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Chart Throb - Ben Elton

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Genre: Music / Stage / Screen / Author: Ben Elton

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      14.06.2013 18:23

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      Elton is on sparkling form with a political yet captivating read

      Ben Elton is able to combine clever and biting wit with the message to not believe everything you see or hear in the media. As the novel starts you can quickly establish that the TV programme, Chart Throb, which the book surrounds is a virtual copy of x factor with the judges brilliant caricatures of the original real life panel. But this is a story aiming to suggest the truth behind this public perception by expertly showing these characters, sculpted by the media, for what they really are. The true message lies however in the portrayal of the various contestants introduced throughout the book. As suggested in the dedication "for the 95,000" (the number of people who apply for Chart Throb) Elton wishes to show that despite the often unflattering, and sometimes downright cruel representation we see on screen, this is a creation of the edit and the show producers. However, even if you do not want to get bogged down in a political message Elton provides some engaging and entertaining back stories of contestants, members of the production team and the judges themselves to keep the book moving. This book is therefore one I would recommend as an enjoyable light hearted read but also one I would wish for any x-factor or reality TV fan to study as a way to question what they are seeing next time they tune in. In addition, if you enjoy this book I would further recommend 'Dead Famous' by the same author as it has a similar message but surrounds a parody of Big Brother. Overall, I was delighted by a funny and entertaining read that at the same time kept you thinking- 5 stars!

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      10.08.2010 22:43
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      Funny, scathing and enlightening

      Once again the master of satire takes a modern phenomenon and tears it to pieces with wit and a perfect eye for detail.
      In 'Chart Throb' Ben Elton parodies the Pop Idol/X Factor style of reality show. He is merciless in the way he dissects the way the show is produced, the people who produce it and the wannabees who take part. It is perfect satire; everything he writes is grounded in truth but ratcheted up just the right amount to make it hilariously funny and just unreal enough to avoid a lawsuit.
      The book covers the months it takes to produce a single series of the eponymous show from the initial 'auditions' to the final. 'Ninety-five thousand hopefuls. Three judges. Just one winner ' as the tagline goes. Sound familiar??
      In Elton's show, there are the misfits looking for any kind of fame, the usual 'haven't got a hope' hopefuls, the averagely good and just a couple of reasonably talented singers - cruelly classified as Mingers, Blingers, Clingers and Singers. What we learn is that winning has nothing to do with the ability to sing - the backstory is everything. There is even a guest appearance from HRH the Prince of Wales which provides the catalyst for the main plotline.
      You'll recognise each of the judges whether you watch X Factor or not. There's a Simon Cowell figure, shown as manipulative but charming yet useless around women. Sharon Osbourne is replaced by a fearsome transsexual who, not surprisingly, also appears in a reality show with her dysfunctional family. (Sharon, of course, is no longer a judge on X Factor; 'Chart Throb' was published in 2006). Finally, there is the rather sad Louis Walsh figure, for some reason the least sympathetic of all the characters.
      There is a hidden target of Elton's satire in this book - the viewers themselves. He is just as scathing of the public's willingness to be deceived as he is of the participants' neediness and desire for their 15 minutes of fame.
      The book moves along at a fast pace and with a sense of impending implosion. Elton writes dialogue that you can immediately hear and is able to depict a character in the briefest of lines. It helps, of course, that we have already seen these characters on our TV screens; these are caricatures but beautifully etched.
      This is one of the wittiest books I've read in a long time with hints of the type of surreal world also created by Tom Sharpe.

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      22.11.2009 11:16
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      Easy reading for fans and newcomers alike

      Think X Factor. And then double it. Elton, has covered similar topics in the past (Dead Famous comes to mind - parodying Big Brother and the constant dumbling -down on television these days) but Chrat Throb really takes it up a notch. There will be few readers who fail to recognise the Simon Cowell-esque character, ably 'performed' by Calvin Simms, and fewer readers who will not recognise the similarities between the X Factor show on television and the one featured on the pages - particularly in regards to the method they use to divide the contestants into manageable groups: Mingers, Clingers and Blingers.

      Ratings are everything as the contestants are abused in the name of 'great television' and the battle of the egos is played out behind the cameras as well as 'in front of a live studio audience'. As with all of Elton's work, the book is topical to the point of being visionary, and it is the wit and strong characters that carry you through the book rather than any exceptional plotlines (that said, there is a nice twist at the end of this piece!). The story follows 'Wannabe Pop-star Shaiana' from start to bitter end.. and the end is more than bitter.

