TV Review – Pop On Trial (BBC4)

BBC4’s Pop season is proving to be fairly enjoyable, with the three part Pop Britannia documentary series, and all manner of resurrected shows and films from the archives. One of the lynchpins of the season is Pop On Trial – a series of five shows chaired by Stuart Maconie that each examine a particular decade, before some kind of vote establishes the “best decade ever” or something equally daft. As a concept it’s pretty fatuous – archive clip and talking head telly at its most basic, with a budget spent mainly on a set of swivel chairs and a big plasma screen. Each show (there have been three so far, covering the 50s, 60s and 70s) has a series of clips illustrating various facets of that decade’s music, followed by a discussion with a trio of middle aged blokes, such as Tony Blackburn, Pete Shelley, Pete Wylie and Neil Innes, which usually boils down to “that was brilliant / that was crap” with a few anecdotes chucked in. And this goes on for an hour. It really ought to be the acme of tedium, but instead it’s like being down the pub with your mates having an earnest, beer-fuelled debate about something essentially trivial which, nevertheless, you all treat with a life-or-death seriousness. It sucks you in to the point that you even join in! It’s so compelling, even Tony Blackburn seems like someone you’d want to go for a pint with. It’s TV aimed squarely, almost manipulatively, at muso saddoes – and I’m ashamed to say that I’m totally hooked.

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