Television > The Other Side Of Midnight
HATE IS WHERE THE ART IS
The NME's Sarah Champion talked to Tony Wilson on the set of The Other Side of Midnight, the influential music and arts programme.
Imagine the scene. A Granada television studio is set out for a chat-show. Skinflint budgeting means the set is rather minimal - two chairs, a coffee table and some window blinds painted black. TONY WILSON is about to record a half hour magazine programme for broadcast that evening. The producer is in a flap because Tony is suffering from laryngitis and is almost unable to speak. He has only one take to get it right and there can be no stand-in.
As Yargo's opening soundtrack ends, Tony introduces himself to the viewers in an agonising croak. Paul Morley, Jon Savage and ex-NME staffer Stuart Cosgrove are the special guests, "reviewing the show as it goes out." Morley turns on Wilson. "I'm really glad to come on when you're looking such a tithead," he sneers. Disabled by his throat infection, Wilson cannot effectively retaliate. By the time it gets to the end credits, his voice is little more than a painful whisper.
This is just one episode of The Other Side of Midnight, a What's On show broadcast to Central, Granada and Scotland at 12 midnight every Friday. Like the South-East's Night Network, it's part of a flirtation with weekend 24 Hour TV. Operating on a ludicrous budget of just £1,500 a week (the kind of sum day-time TV costs per minute, or even second) it's understandably low-tec. Tony Wilson's stop-start presentation is highly-scripted and self-consciously wordy, whilst the basis is chat about film, books, music, theatre and art.
Off-air, Tony confesses he was unworried by Morley's abuse. "He's a dear old friend, but for eight years I've laughed in his face, called him a class traitor and made jokes about moving to London. This was his chance for his great , 'I love London, The North is shit and so are you,' rant. Fine."
Morley picked up on the greatest criticism of The Other Side of Midnight to date. "I hate the way you always have New Order on every show you do," he said. The soundtrack accompanying a report that week had been 'Blue Monday'. Not one edition of the show goes by without some nepotistic plug for Factory, Ikon, Hacienda or one of Wilson's other financial interests.
Is The Other Side of Midnight just a forum for you and your friends, Tony?
"I suppose so, yes. I should never do a full music show because I would simply play my own groups - just about every other music is complete crap. I'm very happy if people think, 'Oh, Wilson's putting his own stuff on.' It makes me look a nasty person and I find that an amusing image to have."
From Factory boss to father to newsreader, this man of a million roles has grown immune to criticism. Ever since his 70's music show So It Goes drowned in a deluge of hatred, nothing has bothered him.
"So It Goes was condemned by the entire daily, weekly and monthly press, with the exception of Chris Dunkley in the Financial Times and a second opinion in the Daily Mail, he says. "They hated me; they hated it; they hated everything! Once you've been that hurt, nothing can ever hurt you again."
Nepotistic and middle-classed as it may be, The Other Side of Midnight has got off lightly.
"Now that worries me," says Wilson. "If you look at any piece of art, it it wasn't hated in the beginning, you might as well forget it ..." Sarah Champion
The following extract from the NME letters section, 9 June 1990, explains more about why The Other Side Of Midnight disappeared from screens:
Producer Steve Locke says: "We did 63 shows in all and we simply got tired of doing it. Everyone felt it was time to move on to something else. Currently we're doing a pilot show, with Tony Wilson, for Channel 4. It's a new music programme that hasn't got a title at the present moment. The plan is, if the pilot, which goes out on June 6, is well received, we go on air from July onwards. It'll basically be a studio affair, with maybe a third of the show shot at gigs."