      Definitely worth a read even for those that have never picked up a Ben Elton book in their lives.

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      03.11.2009 11:33
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      If you've enjoyed previous Ben Elton books this will not disappoint.

      Wandering around the local library the other week I was looking for something to borrow when I happened across a Ben Elton book that I had not yet read. I have read most of his books so far and have enjoyed them very much even though they do cover a varied amount of different topics.

      The Book
      -------------

      The particular book that I borrowed was:

      Chart Throb
      ISBN 0-593-05749-x
      £17.99 (Hardback)
      Bantam Press
      427 pages

      The cover of this book was quite eye catching as it is a lovely pale blue colour all over with a picture of a microphone on the front. It has all the usual bits on the back about the actual story and of praise for how good it is.

      The Plot
      -----------

      This book, like many others Ben has written is loosely based around a real life event. For example he has written a big brother type parody, this one is based largely on X Factor and actually mentions the show in the story.

      Calvin Simms (how clever, think Simon Cowel) is the manager of CALonic TV and is looking to produce his next series of the very popular entertainment show Chart Throb. However, his recently married wife informs him that she wants a divorce and will be taking half his money, Calvin is not happy with this and suggests a bet with winner takes all. If he wins his wife will go away with nothing, if he loses she will take everything.

      The bet is that his wife can choose anyone in the world who she would like to win the next series of Chart throb, and Calvin must ensure that they win, or he loses everything. His soon to be ex-wife chooses none other that HRH the Prince of Wales and the story follows his chart throb story as well as that of the other finalists in the show.

      In this story we get to meet quite a few of the contestants and learn a bit about their backgrounds and how this is used to Calvin's advantage in the show. We also meet Rodney Root (famous manager of recording artists, to a degree) and Beryl Blenheim (famous for having been a male rocker from way back, now a woman after having a public sex change, featuring in her own reality TV show in the US) who are the other judges on the show, but we are left in no doubt as to who is in charge every step of the way.

      There is a slight love story running through in the background between Calvin and one of his employees, although I can't say too much abut this as I don't want to spoil the story.

      My opinion
      ---------------

      The book is supposed to be quite tongue in cheek in places but it does get you wondering whether some of what is written actually happens in the real talent type shows. Some of the treatment that the contestants and even the judges are subjected to seems far too cruel to be real, however as soon as you start thinking about Simon and the team of judges that he works with you will definitely be watching X Factor in a different light!

      The book is not in chapters as such, each part of the book is broken up into a heading telling you what its about, such as HRH enters the competition, or Beryl travels to England. Some of these sections are longer than others but it means you can pick up this book and put it down without any disruption to the story. Although once you get a few pages into the story you will want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

      I'm not a fan of X Factor or other similar shows but I have watched a few episodes over the years so I could really appreciate this story. I would say if you are an avid fan of these types of shows and you don't want to face reality this is not the book for you, however if you can understand that all is not always as it seems you will really enjoy this book.

      Just a warning for those a bit faint hearted, there is quite a bit of bad language in this book to get across the point of how horrid some of the things that go on are. So I would suggest that this is not for younger readers, it's a more mature read!

      As ever I really enjoyed this book and have not found a disappointing Ben Elton book yet.

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        25.10.2009 22:54
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        Could almost be a tell all tale on reality TV talent shows.

        Prior to reading this book I'd never really liked Ben Elton, whilst I found him mildly ammusing as as comedian I always found him a bit smug and too clever for his own boots. With the decline of Thactherism in the late 80's/early 90's Elton seemed to run out of material....Perhaps I was being harsh and he actually moved onto stuff such as writing books and taking a back seat rather than living his life as a stand-up.

        Because of that pre-conception I was slightly wary of this book and wasn't expecting a great read. Indeed I was wrong.

        Basically a parody of Pop-Idol/X-Factor, Chart Throb follows the trials and tribulations of Calvin (Simon Cowell) as he tries to woo an aide into bed by getting Prince Charles to Chart Throb.

        The book follows this adventure as well as the family problems of the Sharon Osbourne character, a sex-changed former rock star.

        The book has many great twists and turns and the plot themselves are great entertainment however the best part of the book is that it's almost a warts an all tale of how the reality TV machine works. I would give this book to anyone who wants to know how the X-Factor really works. Just how do they manage to see so many auditions...you do the maths and it can't be done, can it?

