The Dividing Factor
Saturday night arrives and another evening of sitting at home watching the very best of reality TV entertainment awaits. A heavenly prospect for me – a hellish proposition for my partner who can be heard screaming ‘I’m not a celebrity – get me out of here!’ Never mind going down the pub to watch football, he would rather accompany my grandmother to bingo or babysit for the psycho twins at no.24, anything in fact rather than have to suffer the simultaneous anguish and rapture of the X factor contestants as they stand side-by-side to their mentors each week, waiting to discover whether the good old voting public has finally put a dead end to their road to riches – their ultimate journey to stardom. Just hearing the word ‘journey’ uttered from one of their starry-eyed speeches describing their heart-wrenching experience so far is enough to set him spitting and writhing in protest. And that’s without even mentioning the judges!
And yet, while I fully agree that much of it is indeed utterly cringe-worthy and full of uncomfortable not to mention unnecessary sentiment, I am still happy to embrace it for what it is – a glorified singing contest – a tried and tested talent show. After all, there’s nothing new about it, Opportunity Knocks, Stars in your Eyes, it’s all been done before. It’s something to celebrate surely – finding raw talent out of nowhere, letting it shine in front of a nationwide audience, fulfilling dreams that would never otherwise be realized. And entertaining the masses along the way. So, where’s the harm in that?
But as much as I like to sit back and be entertained by these hopeful starlets there are arguably some underlying and somewhat sinister forces at work that at times do compel me to squirm and look away. Is it the way that Simon Cowell reclines in a god-like fashion, before delivering his repetoire of clichéd remarks while each desperado waits with abaited breath between the painstakingly long pauses, begging for just one kind word that will take them through to the next round? Or is it the unabashed way that each contestant makes little ‘pick up the phone and dial’ gestures to the viewers at home, before clasping their hands to plead for our votes? Or could it be the background sob stories of dying relatives, past drug addictions or terminally ill pets (next series) that every other finalist seems to have endured? Coincidence? I think not.
But if we put all the contrived nonsense and sickly-sweet desperation to one side and appreciate it for what it is, a singing competition, pure and simple, then it cannot fail, in my opinion, to meet the criteria for compelling Saturday night entertainment. It has the glitz and the glamour, the suspense and the drama, the smiles and the tears and something else …. oh yeah, the singing.