Morning Star discusses podcast and Britain's Got Talent
TV's certainly got one talent
Monday 25 May 2009
by Chris T-T
Ashamed to be sitting in the same room as Britain's Got Talent
This week the Collings and Herrin podcast is coming live to my local arthouse cinema - the Duke Of York's Picturehouse in Brighton, down the end of my road. I can't wait.
If you haven't discovered Collings and Herrin yet, it's a series of spontaneous conversations between broadcaster and author Andrew Collins and stand-up comedian Richard Herring.
They sort of look at current affairs, like one of those reviewing-the-papers segments on news programmes, except it rapidly descends into random chat, with Herring in particular capable of heroic filth.
It's brilliant - somewhere between Derek and Clive and Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned, though I don't imagine they'd appreciate the latter comparison.
Anyway, each time I listen, it strikes me how weirdly the battle for morality is being played out in our culture right now.
Fundamentally, the banal mainstream's ridiculously warped exploitative sense of status and "values" has been carefully dressed up in politeness and family entertainment, while the enlightened fringes are left to guard a firmly grounded moral core, despite extreme humour and foul mouths.
The stand-ups and satirists are rapidly becoming our last guardians of goodness, even as they are forced to defend themselves from the corporate print media's faux outrage.
Didn't somebody say you could mark the beginning of the end from when comedians and news journalists swapped roles? More and more, the most reliable current affairs are found on The Daily Show in the US and in Private Eye in Britain. Only the satirists can be trusted.
Meanwhile, deep in the heart of the morally upright, family-oriented mainstream...
The sleight of hand with which Simon Cowell does his "honest appraisal" or "cruel-to-be-kind" schtick smoothly tricks us into forgetting the simple, ugly reason why he's able to do it in the first place - power. He owns the place. Of course he can speak truth in it.
It is a parallel to the corporatist vision of the owner not just possessing everything but possessing everyone's values too and overseeing what is regarded as acceptable.
Who are these employees disguised as colleagues? The grand myth of someone like Piers Morgan ribbing Cowell as a fellow judge is exactly that - a grand myth. Morgan knows exactly where his bread is buttered.
Cowell's oleaginous ilk have done more damage than we can imagine to the popular arts of this land, not so much in devising their acrid new super-cheap kind of television, which is crippling scripted and acted fiction, but more through the creation of a myth that we know how it all works and it is somehow "fair play."
In truth, we're more fooled than ever. The carefully constructed rise and fall of one reality "star" after another is even more laughable when attached to the idea that we somehow "picked them out."
Worse, even the knowing, media-savvy, neoliberal sophisticates among us still inject vast overdoses of Big Brother, The Apprentice, 10 Years Younger and American Idol. We may mock or claim to watch with irony, but we're still hopelessly addicted and, essentially, we're participating in the long, slow fall.
Think I'm exaggerating?
Here's a one-act parable of moral relativism - the sexy dancer gets a lascivious thumbs-up for shaking her booty, then the gothic circus boy gets personally insulted by judges who feign shock and ignorance of his venerable, if minority interest, vaudeville performance.
An audience who enjoyed him earlier dutifully boos when he reappears at the end, having been taught righteousness by indignant judges, one of whom earlier genuinely said: "I can think of two reasons why you should go through to the final," referring to the dancer's breasts.
And in the climactic moments, a crying 10-year-old child is left to take the long walk offstage alone, after being knocked out of the competition in a tense final call from the judges.
Despite hosts Ant and Dec being spare parts at that moment, neither of them saw fit to even accompany her.
Forget the paedos, hoodies or malevolent immigrants that the Express types imagine stalk our streets, there's your British child abuse, played out in front of millions, with Cowell, Holden and Morgan grinning fatly away in the background.
Just one single episode of the Jabba the Hutt palace quagmire that is Britain's Got Talent, leaving me ashamed even to be sitting in the same room as the TV.