        Elton parodies his characters perfectly, the Louis Walsh character (Rodney) is totally useless and a complete puppet even though he's desperate to be taken serious and as a big hitter. Calvin's toying with him is great fun and I defy anyone to picture anyone of the characters not as their X-Factor comparisons.

        The only downside to this excellent and humourous book is that it has almost de-entertained the X-Factor for me, rather than sitting back and enjoy the show I now find myself commentating on what will actually be happen and how so and so will have got through and Simon will have said this to the director etc etc.

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        25.10.2009 02:24
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        An X Factor parody full of laughs and wit, but a poor ending

        Parodying the massively successful X Factor/Pop Idol series, Ben Elton brings us Chart Throb, a story about the hidden reality in reality TV and how it affects the public and contestants at their mercy.

        Characters: The Simon Cowell character in the book is Calvin Simms. A ruthless, brutally honest money making machine, Simms represents Cowell perfectly. Simms is the most important person in his life, and the rest must fall into place. Rodney Root is Louis Walsh's double, the third wheel in the competition. He has his say in matters, but no one actually cares what he thinks. You'll find yourself pitying Rodney, even if you dislike Louis Walsh, because he really is a pitiful case. The final judge is Beryl Blenheim, the funniest judge on the panel. She/he (you'll understand when you read the book...) is sassy, loud-mouthed and she/he knows how to get her/his own way. Another parody is HRH Prince Charles, who, desperate to boost his image, decides to enter the competition. He was another very funny parody that captures the real person and public perception perfectly.

        Story: Three judges, thousands of desperate hopefuls looking for fame and fortune, and arguably the most popular competition in Britain. This book parodies the X Factor process, behind and in front of the camera, giving everyone a chance to see what really goes on behind the scenes. We see how the public is manipulated into voting for production company's favourite, and how the judges can turn against their own artists without raising suspicions. All of this is presented with countless jokes about everyone from the presenters to the judges to the people watching at home.

        Pacing: The romance between Simms and the contestant Emma was a nice touch, but it did slow the pace slightly. They leave you yearning for Root or Blenheim to return, because they are the funniest characters in the book. Elton takes us behind the scenes of the competition as well as being on stage, but the competition never bores or drags on for too long because of the humour and lively characters.

        NO SPOILERS ending: The ending fell slightly flat for me, but that can happen in reality TV, I suppose. The final chapter or two just could not measure up to the beginning and middle of the book.

        I am a VERY serious person. When most people are laughing out loud, I'm chuckling quietly to myself. This book made me laugh hard. Ben Elton captured Cowell, Walsh and Osbourne so perfectly it was hilarious. The ending seemed quite abrupt and flat compared to the rest of the book, but the comedy throughout more than makes up for it. I highly recommend this book, especially to X Factor fans from the Cowell/Walsh/Osbourne era.

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        12.06.2009 22:42
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        Easy quick read, good to see a dark spin on talent shows.

        This was the second book by Elton I read. I enjoyed Blind Faith and was subsequently recommended this by a friend.
        Based around the themes of X-Factor style shows, Chart Throb takes a behind the scenes look at how everything really works. As with Blind Faith, Elton writes in a light hearted satirical style, and yet really gives you something to think about...As somebody who's watched Pop Idol/X-Factor/American Idol and all the other shows that go with it, I was shocked at how shocked I was looking at them from another view...the idea of how much control could be put into the editing, the planning, the perceptions and everything surrounding the show, was something I'd never really considered. Everyone I know has had an "is the voting all fixed" moment, but never had I genuinely thought about the possibility that it all really could be...even if those shows aren't really worked like that, and everything is fair and square, if you love a conspiracy theory and a bit of a twist on an old tale, this could be a book for you!

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        19.02.2009 21:39
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        Try a different one!

        Chart Throb

        I have never been the greatest fan of Ben Elton as such but do like the sitcoms he was involved in writing such as Blackadder and The Young Ones. After reading a few positive reviews I decided to give one of his books a go and the one I chose was Chart Throb.

        Eltons 11th novel, Chart Throb is about a reality TV show to find the next big Pop Star. Basically its a mickey take of such programmes as The X Factor, Pop Idol, Fame Academy etc etc etc. The story is set when the X Factor is no longer and Chart Throb is the biggest reality show on TV. The judges on this show are Calvin Simms (also the creator of the show), Beryl Blenheim (an ex heavy metal star who has had a sex change and has a dysfunctional family TV show of her own) and Rodney Root the weakest link.

