More TV Memories – Juke Box Jury.

Juke Box Jury (BBC2, 1989-1990)

This isn’t really a game show as such, but I thought that I would review this one because there is an interesting story. Juke Box Jury was a show that originally ran from 1959-1967, and was rather popular, especially with those fancy teenagers, who had only recently been invented. There was a revival in 1979, but this piece will concentrate on the second revival in 1989, which was aimed at the DEF II generation.

The host for this version was Jools Holland. Now although he has been a successful musician for many years, he has never come across as the most natural of TV hosts, going back to The Tube. I remember one critic saying that his hosting style on the long-running Later… was like he was “receiving alien transmissions in his ear”. And he did put in a typical performance for this, getting bands’ names wrong and looking like he didn’t know what he was doing half the time.

Juke Box Jury consisted of a panel of four (who had their full names in front of them as if they were on Countdown), and they were usually a rather unusual combination of musicians, comedians, and so on. A song that was going to be released soon would be played on a jukebox (although by this time the video would be shown instead). They would then debate (or argue) whether they thought the song was any good, and determine if it would be a “hit” or a “miss”, with the appropriate sound effects. In the event of a tie, some studio audience members voted too.

About seven or eight songs would be featured in every edition. One thing that was interesting about having musicians feature was that we could get to know what they really thought about various groups, and after having their work reviewed by so many critics, they were pleased to take the opportunity to have a go themselves. And they would also have to discuss songs in various genres that they might not be so familiar with.

And there would also be the “mystery guest”, where the panel would review a song and not know that the act were watching on backstage. They would then come on stage and surprise them, so if they had been determined to be a “miss”, this could get rather awkward. By the second series in 1990, there had been a set design change, with lots of books in the background.

And yes, one week the mystery guest was Danielle Dax, and yes, they thought that her single “Tomorrow Never Knows” would be a “miss” (which it was unfortunately), and yes, watching her bicker with the panellists including Jonathan Ross was rather bizarre and uncomfortable. Still, it got her on the TV again. After Juke Box Jury ended, there were similar ideas featured on CBBC’s Saturday Morning show Live & Kicking, including Trevor And Simon’s Video Garden, and Hit, Miss, Or Maybe.


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