Saturday, July 24, 2004 by

The Radio Times bills CD:UK, ITV1′s Saturday morning music show, thus: “Up-and-coming stars mingle with established names as the musicians of the moment perform live in the studio.” Almost all of this turns out to be nonsense, of course, but after six years of this TOTP variant that’s hardly a shock.

First up is Jennifer Ellison, the former Brookside actress who more recently won Hell’s Kitchen. She sings – well, mimes – an instantly forgettable pop confection called Bye Bye Boy. She also wears a crop top bearing the Beatles logo, proving her stylist, at least, appreciates irony.

Cat Deeley then appears. She’s excited by pretty much everything. If someone were to tap her on the shoulder and tell her Diet Fanta was half price in a shop round the corner she’d probably have a seizure. Breathlessly, Deeley introduces the news segment of the show – the Mercury Music Prize nominees, something inconsequential about Rachel Stevens, something even more inconsequential about Jessica Simpson and then a clip of some appalling Nashville rock outfit.

Next up, Shaznay Lewis, who wrote those catchy All Saints songs. Sadly, her solo material, based on this outing, doesn’t measure up. A tune would have helped, but Deeley at least enjoyed it judging by the way she squeals with delight when it comes to a merciful halt. We’re then onto Hotshots Review, the part of the show where three guests (in this case Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman, that dopey looking frontman Tom from Keane and, oh no, Ellison) discuss a selection of videos.

Dizzee Rascal, last year’s Mercury winner, hardly makes CD:UK-friendly music, so they ignore him and discuss the prize itself.

Ellison believes Busted and McFly should be on the list. “It’s more about being cool,” she says by way of explanation. Bowman, a judge on this year’s panel, does a very good job of not slapping the Liverpudlian popster about her chops, although there isn’t a court in the land that could conceivably have convicted her had she done so. The Libertines, troubled rock outfit much favoured by the NME, are next. Bowman gives her views on the travails of singer Pete Doherty proving that, once away from Colin Murray, she can, after all, talk in complete sentences. Deeley then stokes up some kind of running feud between Keane and The Darkness. Tom, who may or may not be from Middle Earth, plays it down far too politely and reasonably for it to be interesting and it’s back to Ellison to find out if there are any surprising CDs in her collection.

“I judge every song on its own,” she says, earning the sobriquet “eclectic” from Deeley. There isn’t time to work out what on earth she means because Twister, who thieve from an old Bill Withers track – yes, that one – are up next. According to Bowman it’s “subtle.”

After the break, Deeley does a piece to camera in which you get a chance to revel in just how many teeth she seems to have. Did she grow some more during the intermission? There’s plenty of opportunity to ponder this while Avril Lavigne plods through her latest dull single.

While she does, it’s worth noting how little the format and look of this genre of television has changed since TOTP began some 40 years ago. There is, it seems, only one way to put together a studio-based chart music programme and that’s the way it’s always been done. It’s also worth noting that The Chart Show – you want eclectic, Cat, this was eclectic – was axed in favour of what we’re now watching.

Naturally, you’re never more than 15 or so minutes away from Busted, and here they are with their new video. Then it’s Keane live in the studio doing an album track, then it’s a break, then – whoa! – they’re giving away a laptop. Not just a laptop, mind, a laptop, er, signed by Jamelia.

The chart rundown reveals The Streets to be the new number one, Mike Skinner’s literate, and in the case of Dry Your Eyes, mournfully bittersweet brand of pop blows away everything before it. It’s brilliantly performed, too, and just about saves the day. For once, Deeley has underplayed her ubiquitous enthusiasm.

CD:UK isn’t a perfect pop show by any means. This sort of TV relies on a never ending conveyor belt of Busted/McFly/Rachel Stevens/Will Young/Blue/Girls Aloud/Sam and Mark/Liberty X etc etc. That isn’t a problem for the producers. Because of the proliferation of reality shows these ready made pop stars just keep crawling out of the shiny, carefully manufactured woodwork. If you don’t get A and B, you’ll get C and D, and, if you stick around, A and B will turn up eventually. The odd decent, interesting or new act thrown in may just persuade the starry eyed kids in the audience that there is more to be discovered out there, but you can’t really be sure.

However, there’s one very important thing to remember and that’s this: it isn’t Top of the Pops Saturday, and for that we should all be eternally grateful.


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