Friday, February 13, 2009

Fleet(wood)? Fox's

Every year the Brits are advertised as "the event at which anything can happen", blithely ignoring that the things that do happen either occur off-screen (Chumbawamba and John Prescott), are missed by the main show director and much of the press until later (Jarvis) or are things you really wouldn't want highlighting for your own PR good (Sharon Osbourne last year). Still, at least they make the effort. Unlike the hosts of the awards that took place twenty years ago today.

Wikipedia: "The Samantha Fox/Mick Fleetwood show proved to be the single most important event in BPI/BRIT Awards history. It was just so disastrous that the British public's interest was revived and the BRITs became associated with risky live TV." Mmm. Except the following year the whole production ethos changed, ratings collapsed and the awards weren't shown on live TV again until 2007. Here's a more accurate point - why Mick Fleetwood? Sam you can just about see, even if she'd passed her prime as tabloid feature of the day and even her music career had stalled in the UK. Fleetwood? Tango In The Night had resuscitated Fleetwood Mac's career a couple of years earlier and our man in some know assures us it was with half an eye on selling it to an international audience, this being the first year of the Brits as opposed to the BPI Awards, but it's still not enough to throw the drummer in at the deep end, no matter how 'quirky' or how comical the whole size difference is. There were troubles after that - the rehearsal times went to arse, the autocue got moved out of the presenters' eyeline and, by his own admission, Fleetwood was pissed - but chiefly it all looked like a monstrous cock-up and small clips have only ever been excavated for pointing and laughing purposes.

If only there was some sort of service to which people could upload things previously videoed, eh?

The BPI have been quick in the past to take down awards clips but this has been up for five months at time of writing so fingers crossed. Scary thing is, given the little and large aspect you'd be forgiven for thinking the standing in wrong place business halfway through was planned, but then Sam goes and comments on it in such a way that it blows the gaff. First comment of the night and they've already blown it. It's also odd, given the more loose interpretations in recent years of the hosting business, how stilted those opening remarks seem even though they're essentially just setting a scene where "anyone who's anyone in the record business is here tonight". Then Mick goes and removes his hat while off camera, which buggers up continuity too. This was the first year they had ver kids in the audience, and the deceleration from jet engine volume to near silence as Fox namechecks Michael Jackson and then Bruce Springsteen really is something. Then there's Phil Collins turning up without Julian Lennon, and then Julian Lennon sheepishly showing up in lieu of the first award winner, and then four grown adults standing around sheepishly. Live on BBC1.

To stop this being a forest of embeds, here's the other nine parts with synopses:

Two: The winners eventually show their faces, get horrible mike feedback, scream and try to piss off early. The tone is set. The Christians are nominated for Best British Group, which leads to the celebrated Four Tops introduction, where Mick ploughs on regardless ("they're totally compos mentis, whatever that means") of Sam having introduced them too early and indeed trying to introduce them again throughout, and then having to admit "you don't look like 'em, George!" Brilliantly, they come on to present the next award instead but Mick starts introducing Boy George anyway as bringing "a touch of class, and a touch of culture... which is not the case". You said it. It's as this point they lose an exclusive video message from Michael Jackson, meaning the show underruns, leading to all sorts of malarkey come the end.

Three: Fourth award: Sam completely loses her place mid-introduction and has to glance off to the wings to get assurance, and following the nominees video package comes this mightily effective piece of crosstalk: "Who's it gonna be, Sam?" "I dunno, because I can't see..." "Wind away!" "OK. *pause* Only one award, Mick." Then she seems to completely lose composure and turns away while still on camera. The Pasadenas and Steve Winwood are nominated for Best British Album, Fairground Attraction win it, and with that ringing endorsement of the future of British music it's just as well nobody makes a cock-up around it at last.

Four: Mick spectacularly misses his cue while personal grooming takes place. The director gives up and puts the next nominations VT on while Mick is still introducing it. Godley & Creme - Godley & Creme! - present the award, about which Mick makes a completely baffling joke about postmen. Yazz, inventing Agyness Deyn's hairstyle, performs a song that we have never consciously heard before. Mark Knopfler and - hello, teenagers! - Alan Price are wheeled on to announce the formation of the Brits School, and how prescient this anniversary suddenly seems. Price points out then Education Secretary Kenneth Baker, who nearly gets booed out of the building. And they wonder why things had to change.

