Rant: TV-born ‘Talent’ Not To Be Sniffed At

June 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

RantThere’s something rotten in the world of television these days. Dividing the nation, sending us to the phones in droves… Talent shows. But wait, this isn’t a rant about how reality TV is bringing the music industry to its knees, or how talentless dross is clogging the charts.

No. I want to present another side to the story. A slightly controversial viewpoint, if you will. I’m suggesting – wait for it – that some talent show alumni actually do have some talent. So many people love to leap onto their soapboxes to decry the tattered state of society since talent shows began to dominate the prime time (the same sort who come over all outraged when faced with more than just coffee or tea to choose from at Caffè Nero. “Mocha-chocca-locha? Double frappe-latte? Long wet venti?? they cry. “In my day the only choice you had was sugar or no sugar!? To these latter-day Luddites I long to shout ‘Get with the picture, you unimaginative chumps’. Most people are sophisticated enough to read the menu and differentiate between your run-of-the-mill filter coffee and your fancier alternative. The Dark Ages of boring beverages are over! But I digress.)

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t necessarily love TV talent shows or the artists they spawn. You won’t find Steve Brookstein on my iPod, that’s for sure. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush. If you doubt my wisdom, try watching one of Leona Lewis’s X Factor performances on YouTube. If that’s not talent, I don’t know what is. Not everyone loves a warbler, but you have to admit that the girl can sing.

But for every Leona Lewis who charms the nation and storms the charts there are three Leon Jacksons (“Who?? you might ask. Precisely.). For every Girls Aloud at Number 1 there’s a Hear’Say lurking in the bargain bin. So I’m not suggesting that reality TV should replace drama school, and I’m not saying that every winner is a glittering star in a pantheon all of their own. Far from it. I recently saw the musical ‘Grease’ whose lead duo was picked on the show ‘Grease is the Word’. They were passable. Not even nearly bad. But they weren’t great. They were miles behind the professionals in every way. Their singing was slightly off, their dancing was awry and their acting was lacklustre. But then again, I saw public-chosen Connie Fisher as Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’ last year (I like musicals, ok?) and she was fantastic. So there are no hard and fast rules. That’s why it’s best not to jump to negative conclusions about these people just because they come from a reality show.

However, I understand where a lot of the anti-talent show malaise comes from. Every time you flick the telly on these days there seems to be some sort of vote-a-thon where young dreams are broken nightly by high-trousered know-alls and their weepy sidekicks. It’s staple television. And it’s symbiotic too – these shows feed into the music industry, so everyone’s a winner. Aside, it seems, from swathes of the population who’ve had it up to here with the production line. But there’s only a supply because there’s a demand, so don’t be too quick to judge. Just a thought.

by Susie Gordon