The Dark Art of the TV Talent Show

22 Mar

In an attempt to inject their increasingly listless content with some semblance of drama, TV producers have devised a number of techniques for making what is essentially heavily edited footage of people performing everyday tasks seem unutterably thrilling. So, cue the DJ Shadow, prime the voiceover artist, there’s a cookery competition/weight loss contest/supermodel hunt afoot!

The process begins with the selection of contestants, all of whom must display a singular lack of self-awareness or perspective. It is crucial that the participants have a competitive streak completely out of proportion with the prize for which they are vying. Their indefatigable self-confidence and lust for attention must not be dented by any humiliation flung their way.

The contestants must preferably have a colourful and/or tragic back story – Derek has given up his job as a high-flying City lawyer and endangered his family’s future to pursue his dream of becoming the next Top Florist, Keisha wants to honour the memory of her family, who were all killed in a brutal badger attack, Glen must win the prize money to pay his wife’s ransom, etc.

It is also advisable to designate an ‘underdog’ and a ‘villain’ by carefully editing their interviews in such a way as to make them instantly adorable or repellent. Get them to say ‘this is my life’ and ‘I will do whatever it takes to win’ as much as possible. Sequestering the cast in a quasi-futuristic dream home which will serve as an opulent contrast to the childish bickering that inevitably ensues when desperate, self-obsessed morons are trapped together is another must.

The choice of narrator is crucial as their dulcet tones must make the most minor setback seem like a major catastrophe. The breathy lady who voices the top-rated culinary battle ‘Masterchef’ is the undisputed queen of this, investing statements like ‘There have been no orders for Tina’s Langoustine Stew’ and ‘Jon has cut his finger’ with the requisite level of tension. Only the most gifted communicator is capable of making these mundane occurrences seem of any consequence; which is why this ability is rightly rewarded with untold riches.

Music is the other important factor in making the viewer forget just how trivial what they’re witnessing is. Picture three people walking down the street – not very exciting, is it. Now picture those same people walking down the street with Rob Dougan’s ‘Clubbed to Death’ playing over it – instant drama! A great example of this is the daytime property ding-dong ‘Homes Under the Hammer’, which ramps up the already tense atmosphere of an auction with some pounding atmospherics straight out of a standoff scene from ‘Miami Vice’.

Then of course there is the crucial elimination segment – the culmination of all your work. Suspenseful strings swell to a crescendo as the contestants await their fate. When the result is announced, the soundtrack segues into a thirty-second burst of Snow Patrol/Keane/Sigur Rós/Mumford & Sons, a stirring accompaniment to the moving montage of the departing contestant’s most inspiring moments and embarrassing drunken statements.

That’s really all it takes – pick an occupation, find some fame-hungry dupes and be sure to thank me when you win a National Television Award!

The credo of the hopeful.

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