Poor old Simon Cowell's having a bad week. When he jetted into the UK to sit at the end of the judges' table and stop David Hasselhoff from falling over, he was probably expecting a hero's welcome. Local boy done good and all that. Instead he had to endure a cacophony of boos, not to mention a ribbing from Geordie's answer to Hale & Pace. Ever the professional, he tried to turn a blind eye to the criticism. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more of a droopy eye, since his botched botox job made it look as though one of the floor managers had just opened the Ark of the Covenant.
First there was Cherylgate, a story which managed to make front page news right across the US, despite the fact that all anyone had been talking about in the preceding weeks was the fact that no-one in the States knew who she was. In the absence of any genuine insider insight, the news media resurrected all their previous speculation about why she was never going to land the US X-Factor gig in the first place. They just changed the tense and simply re-appropriated it as a hot-off-the-presses exclusive.
Was it the impenetrable accent, a lack of chemistry with the queen of self-medication, or that pesky assault conviction? No-one knows and, despite the paper's best efforts to convince us otherwise, no-one really cares. So Simon loses his luxuriously-maned pet rock, and everyone moves down a seat. Over in the Middle East, the war still rages on. Interestingly, Cheryl's managed to maintain a dignified silence over the whole farce, leaving the rest of us to wish that she'd remained similarly tight-lipped last time she visited a recording studio.
Simon's return to Britain's Got Talent, accompanied by John William's triumphant Superman march, was supposed to reassure the great viewing public that our favourite shows were safely nuzzled between his hairy tit-sacks. And that was probably the case until a former colleague decided to pull a Wikileaks and expose the talent factory for the dubious scam that it is.
The contents of the anonymous whistleblower's blog were only online for a short time, but were quickly cut-and-pasted into a bunch of other sites. Many of those sites were forced to quickly remove the article, replacing it with a notice that read "moved due to a claim from Simco Limited ('Syco') and Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited ('Sony')."
The veracity of the writer's claims are yet to be established, but it makes for interesting reading nonetheless. Although I could do without all the cloak-and-dagger subterfuge; he's talking about a reality TV show, not the fucking Enigma machine. If you didn't get to see the original post, allow me to paraphrase it for you: Britain's Got Talent preselects its preferred acts and manipulates the audience vote. Anyone with half a brain, which admittedly excludes about 75 percent of the show's viewers, already knew that.
Much of the post focuses on 12 year-old Ronan Parke, who's a dead-cert for victory on Saturday night according to our anonymous informant. Try telling that to Susan Boyle, assuming she stops yelling at pigeons in the precinct long enough to listen. If the article is to be believed, acts are allegedly hand-picked for stardom well in advance of the show being filmed, then groomed, coached and re-invented, ready for their TV debut. There's also a bizarre focus on Parke's indeterminate sexuality, suggesting that Cowell's team decided to 'play up' the gay angle, without the author ever explaining how he thought that might enhance the kid's Stateside appeal.
Whether or not these claims are true is really of little consequence. But Cowell's foolish overreaction does suggest that there's something in the article that he didn't want the public to know about. Many people have labelled Simon a genius for his ability to gift-wrap a dogshit and make us say "thank you" for it. And although I'd grudgingly agree that he displays moments of cunning brilliance, let's not forget that this is also a man who goes to Sinitta for advice, but only because Debbie Gibson's line is always engaged.
Who knows, maybe Ronan will win tomorrow's BGT final. And maybe he even had it in the bag months before the cameras started rolling. But does it doesn't really matter? Those who enjoy watching the show do so because it attempts to recapture the spirit of all those 70s talent shows that used to clog up the airways - admit it, there are few things more fun than watching Nina Myskow make a teenage magician cry.
Anyway, the point is, this might look like a talent contest. And we may even get the chance to vote. But the audience-participation element is just a novelty addition to the format, like the bedsit they stuck on the side of the Big Brother house. Cast your mind back to the origins of the Idol/X-Factor format and you'll recall that Popstars made no attempt to involve the audience. In fact, the outcome was a fait accompli before the first show even aired. The genius of the concept, was in lifting the lid on the cruel and fickle nature of the record label's A&R process. Shows like the X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent may give us the illusion of control, but ultimately, we're just fifteen million unpaid participants in an extended focus group for next year's slate of new artists.
Simon's troops are rallying around him in his hour of need, with one underling telling the press "There's no way this person will get away with this." Comforting words, even if they imply that the villainous blogger is actually a disgruntled caretaker who dresses as a luminous zombie. Forget Scotland Yard, Simon needs to get Scooby and the gang on the case. In the meantime, the police believe they're closing in on their prime suspect. Let's just hope that Joe McElderry, Shayne Ward and Leon Jackson have all got a fucking good alibi.