It's been a bad couple of weeks in reality TV. Well, arguably it's been a bad ten years, but the last fortnight or so has given us two big-time, internationally-reported upsets.
First there was American Idol. Searching Google News for 'American Idol upset' gives 1,167 results in the past month. The front runner lost in the final vote, and at least 1,167 journalists worldwide have written about how surprised they are.
Then came Susan Boyle's breakdown on Britain's Got Talent. Ms Boyle blows Adam Lambert clean out of the media, with a phenomenal 29.846 news mentions worldwide in the past month. (Numbers correct at time of writing, but likely to go up for the next week or so.)
Were these results fair? Did partisans engage in dirty tricks? How much of the vote reflected telegenic cuteness, rather than actual talent? Were the votes actually counted, or did the organisers just make up the totals? Did people vote more than once? (In fact, Idol actively encourages this.)
Talent shows have nothing to do with talent. Look at Kelly Clarkson, first winner of American Idol: the girl has about as much talent as it takes most of us to cook our own dinner; she's a pedestrian singer and an atrocious songwriter, penning lyrics that would shame a '50s teenybopper. She's not famous because people buy her records; people buy her records because she's famous. Because she won American Idol.
That's what these shows are about. Not finding talent, but creating celebrity.
See, the problem with really talented people is that they have better things to do than bare their lives to fan magazines. Practising, rehearsing, reading, learning, dreaming, planning... being talented is a lot of work. But celebrities, now - if your sales depend on your fame, rather than vice-versa, then there is literally nothing more important to your career than keeping your face in the public eye. So instead of "entertainment journalists" having to chase and stalk and court and flatter them, these McCelebrities can be relied on to pretty much throw themselves in front of any camera they can find.