Tuesday night's instalment of Later… with Jools Holland featured the following performers: The National, Jessie Ware, Morrissey, Khalid, and Queens of the Stone Age, accompanied by a fucking string section. It is, and always has been, top-tier music TV. And as such, last night's programme appears to have been the show that launched a thousand music blogs, with this morning's internet crawling with individual posts embedding videos from each one of the episode's performances.
Now, considering the wealth of live performances we frequently see online from US late night TV – SNL, Fallon, Colbert, Corden (*shudder*) et al – this isn't necessarily anything new. But Later… is still the only UK show that provokes a similar furore, really. And now that it's back for its 51st season, airing twice a week before going off the air again for part of the year, there is definitely a question about why this is the only music programme with any heft on British television.
For an island so small, the UK more than pulls its weight music-wise. Some of the greatest ever to do it in pretty much every genre come from our horrible grey shores (yes, some did so by ripping music from other countries, we know). With a talent pool so large, it seems weird that there aren't more avenues than Later… and the occasional guest spot on The Graham Norton Show or Alan Carr: Chatty Man for serious live performances. As much as both digital and traditional radio, playlists, and good old-fashioned ad campaigns can put some musicians' work in front of new potential listeners, TV still plays a massive role there. Just think about how sales bumps are always reported after someone wins the televised Mercury Prize, appears on one of the Glastonbury gigs broadcast live by the BBC or tries not to get their performance bleeped to within an inch of its life during the BRIT Awards.
That's not to say that progress isn't being made, however. In September, the BBC announced that DJs A.Dot and Greg James would be the hosts of a new, weekly music show – the first in one of the broadcaster's primetime slots since Top of the Pops was cancelled in 2006 – called Sounds Like Friday Night. It'll begin airing later this month, with a format which will see the presenters joined weekly by various acts, as well as a main guest star who will perform and star in pre-recorded skits. It's been given an initial run of six weeks (just as Top of the Pops was, all that time ago).
More in this vein is what is needed: as proven by the return of TRL in the US, while the internet certainly rules right now as an outlet for music, music-centred TV is still something that audiences want – it's still a great way for new acts to reach audiences they mightn't usually – and we can handle it in much greater volume. And as excellent as Later… with Jools Holland is, it'd be nice if it had some company.
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