In mid-October, in the midst of the announcement that the BBC was to reprise a Top of the Pops style show, I wrote this piece for Clash as a sort of wishlist, a compilation of thoughts that could be the key to the show - Sounds Like Friday Night - succeeding.
Lo and behold though, as Sounds Like Friday Night reaches the end of its six show run, it seems like this programme not only doesn’t appeal to me, but doesn’t really appeal to anybody. Genuinely, this show has no niche, no appeal to music fans, and certainly no appeal to the casual viewer who self-describes as “not really into music”.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact point, where the programme consigned itself to inevitable cancellation. There is no particular part of Sounds Like Friday Night that is particularly awful, every second of it falls flat, and it’s hard to know where to start. But if I explain the premise to those that haven’t seen it, I’m sure we’ll start on a grimace.
The premise is thus; big name musicians almost seem to co-host the show alongside charisma voids Greg James and Dotty, a duty which includes performing a few songs and also partaking in truly awful comedy skits.
Consequently, alongside having to hear tracks by Foo Fighters or Dizzee Rascal – both a long time past their sell by date - you’ll also have to watch the least famous/attractive (delete as appropriate) one from One Direction standing in a lift in an attempt to surprise the public. There’s something that’s simply sad about watching things that aim for comedy and miss so spectacularly; these sketches are too bad to be genuinely funny, and too boring to be ‘so bad it’s good’.
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The selection of music on Sounds Like Friday Night is simply uninspired, and perhaps more importantly doesn’t sound like Friday night. An abundance of Top 40 hits, varying in quality, with the occasional token noughties indie band. What made Top of the Pops great was that it galvanised families, the most extravagant of pop stars were placed alongside storming post-punk tunes, thunderous dance pioneers, and a caliber of rock and indie streets ahead of the tired Royal Blood and Kasabian cliches that adorn Sounds Like Friday Night.
The music on Top Of The Pops was obviously booked with love, by experts of their field. Sounds Like Friday Night feels like it was compiled by the same man that makes the Father’s Day compilation CDs you can buy at Sainsbury’s, after he’d spent a long period in the wilderness with nothing but Radio 1 for company. How strange, that a TV show based in London, the world’s grime epicentre, would almost completely dodge the genre, whilst also turning a blind eye to the city’s fertile electronic and guitar music scenes.
Something as drab and uninspiring as Sounds Like Friday Night encourages casual viewers and obtuse indifference, whereas the music shows of the past were catalysts for fandom and mania. How many people of a certain age say “seeing David Bowie do Starman on Top of the Pops changed my life”? It must be enough to fill a League One football ground. Now try and imagine the same volume of people with lives forever changed by Craig David and Dan from Bastille duetting on Sounds Like Friday Night?
It feels bleak and overly pessimistic to say it, but a new music TV show on the BBC gave me so much hope, but as Sounds Like Friday Night continues it feels like everything from Pandora’s Box but hope has weaseled its way on screen. Uncharismatic presenters are one thing, but selecting only the most boring artists operating in dance, pop and rock today ensures that Sounds Like Friday Night will never have a passionate following.
Where Top of the Pops gave airtime to artists like The KLF, Public Enemy, Kate Bush and The Specials, Sounds Like Friday Night has no desire to subvert in such a manner. Perhaps you could argue that the pop mainstream has got a lot more safe, and so any programme reflecting this would do the same. But that doesn’t excuse the mediocrity of the show; exciting music really isn’t that hard to find, especially for someone literally being paid to program a music TV show.
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Words: Cal Cashin
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