It’s Saturday Night, Get Me Out of Here!

Hoorah! Celebrity Big Brother is actually managing to do something useful in the current series. By displaying her face on our TV screens every night, 35 year old Alicia Douvall – famous for spending over a million pounds on plastic surgery – is offering the best possible warning to any gullible youngster who’s thinking of spending money on unnecessary cosmetic procedures.

Douvall’s comically swollen lips, bloated cheeks and misshapen eyes give her the appearance of a woman who has just gone 10 rounds at the Albert Hall with Carl Froch, proving that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of surgery can sometimes create exactly the same look as being repeatedly punched in the face. Alicia’s picture should be put on the notice board of every secondary school in the UK. Since Big Brother is watched by millions of teenage girls, this is perhaps the most valuable function this show has ever performed, and sends out a far more useful message to the youth of Britain than anything that’s going on in the rest of the Saturday night schedules on BBC1 and ITV.

Which brings me neatly to the subject of this article. Once upon a time broadcasters aired their talent shows in the middle of the week. Then when they discovered someone truly talented they’d give them their own series on Saturday nights. There was a natural progression from talent shows to “real” shows. Crass and awful as they were, shows like Opportunity Knocks actually performed a useful function, often weeding out the true talent and promoting it to Primetime. This enabled us to watch the most entertaining performers on Saturday nights, rather than having to sit through all the thousands of losers who “failed the audition”. In this way we produced a generation of genuine TV stars. We celebrated excellence rather than bigging up failure.

Now, every few months, they audition 10,000 new wannabes. They wheel out wannabe, after wannabe, after wannabe, after wannabe. When they find a winning wannabe everyone forgets that wannabe instantly and we immediately start the competition again with another 10,000 wannabes. We already can’t remember which wannabe won the last series of X Factor or The Voice, and we don’t care because we’ll probably never, ever see that wannabe again.

Every few years one or two truly versatile and talented contestants emerge from shows like X Factor, but these performers will never get their own Saturday night TV shows because that slot is already taken by the next endless trawl through another 10,000 wannabes. It’s become all but impossible to cut through the clutter. Saturday night airtime is so full of losers there’s no time to showcase the winners.

Most baffling of all is that some talent shows are now designed for professional wannabes – people who are already fairly well known in show business. If they’re dancers we test them to see if they can skate. If they’re skaters we test them to see if they can dive into a swimming pool. If they’re swimmers we maybe force them to eat maggots in a jungle swamp. Please tell me why soap stars need a talent show. They’re already on TV practically every night of the week and at the Bristol Hippodrome in Aladdin for 12 weeks at Christmas.

By daring to take the piss out of Saturday night talent shows, Harry Hill’s new re-working of Stars In Their Eyes will hopefully help to move us into a new era. Harry is clearly as bored as we are with the tired, pitiful spectacle of yet another plasterer from Clapham or hairdresser from Romford trying to top the iTunes charts for 10 minutes in December. Let’s hope Harry’s new series will serve as a wake-up call for programme executives and they’ll consider giving us a much needed break from the likes of The Voice and X-Factor. Because once a major network starts taking the piss out of talent shows on Saturday nights by airing a spoof talent show on a Saturday night, you know that something must be wrong. Very wrong indeed.