The Public Veneration of Mediocrity

I have become increasingly disturbed by the current trend towards mediocrity on television. We the so-called public seem to derive more pleasure from the bland and incompetent than from the talented. The only dancing programme on terrestrial television is Strictly Come Dancing, a competition where John Sergeant is saved weekly by the public vote, thanks to the sheer novelty of seeing him dance badly. Each week he tries admirably, but he simply has no innate dancing ability. He appears as either Tweedledum or Tweedledee in a dinner jacket, galumphing gracelessly around the floor, his feet landing clumsily in something vaguely resembling rhythm while his professional partner desperately tries to divert attention away from him by flashing her legs from beneath a glittery pink dress. The judges practically pulsate with fury, urgently persuading the public to stop supporting this awkward goon at the expense of contestants who can actually dance. No such luck! Clearly their fun little strategy of including a few token “no-hopers” has backfired. This is the ninth week John Sergeant has been saved by the public vote, while the elegant and surprisingly adept Cherie Lunghi was voted off. This is precisely the kind of ill-considered voting that made Boris Johnson the Mayor of London. Well, perhaps not quite that irresponsible. But still, a new demographic must be considered — the “yeah, that’ll be a laugh” vote.

Meanwhile the only music show on prime time terrestrial television is The X Factor, a sickening (and sickeningly compelling) glorified karaoke competition. Each week contestants perform songs of a different theme — disco, Mariah Carey, funeral dirges and so forth. In terms of record sales it is the most influential music show in Britain. The Michael Jackson evening was cited as responsible for drastically boosting sales of Jackon’s latest compilation. The US equivalent, American Idol managed to land Jeff Buckley at the top of the iTunes chart after one contestant performed a Buckley-styled version of Leonard Cohen’s ubiquitous Hallelujah. How can this be? How can a televised Open Mic Night inspire such a retail frenzy? And how can there be no room on the schedules for genuine music? If you want to see professional musicians playing live music with some degree of skill and accuracy, you have to stay up late and watch Later with Jools Holland. And that’s shite too.

It used to be that people were impressed by displays of talent and skill. During the Great Depression people were uplifted and entertained by Fred Astaire’s dazzling footwork and Groucho Marx’s lightning-fast repartee. Now we have another recession from which to distract ourselves, and our idea of entertainment is to complain in droves about tasteless prank calls —¬† whilst simultaneously demonstrating our own lumbering lapse of taste and judgement by voting for inept dancers, interminably bland singers and bumbling mayoral candidates.

2 Responses to “The Public Veneration of Mediocrity”

  1. Well well, Mr Craig, we meet again! It’s weird what, and who, pops into your inbox of an evening, no? Didn’t notice it was you until I finished reading though.

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more, and regarding the whole album sales boost thing, I wouldn’t be suprised in the least if the same tactis for getting radio play were used in such shows as The X-Factor and American Idol. In as much as the producers (Simon Cowell et al) get paid to punt particular songs and artists on their crappy, and you correctly stated oddly addictive (my recent ex watched ot all the time and the northern lass going off was a travesty!), money spinning TV shows.

  2. It’s an extension of the “everyone’s a star” phenomenon that began with Big Brother. Very few people seem to be famous for doing anything these days, and a lot are famous simply for being famous. Or infamous, depending on the headline.

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