For reasons that are not mine to discuss, John Farnham is the Patron Saint of Poor Decision Making in our house. His 1986 hit ‘You’re The Voice‘ is on the Fowler-Leonard blacklist along with anything by Sean Paul (the man who has consistently been in my husbands ‘Top Five People Who Deserve To Die’ for almost as long as our relationship), Celine Dion and that overly-groomed foetus with the ego the size of China, whose name I cannot speak without my Fuck-Off-O-Meter screaming into dangerous blood pressure territory.
But yeah, we have to admit, heavy of heart, that we have set the slight twinge that the name of the show gives us aside and admit that we’ve been watching The Voice. Auntie Beeb’s polite and heart-warming alternative to ITV’s scathing humiliation fest that is Britain’s Got Talent.
I have no objection to TV talent shows. I was brought up on a televisual diet of Opportunity Knocks, New Faces and the unpolished smarm of The Royal Variety Performance (My delighful uncles also saw to it that I was exposed to An American Werewolf in London and the eye-popping bit in Scanners while I was still in primary school, so I have absolutely no squeamishness whatsoever). I can openly admit that I didn’t mind Girls Aloud (although I have consistently wanted to strangle Cheryl Cole with her own hair extensions). I ADORE Will Young and my husband definitely fancies Diana Vickers (although not as much as that incredibly beautiful French actress, but we shan’t mention that). Anyway, I digress, talent shows definitely have a long televisual tradition.
But when did it start to be all about the hardships of the contestants? Battles and challenges and struggles…all in soft focus with the camera lingering on teary-eyes and dependent children. Family members, wringing their hands and talking about ‘last chances’ and ‘working so hard’ as though anyone on the judging panel is going to give two flaming fucks that the person in front of them is a recovering alcoholic with a small child and is training to be a midwife.
I *know* all the stuff about ratings, ok? But I’m looking at this from my sofa level, not the swivelly ergonomic executive seating system of a television executive. It concerns me the same way Closer, Take a Break, Jeremy Kyle and the Daily Mail concern me. They’re feeding a desire for more and more gossip as though 60% of the country are literally GASPING with desperation for more scandal, more disappointment, more cellulite, unflattering strides and post-pregnancy bodies. Perhaps it’s replacing fags as the favoured pollutant of the masses. Wow, that was fucking deep. Lets not go down that road…
ANYWAY, I bloody love a bit of scandal, me. All for it. But I couldn’t give a monkey’s left bollock for celebrities weeping on couches and reality TV show contestants opening their hearts on national television in the hope that it’ll encourage everyone to open their wallets. Screeching about the size of Will.i.ams arse on Facebook is about the extent of my delight in watching The Voice (have you SEEN it?? Breathtakingly huge), but at least he’s not going to head to The Sun for an exclusive ‘Will.i.am: My Big Arse Hell’ any time soon. My delight in gossip and scandal is old-fashioned. I remember my Nan listening to Jean from next door crowing at her about the goings on in our street. Twitching of curtains and rolling of eyes as women tut-tutted. Genuine disasters were met with hushed reverence and certain words couldn’t be spoken above a whisper. There was a certain delight in knowing the dramas and often the secrets of people you actually knew. It connected communities and gave neighbours an opening gambit.
I have a theory about this. I’m full of theories. Feel free to ignore them, as some of them are clearly unfounded and incomplete bollocks (like the one about scandal rags replacing fags), but this one rings a bit truer. Like me spouting my dirge on this blog, people generally have less fear in speaking their minds. We’ve developed into a world of keyboard warriors – fearless of the feelings of others and unafraid of chucking our deepest darkest and most intimate personal experiences into the ether. It’s made the reality of our gossiping and scandal-mongering less gentle, more confrontational and scarily detailed. We’ve become desensitised to people’s problems to such and extent that they have become our entertainment. On the other side of the coin, our life’s calamities now have market value.
I will continue to watch The Voice, tolerating the moments of contestants staring into the middle distance and welling up with tears, but only so that I can continue playing ‘Jessie J Spontaneous Hug Bingo’, wondering who the hell Danny O’Donaghue is and gazing in wonder at Will.i.am’s blingy side-hairband whilst swigging red wine and giggling at my husbands incredulous facial expressions. But I will NEVER watch Britain’s Got Talent. I see no merit in being a complete fucking arsehole to people who, like children, have been told they can make money by showing everyone the lovely thing they can do – so long as they throw in their tragedies for free. There’s enough meanness in the world already.