Saturday, 4 June 2016
408 Something Else
First viewed : 15 September 1979
This was an influential show but has largely been forgotten , so much so that yours truly created the wikipedia page for it back in 2010 ( it's still there but messed around a bit ).
Something Else was the start of "yoof TV". In typically BBC language it was an "access programme" produced by the Community Programme Unit. The brief was to have the programme devised and presented by unknown under-20s from around the country focusing on issues important to them, interspersed with musical performances. After a pilot show in March 1978 went reasonably well five more were commissioned for the autumn of 1979 broadcast monthly on a Saturday evening.
I remember glancing at the first one of these from Manchester which had The Jam performing what would become their breakthrough top 10 hit The Eton Rifles and then drifting away. So first time around , I actually missed the series' crowning glory, the one thing that ensures it will never be completely obscure , the only nationally broadcast TV appearance by Joy Division performing "She's Lost Control " and "Transmission " . The sound is a bit tinny as you'd expect but they're very tight and at the centre of it you've got Ian Curtis and his, um, unique, contribution to the terpsichorean art. There would actually be more of his manic ducking and weaving had not the film editor decided it was more interesting to see a statuesque Bernard Sumner concentrating intensely on his fretwork during many of the instrumental passages. There's still enough there to show what a uniquely mesmerising performer he was and of course it's desperately sad to watch in retrospect.
After a further one off show from Skelmersdale in May 1980 heralding another monthly season which never materialised, the series returned as a weekly programme on Mondays in the autumn of 1980.
A third season began in September 1981 but it had switched to Fridays. There was a gradual shift towards more issue-based programmes rather than basing the show in a particular locality. At the end of that season there was a highlights programme featuring just the musical performances. In the fifth and final season, in the autumn of 1982 these were mostly dropped as Riverside, The Tube and Oxford Road Show ( all shows which owed a debt to Something Else in their format and presentation ) were adequately catering for the live music audience. There was a fair amount of music though on the show broadcast on 1st October which was given over to a bunch of Brighton arts students led by semi-famous performance artist Ian Smith who made sure their queasy art rock as Birds With Ears got a generous slice of the programme. Unless I'm mistaken, Smith is the only person who was able to use the series as a launching pad to greater things although Boy George and Martin Degville featured in an earnest discussion about style wars early in the first season.
That final season concluded with four , more formal debates over a week in October 1982 on family, equality, politics and war then a highlights programme covering the four years of the series. Then it was over and started slipping away into the mist.