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Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Whatever Happened To The Mini Pops?, Channel 4,

What to say if you liked it
A thorough, and entertaining, disection of one of TV's most controversial shows – the one in which scantily-clad kids chirruped pop hits of the early 80s. The girls were covered in make-up and, some suggest, the makers should have been covered in shame.
What to say if you disliked it
Yet another attempt to stir up controversy about a programme that is probably best forgotten

What was good about it?
• Seeing the ailing old Cecil Korer, who commissioned the show for Channel 4, still enjoying it for its sheer entertainment value and visibly upset by allegations that the programme indulged the tastes of paedophiles. Although mistakes in judgement were made, the show never deserved the torrent of abuse it received. Typical comments included "repellent series", "ghastly and disgusting" and "should be called Mini Whores." Korer sadly accepted: "Its reputation has sullied its innocence. It's just kids pretending to be pop stars."
• The fact that nine-year-old Minipop Joanna Wyatt (now a successful voiceover artist) knocked Ebony & Ivory off the number one in France with her rendition of Stupid Cupid
• Haircut 100 hero Nick Heyward being prepared to appear and praise the show for its colour and energy – achieved even though six programmes were churned out in six days.
• Alexander Armstrong – top narrating bloke.
• Joanne Fisher, the Minipop who committed the greatest "crime" – Nine To Five in a nightdress – revealing that she didn't have a clue what she was singing about when she got to the "when we make love" lyric. Joanne now looks like Jodie Marsh's slightly prettier sister and has become successful in the equestrian sport of dressage.
• Recollections of the three weeks the Minipops spent touring Canada where they were heralded as superstars, had the third best-selling album ever (after Michael Jackson and Kenny Rogers) and were mobbed wherever they went.
• Journalist Grace Dent – "If you were part of the Why Don't You gang, it's the kind of thing you can trot out at a party and it'll probably get you laid. If you're one of the Minipops, you've got to keep it to yourself because people will think you were part of a paedophile ring."

What was bad about it?
• Toyah Willcox taking the role of censorious bore, attacking the show and pretending it was making her sick. She's probably only jealous that a Bonnie Langford-ish girl did a better version of It's A Mystery than she could ever manage.
• Cheryl Baker also chipped in with a bit of outrage. "You've got some funny old people out there watching telly."
• So did journalist Michael Holden, claiming it "appealed to people who ought to be killed."
• The child psychologist who predicted that the kids involved would all need psychiatric help – none of them did; they all seemed to have loved the experience and been left unscarred. The only tragic story concerned Scott Sherrin, who had a breakdown and drowned in the River Thames at the age of 23, but that may have been equally due to his appearances on This Life and in the stage version of Fame. One of the kids, Jonas Hurst, even rose to the dizzy heights of reading the news on RI:SE.
• Gimme Gimme Gimme A Man After Midnight. Aside from the fact that little kids should not be up after midnight, and even if they are, they should not be in need of a man, this was horrible because it sounded like a speeded-up Pinky and Perky.
• The pushy parents at the Minipops auditions.
• The clip of arty-farty Channel 4 show Alter Image – a far worse televisual crime than Minipops
• The version of Happy Birthday sounded no less girlish than Clare Crogan's horrible hit single
• We only got to hear brief extracts of rather remarkable arrangements of Message In A Bottle and Rock This Town

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