        If you have ever watched the X Factor or any similar shows you will find the format of the story quite familiar. Auditions across the country, desperate wannabes with sob stories and the tone deaf. The difference with this is that we get to see behind the scenes and to find out that everything isn't always as quite as we are led to believe.

        To add further detail to the story there are numerous characters involved. Beryls extended and complicated family, Calvins estranged wife, the Prince of Wales, last years disgruntled failed auditionees and some of the TV crew. I did find that because of the many characters involved it was quite difficult to find any particular depth to any of them.

        I found this a fun, quick and entertaining read. It was billed as 'laugh out loud humour' and although I was amused my sides were far from splitting. The book is fast paced and I got through the 464 pages fairly swiftly. There are no chapters as such just headed sections of various lengths. This does make it very easy to pick up and put down and ideal if you have to read in short spurts.

        It is definately not to be taken seriously, its a very over the top look at the world of celebrity, fame, money and greed. I was a bit disappointed with the end to the book. All the ends were tied up and I understood what happened it all just seemed a bit weak.

        Overall, a decent read but it hasn't made me want to rush out and buy Ben Elton's entire back catalogue or anything. However, having now read a few reviews of this particular book I believe I probably picked the wrong one to sample in the first place.

        Available from as little as 1p on Amazon.

        ISBN: 10055277376X

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          07.02.2009 16:48
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          Biting satire of reality television shows

          As a fan of Ben Elton's books in general, I was keen to read this book - especially as I love to watch reality television shows like the one on which the book is loosely based.

          As you might expect from the title and cover of the book, it is based on shows such as Pop Idol and The X Factor, but it is a quite cutting satire of this. The plot focuses mainly on the auditions and boot camp process using several of the key characters, who will later end up in the live shows.

          If you have any interest in how reality television shows might work behind the scenes, this is a fascinating read. Obviously it's all entirely fictional, but it is uncanny how believable the audience manipulation could work in real life. Through things like manipulating song choices, outfits, choreography and arrangements, and encouraging auditionees to say or do certain things to come across in a certain way, it is easy to see how close Elton could actually be to the truth in his fictional satire.

          After reading this book, I found myself watching shows like The X Factor, American Idol and Your Country Needs You in a totally different light, especially during the early stages. Although you can't take everything at face value, it really is an eye opener!

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          05.09.2008 19:02
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          who will become the nations chart throb?

          I have always enjoyed Ben Elton's humour so was curious to read this new book- Chart Throb. it is very cleverly planned out and really makes you think about how reality television must work. i have to say i was surprised at how believable this could be, and although very cynical (as much of Ben Elton's work is) it is really quite clever. i did find the ending a little strange though and can't say i fully understood that...but nonetheless an excellently enjoyable read...

          ...the book has three main charactors Calvin Simms (based on simon cowell) Beryl Blenheim (sharon osbourne) and Rodney Root (the other bloke) the story carefully explains the selction process for the show as well as detailing the behind the scenes lives of the three judges. Calvin in particular, who is going through a divorce just before the show is due to air, and makes a bet with his wife that he can make whoever he likes win the show and if proved right he will not have to pay anything in the settlement, so his ex takes him up on that bet choosing...Prince Charles as the victim...

          it is hilarious to read as these stories unwind
          thoroughly enjoyable!

          thank you and please rate

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          05.03.2008 15:55
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          Rarely funny, drawn-out novel about car-crash TV of the worst kind

          I love to read - anything (books, Corn Flake packets, reviews) and so when my son gave me a copy of Ben Eltons book 'Chart Throb' I was instantly curious. I had not read anything by the author since his debut novel 'Stark' in '89 which was okay I suppose, for a first attempt, but lived close to my heart as I had Mr. Elton himself sign the thing.

          'Chart Throb', his 11th novel, tells the tale of Calvin Simms (all-round bad guy, womaniser and Simon Cowell mimic) and his popular TV show of the same name. By his side are Beryl Blenhiem (a sex-changed former rock star now married to another woman with two dysfunctional kids - Sharon AND Ozzy in one) and Rodney Root (non-descript entity who blends into the background with the skill of a potted plant - Louie Walsh) as they create an 'X Factor' beater(?) for the salivating British public.

          What follows is a plodding story of Calvin, whose wife wants to divorce him, arranging to hand over everything to her should he fail to sucker the viewers into voting for the most unlikely contestant to ever appear on his show - HRH Prince Charles - the winner. In between all this is a slightly pathetic love story about Mr. Simms trying his best to get in the pants of one of the staff who he had earlier sacked because she was a bit too distracting for him, Louie struggling to escape the attentions of a band from the previous series and Beryl, who is forever worrying about when she can next fit in another squirt of botox in between planning the next series of 'The Blenhiems'. They do say that immitation is the sincerest form of flattery - but surely it is also the laziest way of creating an idea where virtually everything is already written for you bar the odd joke now and then.

