I Love 1995

Saturday, September 29, 2001 by

On 31 December 1995 me and a few mates decided to commit ourselves to a suitably non-hedonistic activity. We sat down and made some lists. The last 12 months had been the midpoint of the decade. What had it told us about the 1990s so far? What records and films would we rate and which would we rubbish? Would we still think the same in another five years time? While much of the ensuing round table debate focused on what should be the last song we put on the stereo in 1995, we hammered out some conclusions. We then sealed the documents in various envelopes, all of which we promptly lost within a matter of months.

Just as well, perhaps – because I can imagine shuddering with embarrassment reading again the kind of things we thought worth celebrating just six years ago. It was therefore a relief to discover that nothing from our “In” column showed up in I Love 1995. That nothing from the “Out” column did either is not a surprise. Expectations seem to have now fallen so low with this series that each week’s offerings, no matter how ill chosen and badly explained, don’t register that great a shock. It is not worth the energy shouting at Johnny Vegas or Natalie Casey anymore.

Still, trying to fathom the logic behind the bizarre choice of subject matter sets up one kind of viewer-programme relationship, and one has to be better than none at all. Because there are neither means, nor ends, to I Love 1990s, you can get by trying to second guess the series and outwit its production team. So Alanis Morrisette is on – right, who’s going to do the “she didn’t half carry on with that moaning” line, or the one about “nothing very ironic in the lyrics to Ironic”? The programme trades on using those objectionable celebrities as mouthpieces for nationwide-shared reminiscences, but it would be more affirming to see those punch lines delivered competently and with an essence of timing.

Halfway through 1995 I was at the Glastonbury festival and someone walked by with a sign proclaiming “John Major Has Resigned!” which later proved to be both right and wrong. It has stayed with me as the most immediate image of that year and even now triggers off many associate memories about music, people, television and current affairs. Maybe some were connected with the ones being aired on I Love 1995 – but it’s hard to tell seeing as how I was being told on screen first how great the year was, then how bad, then all about the ending of the film The Usual Suspects which I’ve never seen and now don’t want to. “What sort of sick twisted person does that?” Thanks to Emma Kennedy there.

That there weren’t any television programmes as such featured in this edition was suggestive either of rushed production work or the fact there really was not any weathervane telly in 1995. Instead a few archive tapes of The Sunday Show seemed to have come the BBC’s way and which provided footage for both the Dennis Pennis feature and “The Guinness Man”. Those Guinness ads with Joe McKinney flailing to the sounds of Perez Prado and his Orchestra always left me even less inclined to touch a drop of the black stuff. Was the ad ever intended to change minds, or simply to reinforce drinking habits? This kind of debate was passed over in return for a few minutes airtime of McKinney complaining about being recognised and being made to do the dance for years afterwards. The Dennis Pennis clips were too familiar, probably because they were only last repeated a year or so ago. Pennis wasn’t that big a deal, a one-trick pony that was continued for too long. It was irritating to hear Paul Kaye laughing at how it was just all made up in the pub, clearly amused that something so tatty – “punk rock TV” – was now being celebrated as something so fine.

Instead of more on television we had another advert (for CKone – Jamie Theakston said that 1995 “stank” of it) and another film (Braveheart). Six years is a long period, but can so much time have passed to make me forget how important and influential these topics were? The various pundits and clips did not adequately make the case. I Love the Nineties has got increasingly puerile and this week’s filth and fury came in the guise of Club 18-30 ads. Yes, they were always bound to be controversial and yes, they must have made the ad people laugh. And so here were all those phrases again, including two that were vetoed, and once we’d seen them all, well, time to move on again. Unexpected clips from Working Lunch cropped up in both this and the feature on alcopops, which revolved wholly around celebrities moaning about drinking too much and getting hangovers. The poor loves . And was that “Comedy Dave” appearing for just two seconds?

Weird amateurish linking material from an uncomfortable-looking Edwyn Collins in a fake nightclub again suggested the programme had been put together in a rush. One thing this series has been singularly lacking is an accomplished host. Every edition has been blessed with something of an unconvincing turn, and Collins was unfortunately no exception. His “own” segment at the end of the programme was certainly the highlight of I Love 1995, and a reminder of how rarely you hear the word “metaphorically” in a Top 40 chart hit. But everywhere else he could not avoid looking bemused and unconvincing, strumming his guitar and uttering a few half-sung lines cueing in Damian Hirst. Edwyn’s contributions in other sections – such as his thoughts on Hirst, “A proper artist is someone who cuts their ear off” – were actually pretty decent, it was just a shame about the bits in-between. Was he a last minute replacement? It’s unlikely that anyone could have really turned the show into an absorbing hour of television, and that has to stand as the greatest condemnation.

Maybe the programme makers are aware of this. Maybe they are complicit in engineering each edition to aid the gentle onset of tedium, and help us on our way with as bland a selection of talking heads and clips as possible. I came away from this programme sensing that I had been treated rather disdainfully and with contempt. We cannot disturb these few viewers now, the suits say, they have stuck with us this far, it is late in the day, and look – here is a chance to use that footage about alien abductions we couldn’t fit in the other week.

I believe there could be fantastic, totally absorbing programmes to be made about 1997, or 1999, but the fact I feel like we’re not going to get them is frustrating. Meanwhile I couldn’t remember what was the last song on the stereo in 1995 until after the show had finished. It was Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis, which wasn’t in the programme. Tch. Couldn’t they even have mentioned the New Year’s Eve party down our road where the police had to come and turn down the noise?


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