Five: The first minute of this might be the greatest minute of broadcasting ever committed to the electromagnetic spectrum. Bill Wyman, Ronnie Wood and an unannounced Gary Davies, who from the way he belatedly walks on clearly isn't sure whether he's supposed to be there yet, arrive on stage to announce Best Newcomer. Everyone chooses this moment to look at each other like lemons ("prompt!") until Wood ventures "do you want me to tell you who's won?" - it's also worth noting that nobody has actually said what the award is - at which Davies suggests "are you not going to have a look at the possibilities first?" Possibilities unforthcoming, a full minute after their introduction Wood seizes the initiative despite a late prevention attempt from Davies, still pining for his possibilities. Brilliantly, winners Bros have their feet up on the dais in front of them when the camera cuts to them. Next one's fine, apart from Fox stumbling all over her intro, but introducing the next live band the pair only succeed in falling over each other. "I reckon we're talking heavy heavy metal! Woo!" "I see. How heavy is that, I wonder?" "Well, pretty..." "We're talking heavy metal, here is Def..." "Leppard!" "Leppard!"

Six: Our hosts try some comedic intechange, veteran comedy writer Geoff Atkinson given the unenviable task of scripting all this that will never properly be used due to circumstance. That it's to introduce the Best Classical Recording award suggests it's long been abandoned to deaf ears. Someone called Trevor Pinnock wins and gets the shortest award winner shrift you've ever heard. The script for Best Film Soundtrack has Mick inform us that without due "the whole show might grow to an abysmal halt", which he creditably delivers without irony. Sam introduces Justin Hayward and Belinda Carlisle only for a third gentleman to join them. Sam is then given the line, regarding Tanita Tikaram, that "it's still possible for a female to sell her songs and not her image". How the producer must have laughed at that one.

Seven: Ken Russell co-presents Best Video. There's a routine about the height difference that we're not entirely sure was in the script going on Sam's reaction. Phil Collins, having apologised for Anne Dudley's absence when picking up Best Soundtrack, sheepishly admits she was there before a worryingly manaical laugh and a speech that threatens never to end. Mick, who keeps rubbing his hands together, makes a joke about Rick Astley that nobody picks up on (he'd been cut off from picking up an award the previous year because the event was overrunning).

Eight: Tina Turner has to stop Annie Lennox walking off stage the wrong way. The silences are getting longer. Bros perform. The chairman of the BPI tells Mick he's "done a wonderful job for us tonight". Presumably that was on the autocue. With a script in eyesight he's better. Not by much, but the improvement is there.

Nine: Cliff Richard, who actually runs to the stage, picks up the lifetime achievement award, but he's been introduced too early. Obviously. Cliff looks like he's going to give it some in his big moment, except it turns out to be the extended build-up to giving the entire audience a dressing down for booing Kenneth Baker. Their reaction is notably less enthusiastic after that, as we suspect is the director's after he walks right across the front of the presentational podium in shot. And who's closing the whole shebang? Er, "a unique combo", Mark Knopfler and Randy Newman plus everyone else they could think of.

Ten: And the fantastic thing is, it's just Newman - that's a British youth pop culture extravaganza closed by Randy Newman, everyone - doing his new single as the centrepiece of everyone they could round up. Once it's staggered to a barely acknowledged finish our hosts bid farewell, only for Mick to be handed a card telling him to introduce some Bros videos, only to completely go back on it and get Newman and co to reprise. Falling off the air is an understatement, especially as it's still underrun and BBC1 has to show the Drop The Boy video to hit the news on time, but fitting nonetheless.


23 Daves said...

Oh, it's all come flooding back to me now, even the billing of Newman and Knopfler as "The Mark Knopfler Supergroup".

Interestingly, Randy Newman's single still completely failed to get into the Top 100 in the days following transmission, despite being hammered to death on the show, whereas almost everyone else went up the charts afterwards.

joe said...

thanks for this, great post. just had a happy of nostalgia watching the show not laughed like that in ages.joe

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