          The back cover says the book is a 'savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern television' but what you actually get is a tired, over-worked idea with characters as thin as the programme they create. It does poke fun at the whole concept of shows like 'The X Factor' et al, which can't be a bad thing, but by the end of the novel you just won't care.

          I remember when 'The Young Ones' first appeared on BBC2 back in good old 1982 and suddenly, after years of suffering the likes of Tom O'Connor and Roy Walker, comedy found a new voice. Anarchic, dangerous, rude! How we teenagers laughed at our new found heroes. The show was written by Rik Mayall, Lise Mayer (Mayalls girlfriend at the time) and the unknown Ben Elton.

          Following the 'Young Ones' Elton went on to write the series 'Happy Families' (starring Jennifer Saunders and Ade Edmonson) and the brilliant 'Filthy, Rich and Catflap' - the funniest thing I have ever seen on TV.

          Since then he has gone on to write further comedies (Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line), books (Inconcievable, Stark), produced/directed and starred in numerous shows/films and collaborated on the odd musical here and there from the likes of Queen and Rod Stewart.

          And therein lies the problem.....

          What started life as a burgeoning career in comedy as now become so thinly spread in order to cover as many bases as possible that his output has suffered accordingly. Don't get me wrong he can often write some funny gags/set pieces but they are all placed within some very plodding text. Maybe if he stopped trying to please all of the people all of the time he would eventually produce something with a greater and longer lasting appeal.

          The book is available for 1p (used) on Amazon - and that about says it all!

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            11.01.2008 21:20
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            A winning book about a bunch of losers

            I have just finished reading 'Chart Throb' which was written by Ben Elton and which I would have to describe as a very cynical view of all the reality talent shows that we find on television these days. It is a very entertaining read but also really makes you think about the morality of such TV shows.

            Chart Throb is actually the name of a TV talent show. As you read the book, you cannot help but be reminded of X Factor all the way through (this is even though Ben Elton mentions X Factor as one of Chart Throb's predecessors, and even mentions Simon, Sharon and Louis in their roles of judges in that show. I guess that by doing so he is suggestiong that by writing 'Chart Throb he is by no means in reality writing about X Factor!!)

            The series Chart Throb is claimed to be the most successful talent show ever. It is the baby of multi millionnaire Calvin Simms who is both the brains and manipulator behind all the programmes. He is the main Heart Throb judge and is joined on the panel by Beryl Blenheim, an aging transexual rocker who has the mumsy appeal, and Rodney Root, a slightly less successful agent of various bands. The likeness of these three to the X Factor judges is absolute, and particularly with Rodney and Beryl, you can just 'hear' Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh saying some of the things they come out with! The two most favourite phrases are either to tell the contestant that they 'owned the song' or otherwise that 'the song was too big for them!'

            The novel takes the reader through the whole process of the reality talent show - or at least Ben Elton's cynical view of it all! It goes through the initial applications where applicants are either rejected or classed as 'mingers', 'blingers' or 'clingers'. Mingers, as you might probably guess, are the spotty, buck teeth, greasy hair type of contestant. They usually have no talent but some are put through because they will make good television! Blingers are the extrovert types who are prepared to look stupid or reveal various body parts in order to be successful. Again some of these go through for the sheer entertainment factor! The last group - the clingers - are perhaps the saddest as these are the ones who are most desperate and are prepared to lay their souls bare on TV - of course very entertaining!

            In this book, it's at this very early stage that the contestants are determined and everything from then on is staged. The mass auditions are all fake, as are the 'pop school' and the 'all back to my place' stages. Calvin Simms has already determined who will go out when and what the 'stories' will be!

            The finalists are chosen as a good entertaining mix. They include a blind man, an illiterate boy, a scottish singer who was a former lover of Rodney's, a God fearing boy band and even a member of the Royal family! Each week, Calvin decides who should go, and by manipulating the choice of song and costume, as well as some clever editing of the pre-performance interview ensures that the public votes the way he has decided!

