Top Of The Pops USA (CBS, 1987-1988)
I was fiddling about on YouTube recently as I often do when I decided that I wanted to watch some archive clips of Top Of The Pops as I have been a fan of that show for many years. It was then that I discovered something that really surprised me. Just when I thought I had seen them all, I came across a full edition of the American version of the show, and I didn’t even know that there had been such a thing. The video was uploaded by Michael Pannoni, so credit goes to them.
The American version of TOTP launched on CBS in September 1987, it was an hour long and shown on Friday evenings, and it really is an odd mixture of familiar and not-so-familiar things. First of all, it begins with the 1986-1988 title sequence, with the great opening theme “The Wizard” by Paul Hardcastle, but then we see the big-haired host Nia Peeples who is in the Los Angeles studio.
This version featured lots of acts who were currently riding high in the American singles chart, and also lots of up-and-coming hits in various genres, and many of them performed in the studio, and it seems that there weren’t many videos shown. As well as this, there were also some specially-recorded introductions to acts for the show in the British TOTP studio back in London by Gary Davies, and it’s nice to know that Gary was briefly an American primetime TV star. Needless to say, it was rather odd seeing advert breaks featuring in the show too.
Another thing that was similar was that TOTP USA featured the Top 40 chart, again featuring the same graphics as the UK version but (font nerd alert) the captions were in Korinna instead of Clarendon. A lot of British acts were doing well in America at this time, and although they were among many acts who had transatlantic chart-toppers in the 1980s, it was still rather odd seeing Americans referring to the likes of the Pet Shop Boys and Rick Astley.
Unfortunately, the American version of TOTP was not a big success with viewers, and although it became in institution in the UK and ran for over 40 years, it left the screens in America in March 1988 after just 26 editions. It seems that there were a few reasons for this, including there were already many established music shows on American TV so TOTP didn’t get many viewers, and most of the studio acts mimed which seemed to disappoint a lot of people.
This was definitely an interesting attempt at trying to make TOTP something of a global success, and although I think that there have been versions in different countries, it was a shame that American viewers didn’t take to it. I’m fairly sure that the US version has not been shown in the UK and I very much doubt it will be any time soon, but I did enjoy seeing this variation on a classic format.