The responsibility for this particular posting just for a change lies not with my own sick imagination, but in fact an old colleague and friend called Laurence Lennard who runs a video production company called Yada Yada Productions. They are naturally superb and should be your default choice for any video production needs.
I know this, because he emailed me a few weeks ago to say he was clearing out some boxes recently and came across a video tape which he identified as mine, one which I had given to him to potentially digitise some eight years ago, back in the day when not all of us had the means to turn old fashioned tape into magical shiny digital bits. Said tape duly arrived in the post, giving me the chance to relive a brief (two weeks in fact) but rather fun time in my life when I became a weekly TV pundit.
The programme in question was Zero 30, an entertainment roundup which was broadcast on BBC News 24 at half past midnight every weekday (hence the name). I often tuned in to it to hear my own words read back to me, as their weekly roundup of the latest singles chart was often accompanied by a voiceover that featured facts and figures which I could have sworn were lifted from the dotmusic commentary I’d put online a week before. It turns out they were, my suspicions confirmed in April 2000 when I received a email from the programme editor:
Hey, if they are going to nick your work the least worst thing they can do is to ask you to come on and use your words yourself on their programme. After a quick telephone chat it was agreed that I would travel down and appear on one of the last few Zero 30 shows before they came off air to launch the new BBC Choice show, and so this was how I found myself on the afternoon of May 1st 2000, on a train down to London ready to appear on live TV in the middle of the night.
My BBC taxi collected me from my sister’s house and I was sped to TV centre and ushered into the newsroom where waiting for me were Christopher Price and the chap from Uncut magazine who would also be a guest on the show. Being a bank holiday this was clearly a far more relaxed atmosphere than normal and indeed the whole programme had an end of term feel to it. They were in their last couple of weeks, winding down and getting ready to move onto something else very exciting. All I had to do was show that I was worthy of being a part of it. After a short wait around the corner from the set, during which time I chatted with the autocue typist who it turned out had been at school with Mel B from the Spice Girls, I was ushered on set, had a microphone clipped to my shirt and was live to the nation for the first time in my life.
A few things to note here. First of all oh my God did my hair look stupid that day. I was pretty much unemployed at the time, so trips to the barbers were something of a premium product which had to be rationed. At the very least the style, plus the power and studio lighting made me look incredibly pretty. Also it was clear that whatever enthusiasm I had for music chart facts and figures on paper was not necessarily going to come across in a series of TV sound-bites, so for all that the programme team were fans of my work, I don’t think I was the most exciting pundit in the world, even for ten to one in the morning.
Nonetheless, everyone seemed happy with the way it turned out, and we returned to the newsroom afterwards for a chat and a coffee, before I was ushered back down to reception to await my BBC taxi home. I ended up sharing a sofa with Jenny Agutter who just happened to be there that evening as well, as if the whole thing wasn’t showbiz enough.
One week later I was back in the same seat again for a second bite at the apple. This time the whole atmosphere was a little more business-like, although it was another marvellous rite of passage to be sat in the newsroom during the pre-show briefing and chatting to showbiz reporting legend Rick Sky who was also on the show that night whilst he read the printout of my column that week with intense fascination.
Yes, this time round I’d had the much needed haircut, was slapped down by the host for trying to build my part with a gag, and for some reason decided the most comfortable way to sit was slumped forward across the desk with the chair some distance behind me. Whereas on the previous show I had slipped off the set once my slot had finished and could watch the rest of the show go out, this time my crisply dressed researcher minder whisked me away the moment the cameras were off me and I was more or less back on the street of White City before the show had even finished. Talk about efficient.
It will doubtless not have escaped your attention that the brand new Liquid News show on BBC Choice debuted a few weeks later without any contributions from yours truly. It is entirely possible that the whole “get the chart expert on screen to be a chart expert” didn’t really make for very exciting television and so the idea was quietly dropped. I also have a suspicion that the producers quickly realised that a slot at 8.30pm on a mainstream entertainment channel meant that the door was open to get actual celebrities on as guests, rather than the parade of semi-anonymous talking heads that a post-midnight show on a news channel was having to make do with. Either way, my glittering TV career was over as soon as it had begun, leaving me with just the memories – until the video tape dropped through my door once again.
Once more, this posting was made possible by the excellent and talented people at Yada Yada Productions, whose website and portfolio you are all going to check out. Aren’t you?