After collections were over, I along with numerous other Oxford students paused prior to commencing celebrations in order to watch our friends, members of the a capella group Out of the Blue, perform on Britain’s Got Talent. Receiving three “yes” votes from the judges, they were a resounding success.
But until approximately three hours before seeing them on television, I hadn’t head of Britain’s Got Talent. I’d vaguely understood that we had America’s Got Talent back home, but didn’t know anyone who’d watched it; in fact, it always seemed like the redheaded stepchild to American Idol, mirrored in Britain by The X Factor and a staple of the reality television lexicon since Kelly Clarkson won when I was only nine years old.
Actually, I think that was the last time I watched American Idol. Since then, such reality programming has exponentially exploded, a new show seeming to pop out of the woodwork every time you turn on the television. Whether they showcase singers, dancers, baton twirlers, or even primary-school-aged snake charmers, like the little girl who performed before Out of the Blue, there seems to be a show for every endeavour, ranging from the popular to the tremendously obscure.
Some strike a sardonic note, as in Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, in which American ten-year-olds compete against adults in contests of knowledge, with predictable results skewed towards highlighting the dwindling intellectualism of the nation. Others draw attention to personal journeys, turning weight loss into a competition just as they do artistic performances.
Still others don’t show viewers very much at all except for the lives of other ordinary people, made extraordinary (well, at least notorious) by the fact that cameras follow them around. Pretty much anything on MTV, from Jersey Shore to every season of the Real World, fits this description, as do their British alter egos filming the lives of young adults in Essex and Chelsea.
In the end, though, those which promote talent still pull in the highest ratings, which leaves us with only one question to answer – whether Britain or America’s got more talent? I’ll leave it up to you to decide!