This weekend saw the largest audience for a UK TV show since 2004. It has been described by many as “car crash television” and by some as being “a freak show”. Whatever the various opinions expressed, there is no denying that the final of Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) attracted a peak audience of 19.3 million viewers.
It can only be described as a massive success for the ITV network, where the average viewing figure for a Saturday night is normally around 5.3m. If you combine the peak rate advertising revenue to the income from phone-in voting at 50p per time. it must have been television’s version of winning the lottery.
Despite what we are told, BGT is a mongrel in the history of TV talent shows; it is not, as we have been led to believe, an original format but is instead a mish mash of various shows that have gone before.
Where it scores over its predecessors, though, is that it has had a huge amount of money invested in it and has high production values and massive publicity and hype.
The three judges have no obvious qualification for judging ‘talent’ but head judge, Simon Cowell, has always demonstrated a huge talent for tapping into the naivety of the British public while at the same time, exploiting the massive earning potential of the successful participants at the top of the competition.
The show’s producers, under the control of Cowell, have successfully manipulated the various senses within each of us, by letting us share the ridicule, amazement, sympathy and embarrassment carefully woven into each episode and subsequently judged by the panel. The balance between entertainment and discomfort has often been a delicate one.
We enjoy the guilty pleasure of being the voyeur when a ten year old contestant stops singing in the middle of a live performance, has a semi tantrum and insists on being able to start over.
We love the feeling of guilt when we judge a contestant on her plain looks and then, when she starts her performance, are left mouth agape because she has a truly amazing voice.
Personally, I wish that TV entertainment did not have to rely on exploiting such feelings within us but then 19.3 million people think I am wrong!