ABC in America. None of this happened, and producer Chris Cowey was hired by the BBC to produce Top Of The Pops from Summer 1997.