The Talent Show Story

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(I've completed four-fifths of this, but forgot to record episode 3. Propose to add recaps in time with ITV repeats.)
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Revision as of 18:15, 26 July 2012



Victoria Wood (narrator)


Shiver and Talkback Thames for ITV, 7 January - 4 February 2012 (5 episodes)


The Talent Show Story set itself a big task - to give the full explanation of how talent shows came to dominate Saturday nights. The titles trace a trajectory from Opportunity Knocks to The X Factor, as though the triumph of Little Mix is the culmination of everything John Logie Baird ever worked for. Victoria Wood narrated.

Each episode contained four individual stories, generally independent of each other, and showing a variety of theme and time. The brief summary of these segments:

Episode 1: Susan Boyle / Popstars / Marti Caine and Nina Myskow / Pop Idol '02
Episode 2: New Faces / Britain's Got Talent / Simon Cowell / Worst auditions
Episode 3: (to be confirmed)
Episode 4: The X Factor / Lena Zavaroni / Child stars / New Faces '87
Episode 5: Judges / Pop Idol / Fame Academy / Dancers

Episode 1

The first programme told the story of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent 2009. There was a brief clip of Boyle on Michael Barrymore's "My Kind of People" in 1995, and her unsuccessful audition for The X Factor. "It's the moment I live for," gushed Simon Cowell. Would that be the moment where the entire world saw Boyle on the internets, and the meteoric rise to fame took her by surprise? Or the moment when Dec's earpiece said, "Diversity"? Still, Susan Boyle's gone on to make some records, learn a few words of Chinese, and she's going to be present on telly for many years to come.

Susan Boyle.

So, that's the success story. What of this past? The narration tells us that talent shows were big in the 1960s and 70s, became unpopular in the 1980s, and by the turn of the century was almost entirely relegated to niche channels. Then Nigel Lythgoe went to Australia, bought up the Popstars format, and sold it to ITV. Claudia Rosencrantz (head of ITV) said that the novelty was to see the manufacture of the band. Lythgoe had suggested Jonathan King for the panel, but Rosencrantz preferred Lythgoe himself. Simon Cowell turned down the opportunity to appear on the panel. Those judges were seated at the far end of the room from the door, just to provide five seconds of walk to raise the tension. Popstars produced their winning band, and completely over-promoted them. "You couldn't move without seeing Hearsay somewhere", recalls Kym Marsh; "it's inevitable the only way was down," said Danny Foster. ITV's house band lasted just eighteen months before splitting, allowing them to concentrate on projects like Top of the Klass with Myleene Klass.

Time's arrow continued to move backwards, with Nina Myskow revisiting the Birmingham Hippodrome of New Faces. She was surprised to be jeered by the audience, something encouraged by the producers. Kelly Fox, a former contestant, reckons that Myskow was being destructive and only looking to make a name for herself. Myskow recalls her banter with host Marti Caine, who dubbed her "Never Intentionally Nice to Anyone". Then time rewinds further, to the time in 1975 when Marti Caine faced Lenny Henry in the New Faces of that era. There are tributes to Caine, who died in 1995.

File:Popidol judgeteam.jpg The original stars of Pop Idol.

Joss Stone's moment on Star for a Night appears for no obvious reason, and then we relive the Pop Idol final of 2002. Gareth Gates tells us about his stammer, and Nicki Chapman says how she was smitten. "We've found a great story, we've found a star," recalls Simon Cowell. Will Young? Nicki says that he only went through because he auditioned at the end, and they needed more blokes in the next phase. The spat between Cowell and Young, about the quality of the latter's performance: "I thought he was obnoxious and full of himself. You don't like me, and I don't like you," says Cowell. Gareth Gates was The Anointed One, and Will Young the roadblock on Cowell's superhighway. Will had the popular backing, 4.6 million votes from the Great British Public. "I felt sick," says Cowell. "To this day, I still can't watch the final back."


Candy Studios composed the theme and incidental music.


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