It’s not the X Factor in reality TV, but the cringe factor
This week one and a half million odd people who tuned in watch the NSW fork lift driver Altiyan Childs take the top prize on the X Factor.
Finally Seven got the kind of ratings they had surely been hoping to snag for their big-budget import throughout the season after an overwhelmingly apathetic response from viewers.
As the series limped along, each week it failed to reach the stratospheric numbers the network must have been praying for after shelling out that sort of big bucks.
The X Factor has now been relegated to the long list of foreign imports the networks have shelled out seven or eight figures for in the hope of ratings gold.
Our networks have a long and not -so- proud history of getting cheque-book happy when it comes to bagging international franchises and our screens are littered with reworked, reskinned US, UK and European formats.
In the UK the current series of the X Factor has garnered the sort of fanatical devotion rarely seen outside of religious movements and Elvis conventions. Viewing numbers regularly top 13 million and the singers left vying for the top spot now knock David Cameron off the front page.
But it’s a curious question - why do some of our small screen imports translate into must-see viewing but others leaves us squirming as we fumble to find the remote to make it all stop?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact we have enough B-grade soapie stars and retired sportspeople happy to frock up in sequined glory and gamely humiliate themselves on our version of Dancing with the Stars.
Likewise it seems our nation can boast a proud swag of overweight individuals willing to submit to weeks of ritualistic punishment on an exercise bike in the name of “better health” on the Biggest Loser.
Big Brother proved a cash cow for Network Ten for a number of years before Gretel Killeen’s hairdo jumped the shark. Seems our nation’s young and libidinous are more than happy to flirt, frolic and fiddle beneath doonas for a couple of months to keep the Big Brother fires burning.
This year Australia’s Next Top Model clattered off the runway after its sixth season with only the occasional live gaffe, our pretty young things being, well, pretty and young.
It seems in the past few years we have gotten a taste for snatching our requisite 15 minutes of fame, cheerfully sharing our egotism, insecurities and vanity for our mutual viewing pleasure.
It’s a skill we’ve picked up courtesy of a decade’s intensive education via US and UK reality series. We’ve been thoroughly schooled in the equation whereby a lashing of TV degradation and the odd makeover brings with it a modicum of fame and the occasional cheque.
But, when it comes to series like the X Factor that demand genuine talent, we are found wanting. Shows like the X Factor and Australian Idol demand that indefinable quality that wows audiences, quells critics and makes fans cue in sleet.
We have a finite talent pool in this country. There are only so many great voices undiscovered, only so many genuinely gifted musicians tucked away in suburban cul-de-sacs waiting for their moment to brush off the cat hair and wow a la Susan Boyle.
Australian Idol might have given us Guy Sebastian, but a ratings slump in recent years for the production heavy, costly series saw Network Ten give the show the flick in 2010. Two million less people tuned in to watch Stan Walker (I’m with you, who?) win in 2009 than when Sebastian crowned as our Idol at the end of the first series in 2003.
Channel Seven is in the midst of producing its first home spun season of The Amazing Race.
The burning is question is will our contestants prove as enthrallingly xenophobic, vain, irascible, and revoltingly rude to taxi drivers the world over as their American counterparts?
I’m willing to bet yes.
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