“Later….With Jools Holland”: A Focus Group Shares Their Thoughts…

Later with Jools Holland BBC2

When producers of Jools Holland’s long running TV show Later… were brainstorming a couple of years ago for fresh impetus and ideas, something appeared to go awry.

TV Centre was closing, so the show required a vibrant new home. But where could they go that was fresh, buzzy and exciting? Hoxton perhaps? Shoreditch? Manchester?


They went to Maidstone, Kent: a place where (with apologies to any reader of ERTAS who lives there), even Holland’s boogie-woogie piano is by far the most exciting thing to have been seen since The Krankies took a wrong turn on their way to Margate pier in 1978.

According to that Bank of Truth Wikipedia, the last interesting thing to happen in Maidstone was when wove paper was invented there in 1740. Aside from a hospital being built, that’s the entire history of the town for nearly three hundred years.

It seems rather churlish to criticise what remains by far the best regular music show on British TV, albeit it happens also to be the *only* regular music show on British TV. It’s a terrific institution, gives great exposure to up and coming artists, established acts and virtual unknowns and at a time when not even Top of the Pops exists any more, except when the tinsel is up and you’re eating your bodyweight in brussel sprouts and turkey, it is by far and away the best music show on telly.


Even the most venerable institutions need a few ideas thrown their way every now and then, so I therefore asked a focus group to share their thoughts on how to improve Later…with Jools Holland.

Here’s the results of the focus group.

  1. The name of the show. “Later…. With Jools Holland has a pause in the middle” pointed out our group, “but why?” asked several. “Did someone think Jools might bugger off after two series and they thought “Later” was just a really brilliant name for a show about music, no matter who presented it?” wondered one, “Because it isn’t really, is it?” she added.
  2. “Remove all the pianos save for exceptional circumstances” said many correspondents. “Seriously. Be thorough”, several added. “To the extent of taking Jools’ iPad away in case he tries to use the “piano” app on it” said one especially vociferous point of view.
  3. Others had similar thoughts. Strictly “enforce rules around piano use” said many. Whilst some felt that “we don’t want to stop Jools accompanying Wanda Jackson on piano as she sings “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” or whatever”, there needs to be some “voluntary constraints put in place” felt some.
  4. Some interesting ideas were put forward about other “ground rules” on piano usage. “Perhaps a “No Boogie Woogie Piano When Other Instruments Are Playing” rule would be a good compromise?” suggested a few panel members
  5. Awkward interviews: Many panel members enjoyed Jools Holland’s “almost deliberately inept” interview style, and some thought it was “so bad, it’s good”. However a small majority felt “he should have got the hang of it after thirty years” and one likened the interviews to being as painful as “watching the Duke of Edinburgh talking to some foreigners, waiting for him to say something racist”. Given that Holland was felt to be “overwhelmingly not racist”, some felt it was “quite a skill to make interviews quite so awkward regardless”.
  6. The studio audience: Some felt there was “a bit too much Boden worn in the crowd”, whilst others were happier with the mix of “indie t-shirts” and “dark colours”
  7. Choice of bands: correspondents were generally happy with the “eclectic” mix of “some indie band I’ve never heard of”, a “world music geezer”, a “veteran musician from the fifties or sixties”, “a band that gets played on radio 2”, “a random singer-songwriter”, and “Seasick Steve”.
  8. The studio layout was regarded positively. When asked whether Later…. should attempt to replicate the Top of the Pops studios in the seventies and eighties with a party atmosphere, balloons etc, the response was overwhelmingly negative. “I think we’ve been there, done that, and look where that all ended” said one person, pointedly. “Whatever I think of Holland” said another “at least he’s not Savile…”
  9. Most felt that the “circle” of bands was a good idea. “I’d like to see a dance-off to decide the best band at the end of the night” suggested one person. “Imagine Damon Albarn popping some moves whilst Chris Martin spins on his head in return…”
  10. In a similar vein, some thought a phone-in poll might add an extra bit of excitement. “We could all phone in and vote for our favourite act, a bit like X-Factor” said several correspondents, “and the loser can’t come back on the show”. One person went further; “Anything as long as we can vote not to hear Jools Holland’s bloody piano…”

Series 45 of “Later….with Jools Holland” begins on Tuesday 16 September 2014 on BBC2 featuring Alt-J, Ryan Adams, Jungle and Banks.






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