How To... Without Really Trying Make A Popular Culture Based TV Clips Show

Television on the pavement Television Clip shows based on popular culture are all the vogue these days. The fact that you need to do very little to create them, and as such, they are very cheap to make, probably doesn't come into it at all. Oh no.

Well we can help you get some of the action. Creating one of these shows really isn't hard, and we'll show you how to do it.

The Subject

If you're going to do one of these shows, you need to know what it's going to be about. The fact of the matter is that there are only so many subjects that you can pick for such a project, and they've probably been done ten times before already. Unless you can come up with some highly original ideas of your own, which few can do, pick one of the following:

The Format

Once you have your subject, you need to decide how you are going to present it. There are three main formats your show can take:

chart based rundown

one popular method is to do a Top 10, Top 15 style programme. This is easily created by getting the production team together and letting them fight it out for which clips/videos are best. For a bigger show, you can do a Top 50 or Top 100. These are even easier to compile your chart rundown, as you can open up the phone lines and let the public tell you. Whatever you decide, this format is ideal for music videos for certain years or various genres.

year based format

The year based format is ideal if you want to ensure you can get a set number of shows commissioned. By doing a year based format, you can guarantee yourself 10 shows, one show for each year in a decade. Then all you need to do is find lots of clips for each year and voila you have a programme.

chart based rundown for a particular year

As the name suggests, this is a mixture of both the formats above. Just set up a show for each year in your decade, then within that, do a top ten for that year. Easy, eh?

The Station

Once you have your format and your subject, the next job is to sell your show. Due to the popularity of these programmes and the relatively small cost to make, certain stations will be rushing to your door:

Sky One

A station making much noise about how much British programming it now makes, it's also a station without loads of money to spend, hence it's reliance on clip shows. Aiming mainly at a twenty something, laddish audience, it's important that your show is ultra populist, and hence should not feature anything older than 1990. Suitable subjects include TV clips and anything to do with people on TV being nasty.


Aiming at the same audience as Sky One, and having the same cash concerns, ITV2 will also be looking for cheap, populist programming, although it is prepared to admit that 1980 exists. Music is also a chosen speciality.

Channel Five

The baby fifth station is trying to shed it's cheap and tack image, but anything to do with the 80s - especially Stock, Aitken and Waterman videos has a strong chance of being commissioned.

Channel Four

The success of the stations Top 10 series may make it difficult to break into this station. However, it's always looking for viewer voted Top 100s as a cheap way of padding out its bank holiday schedules, so you may have a chance if your format is one of these.


Along with Channel 4's Top Tens, it was BBC Two's I Love 1970s that seemed to start the craze for these clip shows. However, the BBC tends to make its own programmes of this type, so coming in as an independent producer might be difficult. Your series will also need to look like it is a serious exploration of it's topic, with insightful commentary.


Once you've got a show, its time to start putting it together. Picking clips is usually easy, and should be done when deciding upon a format. So once you've got them, you will need to get various contributors to talk about them.

There is one main rule when it comes to contributors - there needs to be many. They should also never interact with the presenter of the show at all, and should be filmed inserts, usually set against some elaborate looking backdrop.

Ideally you need to film them at length talking about each clip you wish to show, then pick the pest five seconds worth from each contributor, about a certain clip. The clips should ideally be short and sweet. There are certain quotes that you should always try to find, such as "Oh my word, did we really do/watch/say/listen to that!?!", "Isn't it just cringe-worthy!?" or just random shrieking will do.

Your contributor should always include various 'experts' - specialist journalists and university professors are ideal - and various celebrities. Ideally, the celebs should be rarely seen on television, ever, and be very excitable. There are some you can usually rely on appearing, including:

The Presenter

Once you have your contributions, you need someone to string it all together - your presenter. This person should be associated (even if its a tenuous association) with the shows subject, but if not, anyone will generally do.

The presenter should be sat in a huge and elaborate studio, and should never be seen for more than thirty seconds, every ten minutes, meaning that a presenter can usually rattle off a show in less than half an hour.

Often the presenter will be responsible for narrating parts between clips too, however you may wish to get a separate narrator or even just convey the information using on screen captions, with the latter being by far the cheapest option, so if you're on a tight budget, you might want to cut out the narration and spend the money on the studio set to make the presenter look more important.

The Spin-Offs

Once you've got your show and made it a success, you may wish to consider merchandising spin-offs. This will usually consist of videos or sound-track CDs, which can be relied upon to be produced cheaply and make a lot of money.

Your Turn Now!

With our guide, it shouldn't take too long for you to get your show on the air. And all we ask for your success is that you mention us in the credits. "Based on a format by Andrew Bowden" will do!

Background Information

This came about when everyone - and I mean everyone - was doing about 20 clip shows a week on their channel. Since then, reality TV has arrived so everyone - and I mean everyone - does that instead. So that rather dates this piece.

It was, of course, the era of the I Love... series which everyone mercilessly copied repeatedly with barely a whiff of originality.

First published 6 May 2001 apparently. Although what David Quantick thinks of that, I don't know.

Still, if you didn't get it was quite "old" before, then the reference to an up and coming Peter Kay might give the game away...

Photo Credit

Photograph by Troy Holden. Released under a Creative Commons licence


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