            There are lots of stories being intertwined in this book and they all merge together really well. I have to say that at the beginning of the book, I found it a bit slow and I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it, but probably from about a fifth of the way in I was absolutely hooked! The main chracters are all intensely dislikeable (as I m sure they are meant to be) but also very entertaining! All the contestants are really caricatures and so typical of the mix that we find on X Factor. THere are many sad cases and this book does tend to highlight how easy it is to sell a dream to desperate people and then give them some very rude wake up calls.

            I did watch some of the earlier X Factor Series as well as Pop Idol when that was on, but I have not watched the more recent series and cannot be claim to be a big fan of these shows. Reading this book made me seriously wonder whether I had been naively watching these shows under the illusion tht it was all about talent! I obviously realised that there was no way that the judges could have auditioned everyone and I was not so stupid to realise that some of the acts were shown because they really were so bad! If I am to go with Ben Elton's version, then I really would have to accept that these shows are totally a fix, and I'm not sure I really want to do that! (although I do agree that there is probably an element of truth in what he writes!)

            As I said at the beginning though, it does make you question the morality of such shows. It is very sad that our most popular television relies on building people up only to knock them down and quite often humiliate them and expose them very brutally and publicly. It actually makes you feel a bit uncomfortable to read it.

            Having said that though, Ben Elton is a very observant and funny man (in my opinion) and there are parts of the book which are very humourous! In fact I would probably have said that it was a very funny book if in fact it wasn't so close to the mark!

            There is so much more that I could say about this book but instead I will just recommend it as a good read and be interested to see what others think of it! For my part, it was an absorbing read and unusually for me, a book I found myself talking about with my friends!

            The book is published by Black Swan and has an RRP of £6.99 for the paperback whch has just over 450 pages.

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              18.12.2007 15:30
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              An interesting, but flawed, book

              Current UK based TV is shockingly bad in my opinion. The BBC was set up so that all age groups and types of people are catered for in some way. This does not affect the other channels quite as much, but it does mean that there are shows as varied as 'Bob the Builder' to 'Antiques Roadshow'. The Mecca for TV execs is the 18-30 age group who they see has the most disposable income. This may seem like rubbish to us, but it does mean that more shows get made for this demographic than any other. So how come there is nothing to watch for me, a male right in the centre of this selection? Shows like 'The X Factor' are supposed to draw my viewing, but I would rather watch a yogurt spoil than that rubbish. The episodes I have watched seem to ridicule the deluded and addle minded of Britain. People with genuine mental issues are paraded on show like freaks in medieval towns. Add to this the obvious use of editing to tell stories (notice how everyone has a dead parent, ill child, speech problem etc.) and the manipulation is complete. It seems that I am not alone in my opinions when I read Ben Elton's 'Chart Throb' a biting indictment of these 'reality' shows.

              Calvin is a Simon Cowell homage who is the creator of a TV show that sees the public sing in front of three judges in the hope of realising their dreams. In the book we discover the truth behind these 'reality' TV shows as Calvin and company manipulate the edit to make their favourites win. However, with the recent 3rd series Calvin has more than usual at stake. His new wife wants a divorce and to stop her taking half his fortune he must win a bet they have just made. Can Calvin really manipulate the public to vote for anyone he chooses? Even the Prince of Wales?

              It's hard to remain objective to a book when you agree with its sentiments so much. Therefore, it must be noted immediately that by giving this book 3 stars I am pointing out that there are issues with it. On a positive note it is very enlightening for people at showing how real 'reality' occurs. Elton goes into great detail about how in his fictional show the auditionees are pre-selected from their hand written forms and that only those with stories will get through. He also shows the tactics that the producers use to make better TV. They will make hopefuls look delusional by editing them to say they are the best or make them wear no make up. Although none of these tactics are proven here, as this is a work of fiction, it is still a compelling case. If Cowell, Osborne, Walsh and Minogue actually saw all their hopefuls for 10 mins each it would take around 3 years to see them. As Elton says - do the math, and you will find them wanting.

              Everytime that Elton pointed out a scam involved in the show 'Chart Throb' I was drawn to the book; unfortunately, this was perhaps the only thing in the book that did draw me. Elton managed to create in 'Chart Throb' one of the most poisonous and cynical books that I have ever read. By mimicking the characters of 'The X Factor' he has created the most unlikeable cast ever put to paper. By the end of the book the cynicism has even distorted the innocents and good people so that you are left slightly depressed.

              The unlikeble characters were not the only issue with the book as the plot suffered immensely, especially towards the latter part of the book. Elton spends almost half of the book in the pre-audition stages setting up characters and explaining via his fictional world how TV execs fool everyone involved in 'reality' TV. I was worried that he had not left enough time to flesh out the end of the story and this was the case as the ending was rushed and I did not feel closure for any of the characters involved.

