Why is Top of the Pops only good enough for once a year?

Published December 30, 2013

This year, I was quite excited to see the Top of the Pops Christmas special, because it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t seen much, if any, of the TOTP brand through the year. I used to watch the 1970s editions that were showing on BBC Four but soon bored of that.

I remember last year, there was a festive edition on both Christmas Day and New Year’s, and although there were some acts who couldn’t even be bothered to change between programmes, it was still brilliant.

I may have a selective taste in music and not be hugely down with the kids anymore, but I still enjoy a good music show.

The question is, why do they only roll out Top of the Pops once a year? When they took it off air originally, there was an outcry, but it also felt like the format needed a rest.

That was way back in 2006, and in the last few years I’ve really felt there is a live music element missing on the box. You get your festival coverage, and you get your nostalgia from TOTP2 (which doesn’t make much sense now there’s no TOTP1), there’s the occasional full gig on late, and there’s an eclectic selection available for Jools Holland fans. But there’s not an awful lot else available, and little of it on a regular basis.

The only two reasons I can think of for the show not being on air is that a) it doesn’t think it can compete with the X Factors of the world, probably unhappy about advertising their products, and b) the charts these days are all a bit skewed, with old and new intermingled.

At this point, I can’t see that a) is that much of a problem, although it’s telling that Simon Cowell wanted to buy the format and the BBC said it wasn’t for sale, even though they’re not using it. The BBC have their own properties to protect but are still supposed to be neutral about stuff like where the music has come from.

And with regards to b), the way the charts are is something to get excited about, not ignored. It’s a chance to tell stories about why old songs have popped up again, or introduce new and rising stars. The older songs create an opportunity for experimenting. Mashups, reunions, live covers, even a dance troupe (with so much Strictly love, and the increase in favour of groups like Diversity, this isn’t so dated as it sounds).

It just feels like the BBC are missing something huge here. That Friday night feeling didn’t just disappear because TOTP went away, it has to have been directed somewhere else. They can get that attention back, artists get a chance to promote their songs, and viewers like me can stay at least slightly up to date with what’s happening in music. What’s not to like?

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