If there is anyone to blame for the rise of the Mocking Culture on reality shows like X-Factor, it is probably that Grandfather of all Saturday Night entertainment, Bruce Forsyth. The Generation Game was a fantastic chance for Doris and Nigel of Basingstoke to attempt to craft pottery or assemble an artillery gun, and fail miserably for the amusement of couch-bound Britain. Of course, this was all in the seventies and eighties when nobody felt guilty, thanks to grinning and gurning Bruce-y and his “Well Done, Well Done!”
Doris and Nigel had given it a good shot, and although their pots looked like recently-crashed meteorites and their artillery gun blew out the lighting gear, everyone had enjoyed themselves and put on, as the British loved to say, a “Good Show”.
Unfortunately then came the rise of Youtube and Facebook which caused an accompanying plunge in moral values. Trust the Germans to invent the word schadenfreude, taking amusement in the misery of others. Bruce-y ballroom-danced into the latest reality concoctions and left the shepherding of England's interest in, and utter inability to perform at, talent shows to ...the Crown Prince of Evil Simon Cowell, riding the wave of hate-filled humour. He was a record company executive, the embodiment of pure evil that had puppet-managed popular music since Stock Aitken and Waterman first glued together bits of older songs, and now he had a throne and a desk and a voice like a gravel-filled shotgun.
And a brilliant mind, Cowell knew that it would actually be very easy to find legions of identikit stars, all blank personalities and airbrushed good looks. He could end up with a glut of Vickers and Murs and McElderry's, autotuned up and mimed out and overwhelming even the MySpace generation. He needed to ration these Airfix-kit-kids, but give the ravenous immoral channel-surfers of the United Kingdom something to devour mindlessly. Take a lesson from daytime television and the undisputed King of the Underworld, Kyle and his gag-inducing 'chat' show.
Britain's love-affair with its own seedy underbelly was about to get prime-time placement, and the most deranged council-estate sub-evolutionaries were going to get their own piano-solo sob-story, before being thrown to Cowell's grating barrel-blast and your mocking laughter. Not that you're to blame, or Cowell, or the faceless suits at Talkback Thames, or even Prince of Lies Kyle...no, we were lost the day Forsyth took the respectable veneer from normal people playing dress-up and pretend on Saturday night TV.