Thursday, June 14, 2007

Britain's got attention whores

"The budgie man's on the telly!"

(If you've never wandered along the Thames in the vicinity of Tate Modern, you may not be aware that the budgie man is a bloke who stands about with a row of budgies on a pole and a tape player, singing a terrible song about how he's the "bu-budgie man".)

"really? What's he on?"
"I can't tell you, I'm too ashamed of the rubbish I'm watching."

A couple of days after this exchange, I finally wheedle the information out of her: The budgie man appeared (albeit briefly) on Britain's Got Talent. My curiosity piqued, I turn on and am sucked into an hour and a half of what Dante's Inferno might be like if Dante had been BBC1's light entertainment commissioning editor in 1975.

I'm confronted by a gaggle of small children jumping about dressed as purple witches, which puts me in mind of New Order's True Faith video re-imagined by a crack-head.

The judges are Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. They each have a button that they press when they've had enough of whatever act is in front of them, which lights up an enormous red cross. If all three light their crosses, the act must stop and leave the stage in ignominy and shame. Cowell is playing his usual Nasty shtick, while Holden (a brunette these days, presumably in penance for doing the dirty on Les Dennis) almost visibly melts every time a small child appears. Her role is clearly to be good cop to Cowell's bad. Morgan doesn't appear to be able to decide if he's there to be an honest broker between these extremes or to try and out-bastard Cowell. When he attempts to do the latter, the result is hilarious in its ill-judgement. After a small child has run through "Wouldn't it be luverly" (very well, it must be said), he pronounces "No." there is an uncomfortable silence, it's clear the other two think she's a shoe-in. "No... doubt you're going through," he says. This sort of thing might work if Morgan was a polished performer who knew about comic timing, but he clearly isn't. He's clearly just that idiot who used to edit the Mirror before all that unfortunate business with the share tips.

There's a lot of that false expectation stuff in this show, actually - when the time comes to decide who'll go through to the next round, Cowell habitually uses it ("I'm sorry to tell you... you'll have to do it all over again. You're through!"). They used to use this gag on Neighbours all the time when telling kids their exam results and the like. Still, at least Cowell can pace it properly.

Of course, what we watch this sort of thing for isn't anyone with any actual talent, nor the ocean of mediocrity, but the jaw-droppingly awful, and Britain's Got Talent supplies that in spades. It's interesting that the audience is by now primed to boo Simon Cowell whatever he says, despite the fact that most of the time he's extremely fair in his criticisms. The man on the trampoline did get boring after he'd done the same pratfall about 5 times in the first 30 seconds. The middle aged woman dressed as Madonna was rubbish. Sticking spoons to your face isn't enough to make an act.

What continues to amaze, not only in this but all these talent shows, is the incredible ability of people to delude themselves that they can sing/tell jokes/dance/entertain in any way whatsoever. Surely if one of these people was your friend it'd be kinder to tell them quietly that they're rubbish, than to let them demonstrate it on national television? Or just shoot them. It'd be quick.

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