              By writing a harsh indictment of 'The X Factor', similar shows and the current hunger for fame, Elton has shot himself in the foot. Firstly, books as a rule appeal to a certain criteria of person, who may not normally watch 'reality' TV. Elton is a poplar author who may reach a wider audience, but is he is still preaching to the converted. I was also aware that Elton himself is not that innocent of manipulation and selling out the arts. This once Socialist comedian has become a crony for loveys and politicians everywhere. The book has only one really good character in the form of The Prince of Wales. Is this a coincidence or do I hear, "arise Sir Elton" in the future? Don't be too quick to throw the first stone Ben; some people have had to suffer 'We Will Rock You'.

              It's hard to decide whether I would recommend this as a read to people. If you have a burning ember of loathing for 'reality' TV then you will enjoy the hatchet job that Elton performs here. However, you may find yourself feeling a little dirty after revelling in such cynical waters. I did feel enlightened about the tactics of TV companies and these parts were highly interesting. However, the lack of any likeable characters, the neglected storyline, and the unrelenting cynicism beat it down to an average read.

              Author: Ben Elton
              Price: amazon uk - £3.94
              play.com - £5.49

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              • More +
                02.11.2007 10:00
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                entertaining novel

                The Blurb

                Chart Throb. The ultimate pop quest.
                Ninety five thousand hopefuls. Three Judges. Just one winner.
                And that's Calvin Simms, the genius behind the show.

                Calvin always wins because Calvin writes the rules. But this year, as he sits in judgement upon Mingers, Clingers and Blingers whom he has pre-selected in his carefully scripted 'search' for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The real is about to be put back into 'reality' televison and Calvin and his fellow judges are about to become ex-factors themselves.
                ben Elton, author of Popcorn and Dead Famous, returns to blistering comic satire with a savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern television talent shows.

                Chart Throb. One winner. a whole bunch of losers.
                The Story
                Here we meet Calvin Simms, the richest and most powerful man in television, owner of Calonic TV, producer, director and judge of the most popular programme on telly, Chart Throb.
                Calvin has just got back off honeymoon with new wife, Dakota, when she delivers the news that she wants a divorce and intends to take him for half or his fortune. Instead Calvin proposes and all or nothing wager, Dakota can choose anyone i the world and Calvin can make them a Chart Throb even though the public get to decide who wins. Dakota agrees to the bet and chooses her ringer, somebody so unpopular with the public there is noway he could win Chart Throb, HRH The Prince Of Wales.

                The Chart Throb process begins with Emma and Trent wading through the 95000 applications and sorting them into rejects, mingers, clingers and blingers. The ones who haven't been rejected are invited to audition (but not in front of the judges) they are taped and then Calvin decided who's going through and who's not and prepares scripts for his fellow judges, Beryl Blenheim and Rodney Root.
                While this is going on Calvin realizes he's falling for researcher Emma so sacks her cos she won't sleep with him, then in order to gain her trust tells her he'll make HRH win Chart throb.

                After the auditions there is pop school where more hopefuls are dropped and then the All Back To Mine round, where hopefuls are sent to their mentors homes, except they're not actually allowed in.
                After this come the drama of the live shows where Calvin and crew choose the hair, make up, costumes and songs for the contestants all in order to try and manipulate the public vote.

                Main Characters
                Calvin Simms - Mult milionaire, owner of Calonic TV and head judge on Chart Throb, Calvin has never been in love, despite marrying and believes that he can get Emma out of his system if only she would sleep him. He is obviously the Simon Cowell type character.

                Beryl Blenheim - The world's favourite mum, except she used to be a man, Buster Blenheim a major rock star who married Serenity then decided that he wanted to be a woman. Since then Beryl has become a cosmetic surgery addict as she wants to look her best for her fly on the wall TV show, The Blenheims. Beryl and Serenity are still married and beryl has twin step-daughters Lisa-Marie and Priscilla. So Beryl is the Sharon Osbourne of the judges.
                Rodney Root - Rodney the third judge on the panel, he's a pop manager and is very envious of his fellow judges and the treatment they receive. Rodney had a romance with one of last year's contestants Iona, from the band Shetland Mist. Rodney promised the group they were going to be huge stars but dropped Iona and the group like hot coals once publicity had dried up. Now he's not best pleased as Iona has been asked to re-enter Chart throb this year but as a solo artist.

