After several years of watching Pop Idol (as it’s known over here in the UK) and it’s American equivalent, I am now ready to present my guide to creating your own guaranteed ratings winner, super successful talent show that is a sure fire way to make you a millionaire several times over.
1: People Like To Watch People Being Humiliated
Never, never underestimate the essential cruelty of your audience. If they don’t get to see mentally unstable people attempting to sing or some hopeless case being savaged by the judging panel, then they are going to change the channel.
Luckily, you can avoid this fate by recording absolutely everything from every audition for your show. That way you can focus on the untalented, the mad and the truly disturbed as much as you like.
2: Bring Me The Homeless Orphan With The Lisp
Right from the start, you need a human interest story to keep the attention of your audience from week to week.
Actually, you will need 4 or 5 of these during the show’s run, but before the finals, you only need one really good one to hold the interest.
As this is early in the show, your first story has a sad ending. Yes, despite overcoming being homeless, parentless and having a lisp, the cute female orphan who walked 17 miles barefoot to the audition unfortunately doesn’t make it to the final 12.
She is, of course, rejected at the final hurdle with the words “it was a tough, tough decision…but with your drive, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you in the future”.
By that point, your homeless orphan has served her purpose and the fact that she sang flat is no longer a problem.
However, the controversy caused by this will generate lots of press interest, headlines and water cooler comment, thereby increasing your audience share still further.
3: You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About
The golden rule is ‘keep people watching’. The more people who watch, the higher the networks charge for advertising and the more money you will make for your show.
Let’s face it, on it’s own, a bunch of amateurs singing bad Karaoke is not enough to keep people tuned in.
That’s why you need to be very careful when choosing your judges.
You need at least one really self-obsessed, opinionated egomanic (other than you) otherwise you won’t be able to convincingly fake an ongoing hate-hate relationship. This will inevitably lead to an onscreen confrontation that results in at least one judge ‘quitting’ the show.
This, again, creates more press, more interest and higher ratings. Obviously, your co-judge returns 2 weeks later, again boosting the ratings of your show.
4) I Am The Spawn Of Satan…And You Are My Puppets
As the creator, main judge, promoter, executive producer, record label owner and all round Svengali of your show, you don’t want to come across as arrogant and dictatorial. Heaven forbid!
That’s why you need to hire a judge who is essentially a decent human being who tends to see the positive in things.
A former, but not major, pop star is ideal for this.
This person’s role is to be unremittingly positive about performances, regardless of quality. That will allow you to bully them to the point of tears. Thereby creating more press, more controversy and higher ratings for your show.
There is, of course, always the possibility that this judge will genuinely want to quit. At that point, you’ll need to remind them that their entire career rests on your good graces.
5) The Public Decide…What You Say They’ll Decide
Unfortunately, in order to create a truly successful talent show, you will actually need some genuine talent. You do want your viewing public to care about who wins. But what you don’t want is that the public choose a winner you don’t want to win.
That would be catastrophic. After all, you are a highly paid music exec and they are just the public. Their job is to buy whatever you put in front of them. That’s it.
That’s why you don’t allow public voting until the final, even though the money you would make from the phone calls would add an extra million or two to your bank balance.
Luckily, because the other judges are, in effect, paid employees, you can always ensure that the final two are, at the very least, the two contestants you would like to win.
6) Milk It ‘Till It Hurts
Don’t forget that every contestant is your property – you’ve signed them all to short term deals, so force them all out on tour together, and collect another $1million.
Combine this with DVD sales, download, album and merchandising sales for the winner (and runner up, most likely) which are going to be huge as your music buying public has both watched them on TV for months and voted for them to win.
You can see that the path to riches is yours. All you need is a bunch of crazies, one semi-talented, fame hungry youth and a talent show. Go to it !