DINNER-JACKETED CARNIVAL of wryly-collated clippage, awards and A-list star turns, flawlessly fronted by everyone’s second favourite ageing Antipodean (after Helen Daniels). As much a ritual of New Year’s Eve as trying to take a photo of Big Ben on the telly or getting to stay up “so long as you’re ready for bed”.
From within the biggest fuck-off studio at TV Centre, pre-announced waspishly as “Wembley stadium”, the “pyramids at Giza” or somesuch titanic tourist spot, our host would make his entrance down the tallest flight of steps seen on British TV since Eric, Ern and Angie. Easing himself behind his equally titanic bureau, Clive would fold his arms, lean forward slightly, tilt his head and ask us in that familiar half-hectoring, half-cooing way to “reflect on what an amazing year it’s been…” Cue joke involving a tease (“It was a year when Mrs Thatcher urged us to take better care of the elderly”) and a tag (cue footage of Thatch greeting Ronald Reagan – it was ALWAYS Ronald Reagan). And so it would unfold: clip belying topical set-up, punchline following misdirected banter, interspersed with “this year’s awards!” Gongs would be brought on by bit of high class skirt: Jerry Hall, Louise Lombard, etc., over whom Clive would unsubtly salivate. “Jerry: the nominations please!” “Clive, there is only one nomination for Teatowel Wearer of 1989: Miss Yasmin Arafat!” Wild applause. “Sadly Yasmin can’t be with us tonight – she’s appearing in this winter’s Miss Jerusalem beauty pageant”. Cue clip of Arafat dancing with an old woman/kissing an old man/falling over.
As midnight neared, Clive would unveil his choice for Man and Woman of the Year, who – shock! – would appear in person, do a song, offer up a few carefully-scripted words (Clive: “Now Kylie, even I could tell that wasn’t Auld Lang Syne!” Kylie: “On the ball as ever, Clive!”), and then everyone would join in a few choruses as soon as Big Ben struck. By way of a carefully-crafted exclamation mark to punctuate the end of the previous 12 months, it couldn’t be beat. The show purportedly took nine of those months to write and research, though you couldn’t always tell, but perhaps that was the point. The old bugalugs revived the format for a millennium eve special on ITV, but it wasn’t the same, not least as it was co-written by – of all people – Collins and Maconie.