Saturday, June 12, 2004

LATER... THAN YOU THINK?: Michael Jackson will be pleased, on returning to the BBC for the top job, to discover that some parts of his Late Show grand projet still remain, like the remains of a greater civilisation. It's a coincidence that the two surviving chunks of the old cultural warhorse - The Newsnight Review (nee The Late Review) and Later... With Jools Holland - now hunker down next to each other at the twilight end of BBC Two's Friday schedule, much as they used to do on Thursday nights when both were in their infancy. Newsnight Review occasionally touches on new releases, and last night's show sampled The Killer's album, but it's not entirely clear why: Germaine Greer hardly strikes me as someone who keeps her CD rack topped up with new releases, and as such, her dismissal of the album came across less the sort of knowledgeable dissection of the subject ballet and movies receive on the programme; more a parent asking that the noise be turned down. There is room on television for an intelligent music review programme, but Newsnight Review isn't really the place for it.

Nor, of course, is Later... With Jools Holland, which is now in its 390th series. There's some suggestion that the programme has worn out its welcome a little now, and while nobody would want to see it axed for the sake of it, it does give off a feeling of being just a bit grating. The opening titles, of Jools pointing at pictures of The Great Acts of series past, should only be watched alone as they appear to have been specially designed to raise the desire of the audience to punch someone repeatedly; the swirl-around-as-all-the-bands jam would work as a way of introducing the bands if Jools didn't then dance around the studio and do it all over again; and then, of course, there's been the attempts to lend the show some atmosphere by having an audience of celebs and hangers-on. When the programme started, there wasn't this strange bunch of figures hovering at the edges, like a cross between woodland creatures peering from the fringes of the forest and a Top of the Pops during the fuel crisis, and it really doesn't make the show any better having them there. Whistle Test got some really great performances simply by not having any audience at all - for a lot of artists used to grandstanding, taking away the gallery they're usually playing to sets them free to give the show of their lives. Other programmes, with a proper audience, at least manage to build up a sense of feedback and connection. Later's halfway measure doesn't do anything - a few chums and a couple of sub-Hello faces creates the feeling that the band are doing a quick turn at their secretary's leaving do and hardly brings out the best in anyone. Worse, it gives Jools an excuse to do some interviews with the faces who've turned up - so in this edition, we got to hear from Edith Bowman and Colin Murray - Bowman, with her homecut fringe and gardener's shirt looking more and more like the daughter Harold Steptoe never had; Murray coming across like the husband she'd got married beneath herself to.

Still, there's always the music, and even a mixed bag guarantees some delights. If you can ignore Jet - it's easy to forget in fingering them as a feral Oasis that they also have horrifying spells of sounding like Lenny Kravitz, and Charlie Musslewhite and Eric Bibb - sorry, if Chris Rea is busy, why not just leave the slot empty? - there's a lot here to enjoy: Hope of The States sounding like a melodic Cardiacs; Donna Summer, looking a great advert for either homophobic uberChristianity or Dr. Scalpel's No Questions Asked Face Boutique, and sounding wonderful despite being pressganged into Jool's contractual 'I'm playing the piano' piece; and Toot and the Maytals, who must spend an awful lot of time wondering why the world embraced the Wailers instead of their superior sound.

Oh, and I know this is probably heresy, but Bebel Gilberto looks rather over smug for someone who appears to be doing little more than singing Agadoo in Portuguese.

Maybe it's time the show gave itself a bit of an overhaul; the lets-do-the-show-right-here gimmicks that were so charming in the first series sit awkwardly with the flogging of DVDs and Cds and the whole cottage industry grown up round the show.

[This post also appears on Blogcritics]


katkin said...

Someone needs to stop sucking lemons and just enjoy things once in a while! Try remembering that maybe it's not you Later... is appealing to. Jet are a good band: though possibly not great live, they still play some damn good songs; Charlie Musslewhite and Eric Bibb were both excellent and very bluesy; Hope of The States were actually atrocious: someone teach that boy to sing, please!; Donna Summer was delightful; Toot and the Maytals were amazing as usual - I have to agree with my Dad when he says they're the second best band ever to come out of Jamaica (Bob Marley IS the best whatever you think); and Bebel Gilberto, while she does seem to be cashing in on her surname quite a bit, does have a nice voice and sang that other song wonderfully.
See? It's not that hard to write a post completely to my own opinion. Later... is a great show: how many other tv programs have so many different types of music and so many great names in one episode? Later... encourages people to watch all styles of music, not just the ones they normally listen to, and frequently they find themselves enjoying styles they thought they hated.
However you feel about things, normally your posts are less opinionated and I enjoy them: I suppose you're bound to have a biased one once in a while! Keep blogging on, soldier, but watch things a tad more open-mindedly in future? ;)

Anonymous said...

what dyou young jools wld say to new jools - now less abt the grrovy fuckers, more abt old farts

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