I am forever confused that the public confuses a show such as the X Factor as being a talent show. During the 70’s and 80’s Saturday night Television was full of variety shows. Where professionals took to the stage and performed to entertain the TV watching public.
Those variety programmes were known as “shiny floor shows” X Factor and the like have now taken their place but they are not sold as a “shiny floor show” they are sold as talent shows. Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC has done the same again replacing the old variety format with a slick good looking variety show.
Our fascination with these shows just shows our confusion about celebrity. We love to see the real “so called” B list celebrities on Strictly putting their reputations and bodies at risk for our entertainment. Most of them do very well and the level of dance achieved by them is testament to the real professionals that train them every week.
X Factor however is a different beast. It takes unknowns plucked from auditions all over the country and places them into a singing competition which for 12 “live show” weeks enthrals part of the nation. But then what? You can count on one hand how many of these (in Louis Walsh’s words) “New Pop Stars” really go onto a successful career?
They are cast aside by the industry for two reasons, firstly they actually weren’t that talented and secondly the British public has a problem with making that conversion from the crying “I’m doing it for my mother” audition to making someone a star. We just on the whole don’t buy it.
For me their lies the irony, we are stuck in a celebrity world where the celebrities are not like the “real” stars of yesterday just talentless B or C listers desperate to get their picture in a magazine to promote their latest clothing line or whatever. Then we are unable to let the contestants from a shiny floor show make the crossover to celebrity because we have seen their normality, we’ve seen behind the curtain.
Show business used to be about never be seen “front of house”, keep that exclusivity, retain that aura. Now in the space of twelve weeks these guys have laid themselves bare and someone has to help them rebuild that aura. Not all can do it, not all get given the right people to help them do it.
The States is different it has a different social mentality where success is praised and encouraged by the masses. They can allow the competitor to make that transition from audition to star watching all the tears and joy by being comfortable with someone else’s success.
X Factor is going to the US next year and it’s a huge gamble for Mr Cowell. For me, here in the UK, it has run its course. I told friends of mine in the industry at the end of last years series that, as a manager, I’d advise Simon to leave now as it’s starting to slide. Wagner has proved that by the voting public helping to make a mockery of the whole show. Maybe he had to stay one more year to help keep the profile of the brand up whilst gearing up for the launch in the States, only he knows.
Also the industry is now openly questioning the validity of it as a talent show… Urm hello, no rocket scientists in there is there. It’s always been about the phone calls, texts, advertising and sponsorship. A record deal to the likes of Wagner seems a mere dip in the ocean compared with the revenue created each year.