Crap content – a recipe for success?

Bigheads, a new show on ITV, a fantastic example of a silly idea creating fantastic content.

After the pain of sitting through ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (BGT) in my flat on Sunday (we watched the replay out of desperation to cure our insatiable boredom) I began to wonder: ‘What on God’s earth makes people enjoy these shows?’ It is not as though BGT has a few viewers, it has been the most watched show on Television in the last 30 days, attracting over 11 million viewers in its last installment. When seeing that this is the case, various thoughts run through my head; ‘How is Britain the fifth largest economy in the world?’ ‘How can Britons be so easily indoctrinated by pure crap?’ And, ‘Maybe Europe should be happy that we are leaving, I doubt continental Europeans would fall for such crap.’  Ah, 22 European nations have their own versions of the show, 58 nations across the globe… Maybe this stupidity in our undying admiration for these kind of shows is a global phenomenon.

It is not that I don’t like shows that aren’t considered intellectual or creative, shows that you might call cheesy, I love some shows like this, and I will explain why later. The key to these shows being enjoyable boils down to a little bit of modesty and self-deprecation. The main issue I have with BGT is nothing actually to do with its cheesy, overly-patriotic content. I love soaking some of that up from time to time. The problem with the show is how seriously it takes itself. Emotional sob stories, harrowing examples of a tragic life turned around, or unexpected surprises, surprises which, if you know the formula that the show follows, you can see coming from a mile away. Simon Brodkin shows how simple it is to succeed with no discernible talent on BGT in this video. He fooled all the judges by creating a character, a rapping rabbi. Britain’s Got Talent could be a hundred times more enjoyable, if it did the simple thing of not taking itself too seriously. No one likes an individual who takes themselves too seriously, so surely this should be the same for a TV show?

Simon Brodkin Rapping Rabbi.jpg
Simon Brodkin aka ‘The rapping rabbi’. Check out how he fooled the judges by clicking here

Not only does BGT take itself too seriously for what it is, but it also exploits peoples emotions, playing every trick in the book to bring a tear to the viewer’s eye. A tear to their eye when a wooden-legged transgender who recently lost their whole family in an avalanche gracefully opens a tin of beans with their teeth. Music, lights, dramatic pauses, cut-aways to crying audience members, clips of adoring family members, coincidental questions asked by the judges which just happen to be the perfect question to bring out the sob story necessary to slowly kill each and every brain cell in the viewers increasingly vacuous skull, every trick in the book is employed. Before going on the televised show, you have to fill out a 17 page questionnaire, just so the judges can ask the right question to make the audience putty in their hands. To the credit of BGT, these aforementioned tactics are employed very well, and said tactics make Simon Cowell and co. a hell of a lot of money. However, if you can see past the facade, the exploitative nature of the show and its underlying stupidity come to the fore.

This elongated expulsion of my disliking of BGT leads me to the opening photo and title of today’s blog: ‘Crap content – a recipe for success?’  For BGT yes, they get viewers, so one could argue that BGT is a resounding success. But I am looking at something more important than that. I am asking the question from the perspective of creativity. From the perspective of class, of genuine high quality television. Bigheads does this, and it does it so, so well. The idea is, quite frankly, absurd. Contestants compete for a cash price, in a knockout competition, where one winner at the end of the hour-long show can take the money home. Nothing special or absurd there, right? Wrong. These contestants compete in these challenges whilst wearing gargantuan heads of celebrities and famous people from throughout history. The whole concept of the show revolves around stupidity. But, unlike BGT, it is not serious about its stupidity. Jason Manford hosts the show in such a light-hearted fashion that he is in constant giggles over the steadfast silliness of the show. The two co-presenters, sat at a table as if they were commentating on a serious game of cricket, are equally informal in their approach, laughing at the tumbles and fumbles of the top-heavy contestants. These co-presenters, Kriss Akabusi (the greatest man the earth has ever had the fortune of housing), and Jenny Powell, offer different but similarly important roles to the show. The energy and enthusiasm of Kriss adds to the pure wacky mayhem of the show, and Jenny provides an element of calm the show desperately needs, else the show would just end up in a heated mess of prosthetic heads and hysterical presenters. In simple, the show is superb, full of ‘crap content’, but its acceptance of that and willingness to laugh at itself makes it my favourite show currently on TV.

Jason Manford described it as ‘the daftest show I’ve ever been involved in and I’ve done a lot of daft shows! It’s the show where people in massive celebrity heads get hit in the face and fall over. If you don’t like that you need to have a long hard look at yourself.’ Well done Jason, I couldn’t agree with you more.

All in all, ‘Bigheads’ is a thoroughly enjoyable show, and how ITV did not give it a prime-time spot I will never know. I am 100% certain this show will become a cult classic in the same way ‘Gladiator’ has, and cannot wait to see more episodes, and hopefully another season. You can find the first episode of Bigheads here, or by visiting the ITV hub. The show will next air on the 30th April at 7:00pm. Whilst Pop Idol was replaced by the X factor, and whilst Britain’s Got Talent will inevitably be followed by another, different yet indistinguishable show, Bigheads cannot be replaced, its originality and self-deprecation a fine example of Great British humour.

John Cleese of Monty Python once said: ‘High creativity is responding to situations without critical thought.’ In other words, don’t take yourselves too seriously, just do it, without worrying about what people think or what the consequences might be, and something incredible, exciting, and successful will be waiting around the corner.

The Ministry of Silly Walks
Monty Python never took themselves too seriously, and look where it got them…

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