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The BBC’s flagship music show is 20 years old, a sacred British export completely unique around the world. How has it endured - and why has it become such an essential booking for any act worth their salt?


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TELEVISION  BY TIM INGHAM


“ W


“We’ve never been fashionable, groovy or particularly


clever. And we’ve


always remained a servant to the music” JOOLS HOLLAND


e’ve never been fashionable, groovy or particularly clever. And we’ve always remained a servant to the music.”


Even when celebrating a winning formula that


has outlasted and outperformed every other TV music show over the past two decades – and made him a national treasure in the process – Jools Holland remains humble. It’s an entirely appropriate stance: on the


surface, Later is an elementary, spartan creation. A few hand-picked artists in a studio, a host as reverent as his audience… and very little else. Fanfare? Razzmatazz? Shallow celebrity factoids? They’re the preserve of those other television programmes; the irregular, disinterested sponsor porn which the music industry usually finds itself pitching to in 2012. The sort constructed to magnetise ratings; the sort whose bosses regularly end up disgruntled. “With some TV shows, artists are just a


commodity who come in and go out again,” says Holland. “That’s not us. We care about them and we care about getting the best out of them.” Later’s setup is as self-explanatory as you’ll find


on modern television, but it is perhaps too often overlooked as simple or barren. The programme’s uncomplicated blueprint is made instantly more enigmatic, for example, by the intense human ego captured within the coliseum at its centre. As we watch the programme on our screens,


fellow artists eyeball each other in Later’s BBC studio. There’s always mutual support and admiration amongst the acts, but it’s laced with heavy expectation. Newbies strive to impress legends; old-timers play out of their skin to dumbfound the kids. “We’ve realised more and more that the show has


a gladiatorial element – what they used to call ‘cutting contests’ in blues music,” explains Mark Cooper, executive producer and co-creator of Later, who has worked on the programme since its birth.


28.09.12 Music Week 19


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