There was a time in the late 1990s when I thought I was witnessing the beginning of the end of the world. This was not due to my inherent pessimism - the late 90s had its moments (a swaggering New Labour, chatting to friendly pilots IN the cockpit of commercial airplanes, sitcoms such as Friends and Frasier having new episodes on the same night!) I was entering secondary education, picking up references and turns of phrase to use in conversations that impressed/alienated my chums and choosing my own shoes for school. I was a contented clam. There was something amiss though. Pop music was starting to eat itself. Its chief protagonists were boy/girl/mixed bands.
The Spice Girls and Take That (replace with All Saints and Boyzone, respectively, if you're that way inclined) had taken the yoof by storm, hit followed hit, band departures and Union Jack apparel caught the national attention. I was fine with that. All the best to them, I thought. The problems started when all of a sudden bands called B*Witched, 5ive and other grammatical abominations starting cropping up. Not that I have a problem with quirky uses of grammar, I think it is @ce, but the problem became endemic when those bands were swiftly followed by Steps, Another Level, S Club 7, The Vengaboys, Aqua, 911, Atomic Kitten. A photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy...
In my naïve state I thought it would never end. I thought there would be so many pop stars that they would end up controlling the world, the Eurovision Song Contest would replace the EU and standing up from your stool at the key change would become obligatory national anthem procedure. The pop was everywhere.
As I began readying my plans for Noah's Ark (which included dressing as a combination of animals to provide Noah a time-saving alternative) things started to cool. The pop bands started to fade as enthusiastic tweens became sardonic teens and dirge-indie bands (Travis, Snow Patrol) began to rise like a beige phoenix out of the ashes. Apocalypse had been deferred and I could remove my rhino/gorilla/dolphin overalls.
I am currently slipping into that frightened frame of mind yet again, this time due to reality TV. Now I know it's redundant to moan about reality TV, just like it was clichéd to call George. W. Bush stupid (which I still find frightening, as he was commonly regarded as an ignoramus but could nuke Whitby on a whim). The problem with reality TV is its contamination of industry around it. Karaoke singers on the X Factor end up starring in West End productions ahead of trained singers/dancers just because they can draw in bone-idle viewers into the theatre.
The professional singers are skewered because they chose to work on their craft rather than whore themselves on reality TV, wiping away the tears after revealing how their grandmother got a paper cut in WW2 then proceed to butcher a Queen song to the slavish applause of the crowd. Inexplicably, the likes of Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Amanda Holden judge talent. The remit for being a 'celebrity' has stretched so thin that the famous rule of three (three celebs die at the same time, pity) will soon extrapolate into abacus-busting figures. There is only one recourse. THE ULTIMATE REALITY SHOW!
The premise is very simple.
- Before taking part in any competitive reality show contestants sign a blood oath using Adolf Hitler's very own quill that states they will abide by the competitions terms and conditions.
- Contestants take part in their contest. They sing, dance, spin plates, perform magic and aim to win.
- If they win, they enjoy all the spoils of success (going on This Morning, attending the openings of supermarkets). If they lose . . .
- They are forced to fight to the death in a pit, battle royale style, against all the other losing contestants for all the other shows. No weapons, no rules.
I would like to point out that this is the contestant's choice. They should only enter talent shows if they indeed have talent. If they ignore this and enter a contest with their out of tune warbling then they only have themselves to blame if they are facing Ethel, the battle hardened grandmother who thought training her Scottish Terrier to bark three times on command was talent.
Before you say, "gosh Phil, people fighting in a pit to the death for entertainment is unholy, barbaric and uncivilised", I simply retort with this: Ancient Rome. Gladiatorial battles were the Strictly Come Dancing of their time, gladiators entertained the masses with flashy outfits, and those whose footwork let them down were eliminated. Plus, the Romans were innovators, so anything the may have done should be respected and implored; I for one cannot count how many times I have thanked the lord for aqueducts.
If you are also worried about what to watch on a Saturday night and talk to your friends about, well have faith. Remember the times before reality TV? It was a glorious time of original scripted television and nights spend playing Pictionary with loved ones. Bliss.
It is summed up best by my second favourite quote* from Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park; "life finds a way". We can move on from Simon Cowell's clutches and reclaim the word 'talent' for future generations of tap dancers and mimes.
*For the record my favourite quote from Jurassic Park is "Run away from the big dinosaur!"