‘Bandstand’ Turns 50 As U.K.’s ‘Pops’ Makes Stateside Bid

Dick Clark to host two-hour 'American Bandstand' celebration.

Two of the most popular music shows in TV history are expected to arrive in American living rooms next year — one returning to the small screen after lying dormant for 12 years, and the other making the trip over from the U.K.

ABC plans to mark the 50-year anniversary of “American Bandstand” with a two-hour special hosted by Dick Clark and scheduled for spring, according to a spokesperson for Dick Clark Productions. Clark, 71, will highlight performances from the show’s four-decade run and introduce some of the most memorable moments involving the weekly guests and the dozens of dancing young people that collectively served as the show’s co-stars.

Many consider “American Bandstand” a key ingredient in early rock and roll’s success by having brought the new genre into mainstream America’s living rooms week after week. Among the artists whose careers were jumpstarted by the program are the Jackson 5, the Beach Boys and Buddy Holly.

The program that eventually became “American Bandstand” was first titled “Bob Horn’s Bandstand” after its original host. It debuted locally in 1952 on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. In 1956 a 26-year-old Dick Clark took the reins, and in August of the following year ABC renamed the show “American Bandstand” and began airing it nationally. The first song played was indicative of things to come — Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” The last episode of “American Bandstand” aired in 1989.

Meanwhile, “Top of the Pops,” a 37-year-old weekly British program that examines the weekly singles chart, is staging an invasion of U.S. airwaves next year. The WB has commissioned a pilot episode of the hour-long show, and if it meets with the approval of network executives, “Top of the Pops” will begin airing domestically, according to Andrew Solt Productions, co-producers of the show along with the BBC.

Each week the show ends with a live performance by the artist with the #1 single, and Solt said the same will hold true for the U.S. version. Performances will primarily take place in a Los Angeles studio, or, if the artist is on tour, a traveling camera crew will come to them. Footage shot at the “Top of the Pops” London studio could also be used.

The producers are currently in talks with Billboard to license the music-industry trade magazine’s weekly singles chart.