Thank God it’s over for another year – Britain's Got Talent, I mean. It’s the kind of car crash television that I generally despise, but there is undeniably something compelling about it and, like anything addictive, the only way to escape its weaving tendrils is not to watch it in the first place. It is Medusa TV – once glance and you are turned to stone, forever caught up in the horror and needing to know who got through, to laugh at the deluded and cheer on the truly talented.
Each week we tune in to see what outfit Amanda Holden has poured herself into, whether or not Simon is smiling (a blinding flash from his veneers usually gives the game away) and whether Piers can get any smugger. Each year it becomes sadder and sadder to see everyone hanging on Simon Cowell’s assessment of their performance. No matter that Piers and Amanda have already given them the two ‘yeses’ needed to go through to the next round - it’s Simon who really counts. It’s astonishing that someone has managed to build themselves up into an almost God-like figure (if not here, then certainly in the US where he is almost literally worshipped) simply by telling people a few basic home truths and puncturing the bubbles of the self-deluded. It really helps if you are either a child or a pensioner as both will be over-praised and are guaranteed to get through at least one round, only to be brought crashing down to earth later on in the competition.
There is, I suppose, an argument that says that it is at least clean and a programme that you can watch with children of any age (even our teenagers were hooked). But I still feel that there is something of the Roman Games about it and the hosts and judges don’t help by talking about each round in the most dramatic of terms:-
“Tonight – little Wayne Cliché is literally singing for his life.” Cut to shot of little Wayne, staring wide-eyed into the camera, looking totally constipated. He speaks in a piping northern monotone, his eyes moving side to side as he reads from the autocue:-
“This is me dream come true. I want it so bad. This means everything to me. This is all I've ever dreamed about, singing into me hairbrush in me bedroom. Tonight I’m going to give it all I’ve got – 110%. Tonight, I’m literally singing fer me life.”
Get a grip – NO YOU’RE NOT. Calm down dear, it’s just a talent contest. You’re singing for a fat cheque and a chance to sell your story to the red tops. Meanwhile, his parents Gary and Sharon Pikey-Fatchav are proudly mopping their eyes while simultaneously dialling the number of The Daily Mirror on their top of the range mobiles and cutting a deal for their exclusive story, proposed title “Singing through the pain with Wayne.”
They belong to that peculiar band of people who would “do anything to be famous”. Why is this? I've never got it. Even my kids say they would relish fame – huh? Fortune, yes – no problem with having a couple of million quid land in my lap – thanks very much. But fame? No thanks! Why on earth would I want everyone to know who I am, to follow me down the street, to make me unable to do the simplest thing without a band of screeching fans dogging my footsteps? Why would I want to become tabloid fodder, to have sleazebag journalists digging into my past and that of my family, snouting out any tiny transgression that they can ‘sex up’ the better to sell their ghastly rags?
The over dramatisation continues with a somewhat over-excited Simon Cowell announcing to a pole dancer that “tonight you have literally risked your life”. Oh pur-lease!
I think there is a place for a “Kindness Judge” to preview some of the contestants and weed out those who are simply going to embarrass themselves and make the viewing public cringe with their delusions of talent. I know that the contestants already go before a preview panel but it seems to me that it exists simply to weed out the overweight, the seedy and the sad and make damn sure we get to see them on national TV.
Maybe one day, some bright spark will start up the Medusa TV Corporation – utterly addictive, if trashy, programmes that once watched, cannot be ignored until the final credits roll. The only way to escape would be to buy a lifelong subscription to Perseus Programmes Inc – but would that simply mean that you had to watch Medusa TV through a mirror?!