Not to be confused with the U.S. cop drama of the same name that ran from 1958 to 1963, Naked City was a late night music extravaganza made by Rapido TV (the television company which evolved from Antoine De Caunes’ pop programme Rapido and which later brought us the in-your-face kinky Eurotrash with De Caunes and ‘man-skirt’ wearing Jean Paul Gaultier). Don’t mix it up with late Eighties’ New York band Naked City either, although both of these come higher in the Google search rankings than this little remembered entertainment programme broadcast on Channel 4 in the early 90s.
Presented by the fresh-faced Johnny Vaughan (Moviewatch, The Big Breakfast) and the so-fresh-faced-she-looked-brand-new 18 year old Caitlin Moran (influential journalist, feminist, Times columnist and Twitterer) Naked City was a sometimes sharp and occasionally witty homage to music, featuring live performances from Britpop bands like Oasis and Blur before they became huge. The show mixed up live interviews and music with pre-recorded footage and features. It was filmed in front of an audience which can be both good and bad in shows like that; whoopingly loud and exciting when a popular band played, embarrassingly mute when a joke fell flat.
The first series was shown in 1993; six thirty minute episodes went out with the likes of REM, Evan Dando from The Lemonheads, Smashing Pumpkins, Courtney Love, Manic Street Preachers, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Suede, Iggy Pop and Depeche Mode all appearing in various formats.
Series two broadcast in 1994 and this time was expanded into ten episodes of an hour a piece. Early performances this time round included Gene, Skunk Anansie and Ash and interviews with Salt ‘n’ Pepa, George Clinton and Mark. E. Smith of The Fall. Many more bands and artists made an appearance in the studio: Marcella Detroit (Shakespeare’s Sister), Bob Geldof, Pulp, Brand New Heavies, The Charlatans, The Beautiful South, Echobelly, The Boo Radleys – the list was impressive.
The show’s second series also had the honour of getting the first ever interview with Noel Gallagher and the same episode saw Oasis perform a live version of both Shakermaker and Supersonic.
Moran and Vaughan generally went for a light-hearted, irreverent tone with their guests but were also capable of getting somewhat darker exclusives: Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers came on the programme and talked openly about his self-harming, something that he had never done before.
Also appearing on screen were comedian/presenter Michael Smiley (Spaced) and the duo Collins & Maconie (Andrew Collins and Stuart Maconie) who were hired to present ‘the Hipster’s Guide, a weekly look at what’s happening in the world of rock’n’ roll.’ They performed their satirical stint whilst sitting on a sofa in part of Naked City’s unique set, a rooftop complete with chimneys and fencing. The programme was aimed at the youth market (hence the ‘cool’ set) but it always had a slightly smug, ‘we’re actually poking fun at this genre’ attitude – Vaughan presented it wearing an evening suit.
Naked City pulled in some brilliant bands, conducted interviews with some fascinating characters and had two definite talents in Vaughan and Moran. It’s a shame that it didn’t last longer than the two series but let’s face it – it must have been flippin’ chilly on that rooftop.