I Love 1990

Saturday, August 18, 2001 by

With the clip show format arguably starting to go off the boil, if we need anything at the moment we need a sense of strangeness, otherness, distance, among programmes of this genre. I Love the Nineties therefore seems rather unnecessary and pointless, and to have come too soon.

That said, this programme was better than it could have been: as a summary of 1990s pop-cultural trends it was pretty good (with the exception, of course, of the Manchester “baggy” movement and, unforgivably, craze of the year Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which had been shoehorned into the late 1980s editions). With Sheryl Lee fronting the show, Twin Peaks was an inevitable lead-off, and I wouldn’t argue with the inclusion of GoodFellas. The lengthy feature on supermodels – Linda Evangelista, Elle Macpherson et al – revealed how much the culture of obsessive style and marketing of the self so characteristic of the ’80s had embedded itself in modern life (remember here that, in 1990, much was made of “The Caring, Sharing ’90s” and some kind of notional shift away from those values).

Other sequences were fun but didn’t tell us anything new: the sequence on “New Man” imagery in car adverts smacked of filler, though the advert featuring “God Bless the Child” sticks in the mind, and top marks for tracking down the actual girl who appeared in it, complete with her mum. But we’ve been told too often how iconic Gazza’s tears in the 1990 World Cup were, how great New Order’s World in Motion was, and how the tournament was the turning point for football away from its ’80s image of hooliganism towards its 90s success and fashionability. Hearing all this again can only bring on a “Yeah, so what?” sort of reaction, though the Des Lynam clips showcased the man at the peak of his game. And I was never much of a fan of Nick Park’s Creature Comforts, though the excellent research that has always run through these programmes (more so than with any other nostalgia strand) was in evidence when some of the “men on the street” whose voices were featured in the films turned up.

There was some great music on show: Adamski was, briefly, the great pop star to come out of the acid house scene (itself already covered in the 1988 programme), and the clip of his Top of the Pops performance of NRG in early 1990 with its anachronistic Legs and Co dancers brought out of retirement showed how out of touch the programme – like daytime Radio 1 – was becoming at this point. Killer remains an awesome single (shame that, apart from Crazy which we also heard, Seal never did anything to match it). It was fun to see his amateurishly keyboard-smashing Smash Hits Poll Winners Party performance of the punky flop Flashback Jack as well.

MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice were both hugely popular for a brief moment at the start of the ’90s, and fit the remit of these shows to capture the ephemeral and fly-by-night, their success having been incredibly short-lived but symbolic of a particular time. Both were unable to make any significant comeback and neither could regain credibility with hip-hop audiences after their pop stardom – although both had their part to play in hip-hop becoming the world’s biggest-selling musical style. Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U is still brilliant, though, and the video can never be shown enough. The vogueing sequence was justified for me simply by its featuring one of Madonna’s best ever singles.

The Simpsons sequence underlined the problem of these short-term nostalgia shows – great as the programme is, and necessary as it is sometimes to be reminded of the poorer, Bart-centric early episodes (“Don’t have a cow, man!” etc.), how can you have a whole sequence of nostalgia for a show that is still running today? Obviously most references were in the present tense, and this is something which will clearly become more and more common as the decade flows on and we cover more and more phenomena which are still with us, therefore taking the I Love format well away from its original, purest form.

I felt the same way about the sequence on Baywatch (which amazingly only finished last year) and seemed fairly pointless – though well done to the producers and pundits on avoiding the same old “joke” about David Hasselhoff being a big pop star in Germany (ha bloody ha).

In the absence of the familiar pundits we heard more from the likes of Jim White and, alas, Chris Moyles, who was thankfully almost invisible here but who I fear will take a more prominent role as the decade wears on. And far too much from Paul Ross.

Overall verdict, then: decent and often entertaining stuff, but it seemed slower and more plodding to me than the ’70s and ’80s editions, and I reckon the short-termism of this series’ starting principle will become more and more obvious, more of a hindrance, and make it less and less interesting.


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