My Hootenanny Hell

I am sure I can remember an era when TV schedulers made an effort on New Years Eve, possibly around the time I cared what was on the telly at Christmas. But perhaps I’m dreaming it – there’s no very good reason to throw money at an evening when much of the audience are out partying – make sure Big Ben bongs and that’s your lot.

It’s certain that they don’t throw money at it now. Here’s what’s on terrestrial TV as 2004 vanishes into history:

BBC1: New Year Live with Natasha Kaplinsky “and guests”. No names of guests mentioned, camera crews in Trafalgar Square and Princes Street a distinct possibility.

BBC2: Jools’ 12th Annual Hootenanny.

ITV: The Wicker Man!! “including New Year bongs” which might reduce the tension a little.

C4: Final episode of Friends, followed by final episode of Sex In The City.

C5: Abba’s Greatest Hits. This was on channel 5 at exactly the same time last year, and quite possibly the year before that too.

What’s obvious is that – unsurprisingly – it’s the commercial sector that’s thrown in the New Years towel completely. BBC1 gives the turning of the years a desultory 55 minutes (after a “risque compilation of sports-quiz blunders), leaving our pal Jools to pick up the slack, 2 hours 30 minutes of it in fact.

This year’s Hootenanny features, with horrible predictability, Jamie Cullum. Amy Winehouse is there too, Franz Ferdinand show up, and there’s “guitar legend Eric Clapton in blues mode”. The show has become a tradition and I can’t help but feel that somehow it’s responsible for every other TV channel dropping the baton with a sigh of “Leave it to Jools”. Which is a terrible situation, as the parties Jools holds have all of the bullying naffness of New Years with none of the actual good cheer and fun. Not to mention its knowingly eclectic line-ups, which seem to combine the ingredients in such a way as to make all of them taste worse. If you can sit through a Jools Holland ‘jam’ without wanting to listen to nothing but Muslimgauze records for a year then more power to you.

Of course after all this negativity we’re left with the question of what I would like to be on TV at New Years. I’ve not quite finalised my brilliant schemes for this yet so in lieu of a conclusion I throw it open to the comments box. Just don’t let it involve Eric Clapton in blues mode.