Saturday, April 15, 2006

The end of Popworld as we know it

Regular readers of EC1 Cruise Control will be aware that I was not raised here in England. So when I first moved here in 2002 as a fresh-faced journalism exchange student, I had a fair bit of cultural catching up to do. The necessity of this became even more apparent when I decided to stay on permanently: having lived without a television in the halls of residence for a year, I was almost completely cut off from what the English actually watched when they got home from work. When memorably asked who I would choose to shag if the only two men left on earth were Jasper Carrot and Jim Davidson, my reply was, "Who's Jim Davidson?" (NB: Having lived with a TV in this country for several years, I can now see the complete unimportance of being au fait with Mr Davidson's canon of work).

I was never going to be able to participate in water-cooler conversations at this rate! Nothing for it, then, but to surround myself with as much UK pop culture as I could find. I watched Newsnight and Celebrity Big Brother, and everything in between. I read interviews with anyone from Nancy Dell'Olio to Nick Griffin. I took down scribbled notes during Saturday Kitchen. I drifted off to the Shipping Forecast. I awoke to Lauren Laverne on Xfm. I saw the Streets at Brixton Academy. I developed a nerdish crush on Mark Lamarr after watching too much Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I listened to endless bloody conversations between friends (you know who you are) on the relative highpoints of Alan Partridge, Jam and The Day Today, none of which I had then seen, but all of which I have since been subjected to viewing repeatedly (admittedly a fantastic experience).

One of the things I always secretly looked forward to during this bout of cultural immersion therapy was watching Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver hosting Popworld on Sunday mornings on Channel Four. Sadly, today saw the last-ever episode of the programme with Simon and Miquita at the helm. On the surface, Popworld was nothing special - just another chart show with video clips, "wacky" presenters and interviews of sullen pop acts du jour. But for me, it was a revelation.

Unlike the two music TV channels where I grew up (and also unlike TOTP here), Simon and Miquita never fawned over the bands they interviewed on Popworld. In fact, it seemed that nine times out of ten, they either openly mocked them or didn't even seem to care that they were there. By making the whole show about the presenters, rather than the singers, they were able to brilliantly send up even the most serious and egotistical of the rock stars who appeared on their sofa. Miquita in particular was fab at doing this; the queen of deadpan, her quiet awe at the musings of Craig David were so overtly dripping in sarcasm that the only person who didn't appear to be in on the joke was Craig David himself. It was the kind of show that simply wouldn't exist in North America, and for that, I loved it.

I don't pretend to know exactly why they have left the show or what they will be doing next. It's been five years since they first appeared on Popworld, I believe, so I suppose it was time to move on. Miquita, I think, will remain as a T4 co-host on Sundays with Welsh Steve Whatshisface, and Simon Amstell is apparently attempting a career in stand-up comedy (eek). Their replacements on Popworld are a duo by the names of Alexa and Alex - more than a bit too cutesy for me already, but I'm willing to give them a shot. Still, part of their predecessors' success was precisely their lack of mainstream cutesiness; they were the Ally Sheedy to TOTP's Molly Ringwald.

But yeah - all this to say that Sunday morning hangover telly has just lost a little bit of its familiar glow for me (not least because Popworld has actually been broadcast on Saturdays for awhile now, durrr). Amstell and Oliver will forever remind me of my earliest years in London, waking up dehydrated after a night at The Bull or the Bricklayers Arms.

* * *

UPDATE: Barbara Ellen has an interview with Simon and Miquita in today's Observer.


At April 16, 2006 12:39 am, Blogger Ohdave said...

Did you see Simon Amstell guest presenting Never Mind the Buzzcocks? Fecking funny...

Ok nothing too profound there but I was dying to tell someone

At April 16, 2006 10:20 am, Blogger Lady M said...

No I didn't, unfortunately! But I can imagine it would've been brilliant. Much better than when Joan Collins did it, and spent most of the night visibly reading from the autocue.... Was he on recently, then?


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