The long-running and once funny BBC panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks has been cancelled after 28 series. That's more seasons than The Simpsons, (although only team captain Comic Book Guy has appeared on every episode).
In the early part of the Lamarr era, Buzzcocks was a weird show, not a "pop quiz" as it later became, but a sort of unusual meeting point of alternative comedy, big characters from the bands of the day and Lamarr's surreal but intense understanding of music. Look back at the first episode and you'll see questions about Prefab Sprout, and jokes are about Laurie Anderson ("if I went uh uh uh uh uh uh uh, you'd know I was either doing the intro to 'O Superman' or the sound of John Major orgasming"). Lamarr himself was a fountain of esoteric musical knowledge, not many people know him for his now-axed radio show "God's Jukebox" but it was probably the best thing that's ever been on the BBC.
The show had a few years of interim guest hosts, including an edition which has not dated very well in which Ricky Wilson did an impression of the Crazy Frog. From those televisied auditions came the Simon Amstell years, a cruel and often brilliant deflation of music and celebrity culture that was genuinely hilarious and isn't the sort of thing that happens on TV these days. People sometimes deride Amstell for being unusually cruel, but there was some less abrassive hilarity too, like this "gay off" with John Barrowman. Perhaps the best (and now of course, most poigniant) episode of the Amstell era featured Amy Winehouse as Amstell manouvered around the fact that Winehouse was clearly drunk on the show. (Him: "Stop hanging out with Pete Doherty, do something with Katie Melua." Her: "|'d rather have cat aids.")
But after Amstell left, it became another rudderless BBC entertainment format. A way to get that Laura-something girl from MTV and someone who opens for Russell Howard to trade uninspiring quips about rappers being a racket or just saying "totes amazeballs" to loud canned laughter. Phil Jupitus, who did a series of interviews slagging off Amstell, saying he almost left the show because of how horrible it had become, came to represent everything that is terrible about once cool Gen-Xers now bitter about new cultures they don't understand, a smarmy dad who thinks it's not music if they're just shouting over beats. The show's former targets of derision - James Blunt, Richard Madeley - read boxcutter jokes off the autocue about how Gary Barlow used to be fat or Joey Essex isn't that clever.
In Britain we cancel fantastic shows after a couple of series because they are so expensive to produce, but panel comedy is allowed to run unfettered for generations, seemingly because nobody can be bothered to pull the plug. Nevermind The Buzzcocks once explored the relationship between pop's squeaky image and its painful hypocrisy. But by the end it was just another toothless light entertainment format. Good riddance.
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