Bit generous, IMHO
Watching The Magicians last night, there was a moment when my flatmate asked “Why do they want people to vote?”. The format sees three pro/am teams of magicians/celebs attempt to wow various audiences with various tricks. The public vote decides who has to do a forfeit at the end of the show.
Back in the day, if my memory serves me well, this show would have been different in two ways. There would have been no penalties at the end of the show, the audience would have been happy to be entertained for an hour. And even if there was, the voting may have been down by an expert looking on, or the audience themselves.
It’s interesting that my flatmate chose to ask that question last night, as there was a show on ITV called The Talent Show Story. I didn’t watch any of it, so from here on in this is my own opinion. But I’ll speculate that all the show did was advertise X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, etc etc. I mean, what story is there to tell? Here is my take.
Uptake of digital television meant that ratings suffered on the traditional, terrestrial channels. Shows that could previously command viewing figures of 15million were lucky to get half of that. With more to watch, interest diluted as it was not necessary to stick with one channel. There was always something else on.
TV Executives are always looking for numbers, terrestrial TV Executives need even more. The Beeb need viewing figures to justify their spend, and to get more public cash. ITV, Channel 4 and 5 need numbers to get advertisers to pay for time in their breaks.
So what was the solution? Some bright spark saw that viewers need to feel engaged, involved, and influential. Hence the talent show, with good cop/bad cop judges, tears and drama. Stick in celebrities, like on Strictly, and you’re onto a surefire winner.
Of course , there have been talent shows since TV began. But before, they were genuine platforms to showcase gifted people who had not necessarily broken into the mainstream. When you think that there was no internet and four channels on the box, winning a show like New Faces was a big deal. Opportunity Knocks introduced the public vote, but the idea of sending a postcard in to vote seems archaic.
The modern beast is entirely different. Pop Idol, X Factor and BGT fuel a frenzy of passion, from the participants to the judges to the audience. Shows are now strung out over the weekend, two nights of histrionics and screaming. As much attention is paid to the contestants stories, their journeys, as is to their ‘talent’.
In the previous incarnation of the talent show, the skill the participant was displaying was all important. Now we know about the relative who died, the knockbacks they’ve had, how they absolutely want this more than anything else they’ve ever wanted in their whole entire life. The contestant is a commodity, and talent is a small part of the make-up of the overall picture. Participants must be squeaky clean. Frankie Cocozza was binned from the X Factor this year for alleged drug taking (an 18 year old pop wannabe on the marching powder? Who’d have thunk it). The right to appear on these shows is highly prized – the only thing I can think of that is taken away when a person is convicted of a crime is voting rights.
The judges are also chosen with a view to the ratings. Out of Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh, two are businessmen (and hence less concerned with the talent than its marketability) and two are puppets singing songs someone else wrote. Indeed, Cole managed to go full circle, from show contestant to judge.
It’s obvious that the most important part of the equation is not the ability displayed. Steve Brookstein won the first series of X Factor, but they couldn’t market him. The people who lose often end up having better careers than the winners, being less constrained by the record deal they’re bound to as victor.
This year, there seems to have been more X Factor backlash than ever. Fixing rumours abound, the format seemed more strung out than ever and the new judging panel bombed. And, let’s face it – the contestant’s talent is severely limited. The nomination list for this year’s Brit Awards is littered with talented artists who broke without the need to go the talent show route. With the internet, viral marketing and instant purchases from iTunes, even television seems like a quaint method of breaking through.
The trouble is, people need to feel like they’re making a difference. Interaction is taken to ever dizzying heights, because we as consumers of entertainment are apparently unable to just sit and watch and enjoy. I think this does us a disservice, and we are only distracted as the product is not enough to hold our attention. Shows like Sherlock, Black Mirror and Mad Men are brilliant, watchable, and hold no necessity to vote on who gets through to the next episode.
What next for the talent show? All the evidence points towards a waning interest, a lack of talent willing to flog themselves to Cowell, and public not buying into the hype. In short, the story looks to be coming to an end. I, for one, won’t cry any tears over its impending demise.
PS dinosaurs were cold-blooded.
Am I a bad person?
So, that massive cruise ship that’s run aground. Sad that people have died and all. But I couldn’t help but laugh at news stories entitled ‘Pictures show massive gash in hull’. Tell us something we don’t know.
Nirvana Live at the Paramount
Friday night, just about to go to bed, and I see a Kurt Cobain show is on. So I watch that, as I’m weirdly interested by untimely death. After, they have a live show from Nirvana. I was never really into them, but Jesus, they were electric at this show. Seriously, have a butchers at this. Fantastic.
In other news
-Fish finger sandwich – nom.
-Zooey Deschanel is Katy Perry minus Russell Brand’s STDs.
A bit of Cash never hurt anyone:
Then I see a darkness.