It’s little over a decade since Simon Cowell swaggered into the British public’s midst as the sharp-tongued, opinion-spraying judge on the first series of Pop Idol and despite proclaiming Gareth Gates the saviour of pop music, since then his stock has Zuckerberged.
But after 10 years of mounting success, 2011 was an utter disaster for the music boss. Britain’s Got Talent was vaguely turgid, Red or Black plummeted after committing PR harakari, X Factor was savaged by Strictly Come Dancing and even the American X Factor failed to live up to his expectations. He is determined to save his domestic stable by turning up in person this year, but we wonder if his personal touch will be enough to turn the tide. Have people stopped watching BGT & X Factor because of Cowell’s absence or have these programmes past their high-water mark? Either way, can the open-shirted one turn things around? For our money, we don’t think he can. Make no mistake, we’re not quite ready to predict Cowell’s demise, but despite the spike that his return to both panels will cause, we think his shows might be on a downward trajectory.
No show demonstrates the rise and fall of reality TV series’ better than Big Brother. It started small, alternative even, grew quickly, ramped up budgets, before eventually becoming a parody of itself and fading. The show was at its height in 2004, consolidated viewers over the next few years and then plummeted. Finally it suffered a fate worse than death. It was snapped up by Channel 5. In this fashion, we may currently have witnessed the beginning of the end for X Factor last month. The show might plateau in the coming years and will still generate gazillions for ITV, although the ratings of 2010 will probably never be matched.
As for Britain’s Got Talent, the show is an utter mess. Unfocused, mind-numbingly repetitive, without charisma and filled with idiots, a complete overhaul is the only workable option. Whether this facelift will pay dividends remains to be seen, yet for all the revamps in the world, the contestants are the real stars. David Walliams and Alesha Dixon (who hasn’t learned the lesson of other BBC presenters who’ve defected to ITV) should be well received, but are there any genuinely exciting new talents left untapped? Or will we end up with yet another urban dance act? It too is also going downhill..
Cowell has proved his knack spotting gaps and adapting formats (X Factor was borne out of his time on Pop Idol) in the past, yet his judgement proved fallible with Red or Black last autumn. His modus operandi or ‘bigger, better, more’ failed him and after just one series the show seems stricken. Cowell will return, but he’ll struggle to bring back the golden days of 2010..