I think that I may have been a little disingenuous when it comes to Britain’s Got Talent and Martyn Crofts – the potentially infamous Pan Man.
A few days ago I claimed that this year’s ITV talent show output – and Pan Man in particular – would herald the apocalypse. On reflection, this line of reasoning was perhaps somewhat over the top. I’ve had time to sober up now.
Of course Britain’s Got Talent won’t kill us all – let’s leave that in the much more capable hands of our world leaders. No – Britain’s Got Talent is nothing more or less than good quality variety entertainment.
Variety entertainment has been with us since the dawn of time. The whole ‘making the world in seven days’ thing is a heck of a novelty act for a start, although I’m sure Simon Cowell would be concerned that God wouldn’t have anywhere to take the performance for the live finals.
Skip forward to the loin cloth era of mankind. Here we find early cave drawings depicting three prehistoric men (and Amanda Holden) on what looks to be a panel, while yet another stick figure is drawn dancing with a pan on his head in front of an audience of dinosaurs.
Skip again to the Victorian era – famous for it’s sponge cakes and casual abuse of children – where the very first ‘Entertainment Production Executives’ held the keys to infamous mental institution Bedlam. In what can only be described as a genuinely despicable practice, visitors were allowed to come and gawp at the patients. Later, when people realised just how disgusting they were being, they left ill people alone and turned to monkeys. Organ grinders would wander the streets, merrily blasting out the latest tunes on unwieldy, steampunkesque boomboxes while comedy monkeys would… (and here’s the hilarious link to this year’s BGT) … offer a pan out to audiences in the hope of receiving money.
World wars pretty much interrupted the flow of variety entertainment for a while (although Winston Churchill’s Victory sign does mirror a kind of plea for the nation to pick up the phone and vote for him) and we have to skip to the fifties when… finally…. your friend and mine the telly is sorted out properly and talent tzar Hughie ‘I mean that most sincerely folks’ Green hits upon a massive idea for the future of showbiz. He can’t use monkeys any more like the Victorians did – they’re all locked up in animal testing laboratories, learning how to smoke and apply lipstick – so Hughie goes back to human entertainmeat (sic). This time, he won’t try something as tawdry as rounding up the mentally ill and staring at them in cages – no! This time around, Hughie will bait them with the fabulous prize of fame so that all the nutters will come to him.
And so, the variety talent show as we know it is born with legendary TV talent show Opportunity Knocks.
And fine stuff it is too – there’s nothing wrong with a bit of music, a bit of dancing, perhaps a bit of magic, topped off with colourful Joe Public doing his well honed party trick for the masses. In fact, one of the biggest stars of Opportunity Knocks in the 60s was Tony Holland, a bodybuilder who could move his muscles around to music. Essentially, the public clamoured for a bloke who could wiggle his nipples to a beat. In terms of ‘out there’ British eccentricity, is Nipple Man so far removed from Pan Man ?
So enough of the cynicism from this HB/NW. I’m starting to warm to Britain’s Got Talent this year and it’s clear from my extensive thesis above that 2012 hopefuls like Pan Man could become a welcome part of our British cultural heritage.
“And I mean that most sincerely folks…”
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