Britain’s Got Talent has finally riled me. I can no longer take it with a pinch of salt and I’m getting crotchety about it.
For me it represents the age of the mediocre, where anyone can be ascribed the label of “amazing talent” simply because they have a well-practised skill or because they have “got talent”- but a modicum of it.
In the sporting world prematurely foisting pressure on young talent is nothing new, every developing midfielder is called the next Beckham, Giggs, Fabregas. However, professional sportspeople expect to enter this funnel of hype, in the same way young actors expects rejection in 90 percent of their auditions.
But, the amateurs and children on shows like Britain’s Got Talent are being told massive untruths for the sake of livening up a TV show. Give Susan Boyle another year and it will be acknowledged she is not in the same league as many thousands of singers who are just making up Les Miserables ensembles throughout the world. The shy lad George Samson who won BGT two years ago has had a break in acting now in Waterloo Road, but was his street-dancing ever really as “ground-breaking” as it was made out to be? – or was it a level of dancing any pro could have pulled off?
Take Paul Potts, who I think is the most talented BGT winner – and has a remarkable voice for a mobile phone salesman- he has gone on to sell bucket loads of albums, but when people pull out CDs of fine opera singers in years to come they will never pull out one of his. It will be of truly exceptional opera talents like Alfie Boe, Simon Keenlyside, Bryn Terfel who are remembered as great. Yet superlatives placed upon him on the show were “world-class”, “extraordinary talent”, “one of the best singers in the country”
I find some of the stories of the BGT winners really touching: the shy Paul Potts and George Samson, the rather loopy and unpolished Susan Boyle, but they are not “geniuses”, “international stars” or the “greatest talents this country has ever seen” – they are simply good in the minds of those who are not necessarily familiar with the standards of the professionals already in those fields. Why aren’t they? Because they haven’t put in the years of blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice, dedication that most professional acrobats, singers, dancers, actors etc have put in to become world-class masters in their field. A point Malcolm Gladwell makes in one of his books in regard to the minimum numbers of hours the exceptional talents of today will have put into their craft.
We are becoming a society that values the momentary thrill of seeing something above average, above the truly great. So the “above average” is soaked with lazy hyperbole, rather than acknowledging the brutal fact that true greatness comes at enormous cost and dedication. And that true greats are likely to have been discovered well before they are tempted to step into a Britain’s Got Talent audition room. For every Pavarotti, there are a million Paul Potts; for every Barbara Streisand, a million Susan Boyles; and for every Fred Astaire, a million George Samson. We used to let talent find its audience by growing and growing until it burned blindingly, now we hunt it out and all we come back with are weakly glowing embers.
When I think of amazing unknown British talent I think of a young man called Killian Donnelly who while just in the chorus for Les Miserables, on a night when the actor taking the main part and his two understudies all went down ill , stepped in and gave a true leading man performances of the role of Jean Valjean. Since then he has gone on to play every major male character in the show – now that is phenomenal talent.