Sunday, 4 April 2010

Over the Rainbow

A poignant statement at an unexpected moment and from a seemingly unlikely source on BBC talent show Over the Rainbow made this week’s show raise more questions than the usual who should stay and who should go.

In her departing comments, the first girl to be told that she will not be Dorothy, twenty two year old Amy Diamond from Cheshire, said that the contestants proved that you can be a mother or work in a bank and still follow your dreams. And this is the crucial difference between the open auditions that these shows provide and the real life set up. But what is more poignant is the light that her assertion has shed on the assumption of some viewers and critics of these shows that they are exploitative, sexist and trash. So is this really a talent show, and audition or is it just a version of Miss World?

The first potential Dorothy to be sent packing was an unlikely type for the role. And - if only for the reason that she has recently de-knighted her dog (previously Lord Teddy Pom Poms) after meeting Sir Andrew Loyd Weber and saying she has now realised what a Lord is - the right decision was made.

Amy says that she entered the competition to prove that she is not just a model, which she has proved. So she has a personal victory and maybe she has sparked a bigger victory. An audience must not be so small minded to automatically assume that the contestants are purely being judged on physical appearance and not real skill and talent.It seems more sexist to assume this than feel comfortable judging these girls on their ability to perform.

What is clear is that the contestants’ ability to pull off a live show each week, singing, dancing and acting simultaneously is something that many successful pop stars cannot do.

There are, though, problems with the selection process. Is it fair to judge the contestants on their screen appearance when they are auditioning to be on the stage not screen? There are very different techniques employed for performing for television and on the stage. So should the camera remain still, showing us at home what the theatre audience are experiencing, or will this hinder the voting element of the selection process. Can we, the audience, not identify with the contestants enough to feel inclined to vote for them without seeing them close up, playing up to the camera?

If only to the other contestant’s Amy’s comments were sisterly. Some complain that the process of kicking one girl out each week is cruel, and more so than other talent shows because the loser has to sing the title song Somewhere Over The Rainbow with the oh so true final lyric ‘so why can’t I’ before being allowed to leave the stage to console themselves. But this is all part of the show and each week a musical in its own right is performed and unlike at the west end, no one knows what the story’s conclusion will be.

Meanwhile, size, shape and colour are not playing a role in the selection for a dog to play Toto, which is running alongside the search for Dorothy. So head over to the website ( if you think your dog could make it. You've got to love the BBC for this idea!

It’s only the first week and I have had this much to say on it, so undoubtedly the show will be a must see - and not only for me. With the popularity of previous shows and in this political time, it will be interesting to see how the vote tallies for this programme and the general election compare.

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