It is difficult to ridicule what is already ridiculous. Here Ben Elton aims his satire at the Reality TV Talent shows in the X Factor mould.
Chart Throb shows the manipulation of the talent hopefuls and the audiences by the producer and lead judge Calvin Simms (a Simon Cowell caricature). The choice of finalists is manipulated for entertainment purposes. Fragile individuals are exploited, they have their dreams elevated then dashed one by one to entertain the audience. Ben Elton introduces his Royal Highness Prince Charles into the mix as a wannabe star, the other self obsessed contenders think at first he is a celebrity lookalike.
The format of the show will be familiar to those who have watched X Factor or America’s Got Talent. The shows are more about entertainment than unearthing real talent, Calvin Simms does whatever it takes to add entertainment, through conflict, scripting the other judges, editing everything to create the desired fictions.
“That’s right. We are not a talent show. What are we?” (Calvin)
“We’re an entertainment show. ” his people replied.
“My job, your job, our job is to entertain. If dumping the best singer is the more entertaining than keeping him then that is what we do because the public are not interested in the singing.
I was expecting a funnier book from the writer of Young Ones and Black Adder, but I didn’t find a lot of laughs between the pages. The pace is fast, but a lot of the story is repetitious, some of this is intentional, the judges endlessly repeating to contestants “you really owned that song” or Beryl the transsexual judge continually telling everyone else what a great mum she is.
A previous reader of my copy of the novel was a Russian speaker in the first few pages several words are underlined and translated into Russian, but it seems the previous reader gave up by page 90, as the under-linings stop (except for a few near the end of the book…maybe they jumped to the end).
The contestants are categorised by the Chart Throb team as Mingers (ugly wannabes), Clingers (needy wannabes) and Blingers (show offs). The editing is ruthless and manipulative, “I’m not claiming I’m the next Elvis” can easily be cut to “I’m claiming to be the next Elvis” and the public won’t warm to any contestant comparing themselves to the King.
My rating : 3 out of 5
In Georgia like most countries there is an X factor like show, here it is called ნიჭიერი (talent) with it’s own local flavour, where squeezing 20 people into a Nissan Micra is one of the acts. Squeezing into the public transport here is .good practice