There’ll be howling at the moon once a month north of the border come February 4. and it‘s nothing to do with PMS. Tom Lappin discovers how The Late Show came to Scotland.
Back in 1988 a new arts show erupted onto BBC‘Z. with a howl. the latest word in trendy editing. and more polo-necks than a polytechnic staff room. The Late Show was like an erupting boil of the chattering classes. made livid by years ofphilistine Thatcherism. Like-minded dinner party discussions in llampstead. lslington and (‘amden now had their own TV outlet (which saved a fortune in nibbles from Marks and Sparks).
The Late Show was astute in targeting a small but
: vociferous audience. the media-wise twenty and
thirtysomethings who had made a killing under Thatcher but deplored her aesthetic limitations. the po-mo crowd. the Independent-reading trendy/fogies. the more money than discernment
i squad. just waiting for The Modern Review to
appearon the scene.
So for the next couple ofyears. the likes of Michael lgnatieff. Paul Morley. Bill Buford. Naomi Wolf. Julian Barnes ct too many als pounded the larynx on the subject ofculture from
3 Foucault to Lloyd-Webber. Tremblay to Gazza. The Late Show — The Early Years featured some of the most excruciatingly elitist and self-indulgent
‘I think The Late Show from Scotland will be as classy an act as the London one. Possibly a little pacier.’
television made this side of a Clive James series. The 90s saw a softening of approach. a creeping populism exemplified by the nerviness of Sarah Dunant. You can‘t but help warming to Dunant‘s panic-stricken hand-waving as she conducts debates. giving the impression that she's simultaneously signing for the deaf. The pompous bloke in a ﬂash suit sounding off in front of a
moody studio set is now a rarity. and the shameless
metropolitan bias is beginning to break down. John Archer. Head of Music and Arts at BBC Scotland calls The Late Show ‘not only the essential journalistic television programme on the arts. but also the crucial forum for debating major cultural issues.” To declare his interest. after
plenty of lobbying he's just managed to persuade the programme to feature a regular monthly Scottish edition made by his department in Glasgow.
It‘s somewhat overdue. In the last couple of years. B BC Scotland‘s Music and Arts staff have more than proved their competence with their Festival coverage in Edinburgh Nights. Meanwhile. The Late Show had annoyingly chosen to feature specials from New York at plentiful expense. lfthey were prepared to emerge from their cloistered metropolitan seclusion. surely there were more deserving alternatives closer to home'.’
The Scottish programmes. hosted by the requisite Kirsty Wark. promise what Archer describes as ‘the view from here. rather than the view from there.‘ What they categorically will not be is 40 minutes worth of ‘little Scotlandisms‘. ‘We‘ll be covering international artists from a Scottish perspective.‘ says the producer Andrea Miller. ‘James MacMillan's piece isn‘t just about Scottish music. it's about classical music in Britain. One ofthe leading exponents just happens to be Scottish.‘
It's a welcome approach. especially when the attitude in other departments to network shows often seems to be to fly the flag for Scotland and to hell with the demands ofa UK audience. Not that Miller will be trying to fit seamlessly into The Late Show niche. Although the bowling wolf remains
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Yup. it’s Kirsty again
untouched. the Scottish programmes will have their own character.
‘I think The Late Show from Scotland will be as classy an act as the London one.‘ she says. ‘Possibly a little pacier. It'll be closer to the American Late Show. in a higher gear. The Scottish one. I think. will have that sort ol‘cnergy. For the first show I filmed Gary (.‘lark performing in a church and that was a treat. The whole thing
about doing The Late Show in Scotland is that we‘re not in a studio space. we‘re in Scotland and
‘The Late Show—The Early Years featured
some ol the most excruciatingly elitist and
sell-indulgent television made this side of a Clive James series.’
we‘ve got a great choice of locations all around.‘ As well as Gary Clark and James MacMillan. the first programme will feature a discussion on the pros and cons of Government funding for Gaelic television and a report on French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. ‘l‘ve got a stack of ideas this high on my desk.’ says Miller. ‘and there‘s probably at least a quarterofthem that I‘m going to take further. It‘s a nice dilemma to feel a bit overwhelmed in that way.‘ And not a polo-neck in sight. Thefirst Scottish edition of The Late Show is on BBC? on Thursday 4 February at l l . lﬁpm.
29January — l 1 February 1993 61