Saturday, June 12, 2004


It's not often that we at Panda Pops get to bring you what people in the business call "an exclusive" - usually everyone else gets there first, and then we sort of shred what they said, and reassemble it until it sounds vaguely original, and pretend it was all our own work. But! This time, we can reveal that we were at the filming of a genuine real life television show last night, and we have an exclusive report to bring you.

The kind and generous Nelly Aloud gave us a spare ticket so that we could accompany him to the filming of ITV1's Disco Mania. For the uninitiated, Disco Mania is the latest in a series of similarly titled programmes where a bunch of popstars get together and agree to cover some old songs on a particular theme in the exchange for at least 80% of their dignity. You may have seen previous instalments in this series, such as Abbamania, 70s Mania, Greasemania, Pyromania and Kleptomania.

The early signs were good before we even got there; the ticket invited us to "Discomania, hosted by Donna Summer". Donna Summer! We'd sit in the audience for Paint Drying Live if it was hosted by Donna Summer. Hell, we'd sit in the audience for Kelly Osbourne Sings The Motown Classics if it was hosted by Donna Summer. We were also promised performances from Rachel Stevens, V, and Girls Aloud, as if we needed extra persuasion (we hoped for Jamelia, but it appears she had already pre-recorded her song). Things got even better when the audience steward decided for no apparent reason to put us in the front row. Our initial excitement at being sat in the front row was marred just slightly when we realised that we would probably be in full view of the cameras at all times, and can probably expect to see ourselves dancing like tits when the show airs.

Our first performance of the evening was from Rachel Stevens, with a cover of 'Knock On Wood'. We are tentatively awarding Rachel the award for Nicest Female In Pop, since whenever we've seen her performing in person (twice, in other words) she's always been very smiley and appreciative of her audience in a modest sort of way. Unfortunately, she still suffers from the problem where, nice as she might be, there isn't an awful lot you can write about her. Her interpretation of the song was fine, her performance was energetic and professional, but we don't really have anything else to say.

Certainly Rachel is somewhat easy to forget when the act following her is the iconic Donna Summer. We don't mind admitting that when she walked onto the stage we squealed and had to momentarily lean on Nelly Aloud for support. She sang a medley of her hits, and we had our suspicions that she was singing live (the shock!) confirmed when she missed her cue on one of the recordings due to a headphone malfunction. We were promised she'd return later to sing for us again. "That's odd," we thought, "isn't she meant to be hosting the thing?"

Apparently not, for we were then greeted by the wonderful sight of Neil "Dr" Fox arriving to record some links. We stared at the "hosted by Donna Summer" line on our tickets in a mixture of dismay and fury, but no amount of creative visualisation could get rid of the charisma vortex who'd just appeared in front of us to rapturous applause (well, total indifference, and then rapturous applause once the cameras started rolling) and bring back the departed disco diva. "Never has the phrase from the sublime to the ridiculous been more appropriate", we thought.

Except we were wrong, because the only thing more surreal than switching from Donna Summer appreciation to Dr Fox "appreciation" is following that switch by finding out that the next act is Sarah-Louise, Candice and Kay-Ee from Coronation Street singing 'Lady Marmalade'. We shit you not. The most worrying thing is that we actually quite enjoyed it, although we couldn't restrain ourselves from watching Tina O'Brien singing "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" and thinking "Hasn't that got you into enough trouble already, young lady?" Apparently Ryan Thomas and Helen Worth (Helen Worth!) were in the audience behind us to give their support, but we couldn't see them. Possibly this is just as well, as we may have got a little overexcited at being confronted with Helen Worth in person. (We were disappointed to discover that Liberty X's performance had already been recorded, as we were hoping that Michelle would get a chance to repeat her comments about the Coronation Street storyline to Tina O'Brien's face backstage, since she's obviously so passionate about this issue.)

Our spirits lifted greatly after this point when Donna Summer returned to the stage, both to sing "MacArthur Park" and to record some links with Dr Fox. Despite repeatedly stumbling over her words and looking utterly terrified, Donna still did a far better job than Dr Fox, who really should write a book entitled How To Lose An Audience And Alienate People. The first chapter should be entitled "Make Snotty Comments To Donna Summer That You Claim Are Jokes Even Though They Are Clearly Not Because You Are Bitter About Getting Second Billing Yet Again". But we digress.

Following that was our personal highlight of the night - boyband du jour (not DuJour from Josie and the Pussycats, just to clarify) V were on hand to perform 'Can You Feel It'. The opening was a little iffy and we started to think it might be really bad, but then we remembered it was V and they are buff and hot and then the song got better, so we stopped worrying. V, for some reason, needed approximately 46 dancers more than everyone else had, and the stage looked a little crowded. When the show airs, watch for the lovely little homoerotic fake-slapping, Dirty Dancing moment that occurs between Ant and Leon. We think. We're still not entirely confident in our ability to tell one member of V from another.

Finally Girls Aloud came on. We'd spent most of the evening staring at the blocking plan on the camera in front of us and assuming it must have been upside down because Nicola was at the front, but lo and behold, there she was. We feel sorry for Girls Aloud, because where other acts got big stomping floorfilling tracks like 'Can You Feel It', 'Knock On Wood' and 'If I Can't Have You', they were given 'I'm Every Woman', a complete damp squib of a track in comparison, and the performance was at best lacklustre. But Nicola was at the front, so we'll take some comfort in that. Incidentally, if, when you watch this on TV, you can hear someone screaming "I love you Nicola!", well, that would be Panda Pops. We make no apologies for that.

A few more links, a few more snots from Dr Fox, and the big finale. It's great and we won't spoil it for you. But fans of homoeroticism will do very well to watch Girls Aloud and V closely throughout this number.

Discomania airs Saturday 19th June on ITV1, and we'll be looking forward to seeing the follow-up, Nymphomania, some time in the autumn.


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