Anyone remember when TV talent shows were a legitimate means of finding talent and not just a showcase for guys and gals who can clap like seals and make pig noises? No, me neither.
Sure, they used to be good for a laugh – who doesn’t want to see some poor deluded sod stand on a stage burping and farting their way through the alphabet? Instead of going to a nightclub on a Saturday to get drunk and make an arse of yourself singing karaoke, you could relax on the sofa at home and watch someone on the telly do it for you. All you had to do was pretend to be sympathetic towards the crap contestants.
Now there’s such a multitude of so-called talent shows that the only reason you watch them is because reruns of The Jeremy Kyle Show or Judge Rinder have finished for the day and X-Factor just happens to be on. The remote is just out of your reach, so you hope that for once someone might just sing something in tune with a bit of panache, only to be sorely disappointed yet again.
Still, thousands of wannabes line up outside conference halls to have their dreams belittled by obnoxious, self-important “industry experts” who happen to be so vital to the entertainment industry that they do nothing other than appear on TV judging panels.
Before contestants even get to this stage, they have to think of a wonderfully tragic sob story. Oh the sob stories – carefully crafted to deceive the public into thinking they’re actually decent people and not egotistical, fame-hungry megalomaniacs who’d start a nuclear war for fifteen minutes on Camera Five.
X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent contestants vomit out fantastical sob stories like their pitching a Shakespearean tragedy to a conglomerate of soul-devouring, suited demons. They usually go something like this: “Years ago, I fell in love with a girl who never noticed me. My only escape was to sing songs about unrequited love in the shower, until my home was destroyed by a Klingon attack force. I now have no shower to sing in, and that’s the only reason I’m here. Honest.”
Of course, you get the boring sob stories like “I have to stack shelves all day, it’s horrible” or “This is my last chance, I’m 25 in two weeks and moving to Dubai”. So You Think You Can Dance’s sob stories only amount to some twat wearing a vest and backwards baseball cap reeling off bollocks about “being different” because he can do the worm and the robot simultaneously.
On The Voice, they’re pretty similar to the X-Factor or BGT, but you also get washed up artists from the eighties or nineties trying not to say: “I was in a boyband that had one hit. I spent all my money on crack. Now, I want to be famous again to be able to afford more crack.”
The bit that really attracts viewers is watching arrogant, self-entitled prats make arses of themselves in front of the judging panel and an audience of a few thousand. The poor gits have to sing their hearts out only to be told their shit, leading them to run of stage crying about broken dreams and ranting about cats.
At least on X-Factor, contestants get laughed at to their face. On BGT, three red X’s tell them when to fuck off, and on The Voice, Will.i.am just offers a two-finger salute from behind an iPad. Statler and Waldorf wouldn’t be so harsh.
Audiences are even harder for wannabes to please than judges. They cheer and clap when someone pretty walks on stage, make no sound if a contestant happens to be a tad overweight, and hipsters are jeered before their man bun is even in view. Then they might fall out of love with a former favourite because they have a squeaky voice or throw popcorn at a mime artist for getting the measurements of an invisible box wrong. They can’t be pleased. They’re only purpose is to boo, hiss, clap, laugh, shout ‘You suck!’ and chant ‘Jerry!’ when it all gets too intense.
Even if a wannabe actually manages to succeed on a talent show, is it really worth it? They’re just turned into a generic pop star/media personality clone, live in the public eye for a bit until no-one cares anymore, and release a mediocre album that doesn’t sell.
When they’re completely obsolete, they’re back in their old job at Primark or trying to prolong their fame by appearing on multiple reality TV shows, before popping up on The Jeremy Kyle Show to take a lie detector test.