I Love 1996

Saturday, October 6, 2001 by

1996 was a fantastic year for me. I was in the first year of the Sixth Form, enjoying the new-found freedom of free lessons, going to the “biggest fee-paying concert in Britain”, laughing with my friends about the Brit Awards incident between Michael Jackson and Jarvis Cocker, falling in love with wonderful bands like Kenickie, watching Animaniacs, and listening to Radio 1 religiously between the hours of 7pm-12am. After watching I Love 1996, it became clear that I must have been living in a parallel universe for those 12 months.

After the 15-20 second preview of things to come, backed by Beck’s Devil’s Haircut, we start the show proper with a look at the beginnings of The Spice Girls. Or rather, a brief discussion of the video for Wannabe, an even shorter look at the video for Say You’ll Be There (which provides the segment’s only real insight with the director of the video describing the looks of the girls when he showed them what they would be wearing, and Emma Bunton’s contradictory statement immediately following), plus a mention of Girl Power. The talk seems to end before Geri’s departure, which may be followed up in a later episode, depending on how desperate the producers of the show are to fill the final shows. Once again, the American talking heads (Greg Proops and Ice-T) manage to be more entertaining and enlightening than most of the British contingent.

This Life is one of those shows that I never saw, mainly because I spent Thursday nights listening to Collins and Maconie’s Hit Parade on Radio 1. Still, I do remember people going crazy about it during its second series, and the furore that surrounded the decision not to do a third – so its inclusion is probably justified. The creator of the show and the cast were called upon to talk about the characters, and we were given the answer to the not-often asked question: “What happened to Louise Wener since Sleeper spilt up?”, as she turned up as one of the talking heads in this section. I was surprised that there was no discussion about why the programme didn’t go into a third series, but overall, this segment was fairly good, explaining things well enough for someone (like me) who had never seen it before.

The Toy Story segment failed because it didn’t devote all of its time to clips from the film and John Lassiter. Most of the ground covered here was familiar to me already from Andi Peter’s excellent Toy Story documentary of two years ago, and so this five minutes of the show passed by fairly quickly without generating much interest, despite the brilliance of the film itself.

My abiding memory of Mark Morrison is Mark and Lard’s “Hello Mark!” routine that they did while he was in prison, so I was surprised to see him treated with such reverence by the programme. Despite my initial unsympathetic feelings towards his arrest (and I think that most US states do have concealed weapon laws, despite the protestations of his video producers), Mark did have a point when he complained about how Eric Cantona was made to teach football skills to children as punishment, but he was made to clean up a school, rather than – say – teach music. It didn’t justify sending a double to do his work for him, but I understood his reasoning behind the action. Next up is …

Euro 1996. No mention of the abysmal England vs Switzerland match, but the inclusion of Kenny Daglish’s anti-English commentary did prevent it turning into the standard “We would have won, if it wasn’t for those pesky Germans” look at the tournament. Uri Gellar continued his campaign to be first up against the wall when the revolution comes, full of his own self-importance, despite being best known for bending spoons when he thinks no-one is looking. Kevin Day’s brief diatribe against “new” football fans was interesting, but quickly forgotten about, something that seems to happen often with this series.

It seems that we’ve skipped The Word, so instead we get The Girlie Show, which managed to extract the few noteworthy features of its predecessor, leaving a rotten mess of explicit and attention-seeking items, and not much else. The only redeeming feature of the whole enterprise appears to be Lisa Rogers, who despite her general “Oh my God! Did we do that?” approach during this series and I Love the Eighties, shot up in my estimation when she told the story of how she tried to prevent the “naked apes” from fouling the Blue Peter garden. For once, she seemed earnest and caring, something normally lacking from her appearances on these clip shows.

The segment on Trainspotting highlighted the frustration in watching this series. When people who are actually involved in the film are talking, like Kelly Macdonald remembering the time when her mum visited the set, it is interesting. When a bunch of almost-famous celebrities talk about the film, the programme quickly becomes boring, as they seem to repeat themselves quite often, and have no real insight to shine on the topic. And anyway, I’ve always thought A Life Less Ordinary was the best of the Hodge/Boyle/McGregor films, despite the critical mauling it received. Still, at least they didn’t bring up the “subtitled” US release (a long standing urban legend).

The Macarena feature was similar. Los Del Rio helpfully explain the origin of the song and the dance, we see some clips of people performing the dance, and the talking heads have a good laugh, although I imagine that most of them were doing it at the time. It was good to see Al Gore at the Democrat ’96 Convention, displaying some self-deprecating humour, which seemed to disappear in 2000.

Finally, we have Tomb Raider. And Lara Croft. Despite the male-dominated image that computer gaming has projected over the years, female characters have been around for decades. After a bit of history re-writing, Lara becomes the first time computer games players have ever seen women. Toby Gard’s dissatisfaction with the way that Eidos portrayed Lara Croft to entice publicity seems to go unsaid, and the show peters out into the advert for next week’s I Love 1997, playing Slight Return by The Bluetones.

The overall feeling I’m left with is boredom. Did I really just spend an hour watching a programme that didn’t even manage to excite me about Toy Story? Although watching the past five shows lowered my expectations quite considerably, it was still a disappointment. I have even less desire to see the fun drug-related comments that the celebrities will undoubtedly make about the Teletubbies next week.

Instead, I’m going to break out my tapes of The Evening Session from 1997 and have a good time…


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