How talent shows became the weirdest shows on TV

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“Because of places like Butlins and these summer camps, the audience was ready to watch in a special way, with empathy and humor, and they were also ready to audition for [these shows] too, ”adds Hill.“ There has been a strong transmission of an entertainment story to audiences from that and the reality shows really come to tap into that cultural story. “

In 1949, the simple premise of discovering ordinary people who have hidden and extraordinary talents rose to prominence in the UK with Opportunity Knocks, which began as a nationally touring radio show, before moving on to television. in 1956. A series of undiscovered acts would occur on the show each week, with audiences responding with cheers counted on the clap-o-meter, before viewers at home were then asked to send a mail-in vote. for the winner, which was announced the following week.

In the United States, the talent show The Original Amateur Hour followed a similar trajectory, beginning its life as a radio series, before being adapted for television in 1947. It is estimated that up to a million people have auditioned for the television version until it was taken off the airwaves in 1970, and it regularly attracted 10 million viewers. While undisputed talents sometimes burst onto the stage – like Frank Sinatra and opera singer Maria Callas – it was not seen as a launching pad for big stars, but rather as a light way to offer 15 minutes of fame to ordinary people.

In the 1980s, there was still a huge appeal for what became known as “shining floor” talent shows, especially during the prime-time weekend hours. In the United States, Star Search lasted 12 years in its original version, from 1983 to 1995, and as research progressed it truly uncovered top talent including Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Alanis Morrisette and LeAnn Rimes.

In the UK, fans were also always tuned in to these simple talent shows as entertainment shows – including New Faces and My Kind of People – but then, in the 1990s, the nation was became obsessed with imitating already famous singers. Stars in Their Eyes lasted 16 years from 1990 and had the “wow” moment of turning a commercial singer into her idol, as the contestant said the famous words: “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be. .. “then came out of a puff of dry ice as a musical doppelganger.


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