The new series of Britains Got Talent starts tonight!
I know this because I have seen it advertised on the T.V, I have heard it mentioned on the radio and I listened to numerous discussions at work about it, but as usual I wasn’t able to join the conversations.
I have never watched Britains Got Talent, I’ve never watched The X-Factor, The Voice, Popstars or Pop Idol either (are they two different things?) I don’t know who the winners or losers of previous years have been, though I’m pretty sure there was a dancing dog that featured heavily.
I am aware of a couple of other contestants such as James Boyd of ferrero rocher eating fame. I went to school with James, although a few years below him and couldn’t fail to notice his television appearance given the amount of column inches it received in our local paper. Most recently I have become aware of last weeks The Voice winner Stevie McRorie, living just 15 miles along the road from me again it was impossible to ignore the local media’s interest in his rise to fame.
Has this piqued my interest in these shows? Nope, not even a little bit. Yes I miss being part of the workplace and social media discussion groups that surround these shows (my facebook news thread will feature little else tonight) but even that is not enough to bring me to watch them. I’m no TV snob, I don’t sit about watching high brow entertainment, in fact I’m rather partial to a bit of Motorway Cops or One Born Every Minute and have even been known to chuckle at You’ve Been Framed (admittedly not as much as my kids, who seem to think someone falling of a chair is the height of hilarity).
I just cannot bring myself to watch these people who put themselves in front of the nation to be ridiculed and humiliated or in some ways worse, promised the stars, told they are special, only to be forgotten two weeks later. I know they have applied and chosen to be on these shows, and the television production companies claim to have all sorts of support in place to make sure they know what they are getting into and the X Factor in particular now claims to have introduced psychological testing for participants after the well publicised meltdown of previous contestant Susan Boyle, but is it enough?
How many young people going into these shows desperate for their five minutes of fame know the impact it may have on their lives, and I don’t mean a lifetime of fame and fortune. Even singers who have worked at their art for years can find it hard to cope with the trappings of fame when they finally hit the big time, so how can anyone be expected to go from living a normal life, working in an office or shop to sudden stardom with everyone wanting a piece of you?
Those are just the one’s who do have some sort of success. What about the thousands of applicants encouraged to tell their sob stories of sadly departed relatives, or play on their unfortunate childhoods in an attempt to win the nations hearts but in reality making them appear sad or desperate. What about those who we are encouraged to laugh at because there singing is so awful or their dance routine so cringeworthy it is beyond belief? The old ladies or young children brought on for the aaw factor, but are they really emotionally able to deal with the pressure and attention that comes with these shows? Is it right to watch 5 and 6 year olds sob their hearts out on stage when they fail to proceed to the next round?
At the end of the day they may have signed up for this and therefore it’s up to them to know the risks, but how many of these people people really know how they will appear on screen, which sections will be cut to leave just the most embarrassing and excruciating moments (it’s no secret after all that these shows are heavily edited) one little sound bite which will be repeated relentlessly in trailers across the nation every week to remind everyone just how wrong they were about their ability?
I read a Ben Elton book a couple of years ago called Chart Throb which although fictional rang all too true for me. It tells the story of contestants in a Pop Idol type show and how they are encouraged and manipulated to cry, lie and basically make fools of themselves for good entertainment. It may not be based on fact but I have to think it may not be a million miles away, and while I continue to read stories of former participants who have gone on to suffer mental health issues such as DJ Scott Whitley who attempted suicide after failing to make the semi finals of Britains Got Talent or more worryingly still of contestants who have apparently been specifically approached by these programmes it would seem purely for exploitation purposes such as the tone deaf Ceri Rees who was contacted and asked to appear on the X Factor in what can only appear to be an effort to produce higher viewing figures through ritual humiliation.
So although I may be left with no-one to talk to over my scone and tea at Monday mornings coffee break, I’ll continue my TV talent show abstinence, but I really must go now because Traffic Cops is coming on!