Permatanned, gooselipped and dead behind the eyes. No, I’m not describing any given ‘star’ on The Only Way is Essex, rather the dry as burnt sandpaper state of TV talent shows. Oh yes, lovers of factory formed, sob-story sodden and easily forgettable talent show competitors, Britain’s Got Talent is back. Of course, you probably already know this because for the last month it’s been taking advantage of our Saturday night TV viewing like it’s the easy, drunk, fat girl slouched in the corner of a Hits From The 70s and 80s discotheque, waiting for anyone, anyone, to show up and give her a bastardised version of a rubbish night of sloppy, anonymous, loveless and disappointing sex.
I suppose the format was never fresh. It was born more senescent and grizzled than Benjamin Button in 2007, wearing rapidly changing camera angles, flashing lights and fireworks as porcelain dentures covering the rotting gums of its format. Let’s face it, Britain’s Got Talent is the televised equivalent of the village talent show where every old man and his dog shows up to sing, dance and play their way to a moment of fleeting and devastating humiliation in front of tens of people. The glittering winners you see on TV are the bedfellows of all the farmer’s sons with voices as golden as their hearts who steal the show and the grand prize of a fruit basket and two free lessons on how to weave your own hearse. Only on the national stage, the humiliation of the old men and their dogs is far greater, the good voices and hearts are glazed with a fake gold taint and the hearses masked as prizes are coated in a skin of TV magic.
But who really cares about the crazies who audition for Britain’s Got Talent? Surely it’s the way of the world to tear well meaning, albeit deluded, wannabes from the safety and warmth of their flocked-ceilinged hovels and parade them on a stage for the entertainment of other likeminded, albeit braindead, TV viewers in the safety and warmth of their flocked-ceilinged homesteads? Surely it’s alright to mock the fools who think they could be somebody if they know what they’re putting themselves up for? Right? Well, I tend to disagree.
For reasons uncertain, I found myself at The X Factor auditions in Birmingham just over a month ago. I was possibly there because I love waiting in sprawling queues for over an hour and I’d rather recreate the whole Disneyland experience in a cold, damp car park outside the NEC than in the never ending quest to get a sandwich from the Bread Oven, but most probably because, for a moment, like most people you see on Reality TV Shows, I’m a commoner who thinks that one day I can maybe become a somebody. Cue the laugh track.
The audition queue appeared to be solely populated with sixteen year old gap-toothed Cher Lloyd wannabes gagging from the stench of misplaced hopes and badly formed dreams that hung over the thousands of people skulking in a carpark on a cloudy Sunday morning. A master of ceremonies screamed through a megaphone to make the crowd dance like ecstasy ridden children at the world’s worst conceived holiday-park-cum-concentration-camp, yelling things like, “COME ON GUYS, THE CAMERA’S ON YOU! THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE ON TV! DANCE IT! LOVE IT! YEAH, WE LOVE IT! OH YEAH! TV GUYS! YOU’RE GOING TO BE ON TV!” for what appeared to be an eternity worse than anything Dante could ever conceive.
Aside from further stating the obvious about auditioning for a TV talent show (that only the most attractive singers and those who cannot sing stand any chance of progressing in the competition), I just want to emphasize how surprised I was that all the people who are so awful at singing, who are clearly so incredibly untalented, were just as certain in their own abilities as everyone else. On the callback day (you’d better believe I was one of the most attractive people there, yeah boy), I met a postman who was missing a day of work to sing ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ out of tune in front of some show runners. Not only was he convinced of his eventual success, but when I reminded him that work would find out when they see him on the show, he took a moment to fiddle with the buttons on his blouse, look into the scummy horizon and say, “it wouldn’t matter then, would it? I’ll have made it!”
For once, I don’t blame the show’s producers for feeding his delusions. They have a show to make and that show has to be entertaining. It’s not really their fault that the only thing that seems to pass as entertainment for the Great British Public is an hour of ritual humiliation. All the producers are doing by putting through all the no-hopers is actually giving them a sense of recognition, an affirmation that maybe one day they could actually become somebody, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that. What is fundamentally wrong is our reaction to these people, that we believe they deserve to be humiliated because they’re trying to carve a more exciting future for themselves than delivering post at 8am on a cold, wet morning.
If you insist on watching insipid TV talent shows, just remember to have a heart. Oh, and also remember to vote for me come September when I become the next great singing sensation, OK? Whether I appear on token-comedian-on-the-panel BGT or the X Factor, I’ll need your support. Thnx bbz lol, ttyn.