                Trent - a researcher on the show, he's a complete brown noser when it comes to Calvin.
                Emma - Emma has a major crush on Calvin but when Calvin relizes he fancies her he sacks her cos she won't sleep with him, Emma won't sleep with him cos she doesn't trust him whatsoever.

                Chelsie- Chelsie is an ultra ambitious junior researcher on the show and she loves her job. Part of her job is to convince the really crap mingers, clingers and blingers that they could be the next Chart Throb right before they are ripped apart by the judges.
                HRH - The prince of wales. Calvin convinces HRH to enter Chart Throb to increase his popularity as most of the country thinks he's a blithering idiot

                Shaiana- One of the few contestants to be able to carry a tune, a major clinger who wants it so much.
                Iona- lead singer of Shetland Mist, they made it through to last year's live final, Rodney promised they'd be huge but since he dumped Iona romanticly he has done nothing for their career despite still being their manager.

                Priscilla - Beryl's step-daughter, famous for being famous, Priscilla wants to be a star in her own right but her debut album has just bombed and she's been caught buying drugs resulting in another stay in rehab and another chance for Beryl to show the world her mothering skills.
                There are quite a few other characters but the ones mentioned feature most in the plot.

                The Cover
                The cover is simple yet eye-catching a blue back ground with Chart Throb written in neon lighting and a huge microphone. If you didn't already know what the book was about it would make you pick it up at least to have a read of the blurb.
                The Author
                Ben Elton has had a vast career not only has he wrote award winning TV shows, Young Ones and Blackadder , to name a couple he is himself a hugely successful stand up comic. He has written three hit westend plays, Gasping, Silly Cow and Popcorn (based on his novel). He wrote and directed the film Maybe Baby (based on his novel Inconceivable) and written three stage musicals including We Will Rock You which he created with Queen.

                By The Same Author
                Novels:
                Stark
                Gridlock
                The Other Eden
                Popcorn
                Blast from The Past
                Inconceivable
                Dead Famous
                High Society
                Past Mortem
                The First Casualty
                Blind Faith
                Plays:
                Gasping
                Silly Cow

                My Experience
                I saw Ben Elton talking about this novel on Loose women when it fist hit the book shops, I thought it sounded like a great idea for a novel but forgot about it until I was browsing the shelves of my local library.
                People who read this will make comparisons between the Chart throb and X Factor but Elton hasn't shied away from this and often makes references to it in the novel, for instance, Chart Throb is bigger than X Factor ever was, Calvin Simms is richer than Simon Cowell and Beryl has an ongoing rivalry with Sharon Osbourne.
                The novel isn't as amusing as I thought it would/could be but it's an interesting read nevertheless, it's quite easy to read but not compelling and only gets really exciting towards the end.
                As a fan of the X factor it did make me wonder how much of what we see is real and would it really be so easy to manipulate the contestants and the public.
                i liked the way the book was structured, each chapter mainly focused on one part of the competition or on one of the contestants.
                It is very un-P.C, so may not appeal to everybody.
                Overall this isn't a must read book but its an interesting and amusing satire.

                Price: rrp £17.99 (hardback) cheaper from amazon or ebay. Just noticed the paperback is now available and can be bought in ASDA for £3.74. I borrowed a copy from the library.

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                • More +
                  05.07.2007 17:38
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                  An alternative look at the reality talent industry.

                  Last weekend despite working over 30 hours I have also read two books, one by a well known and respected author another by an author whos work I was previously unfamiliar with, one book captivated me and I ended up reading it after work and going to sleep around 6am the other was well, very average.

                  Sadly for Ben Elton it was his most recent offering which disapointed me. Chart Throb is a satirical look at the Pop Idol/X -Factor TV shows.

                  As with the characterisations his Big Brother satire (Dead Famous) the main characters are somewhat recognisable as their 'real-life' counterparts, we have Beryl Blenheim rock chick and plastic surgery fan who features in her own family show 'The Blenheims' along with her wife Senenity and daughters Priscilla and Lisa Marie. Then we have Rodney Root a record producer, and 'pop svengali'. Finally the thrid of the judges Calvin Simms, owner of the company which makes the show and then manages the careers of the winners. Any of those sound familiar?

                  Given the way these characters are so very similar to the X factor judging panel Elton has to make references to them, with Beryls daughter on more than one occasion asks why they are copying 'The Osbournes'. It is I think with these very close associations with current TV shows which is what will let this book down, I found I was quickly bored of the repetitive language and on more than one occasion found myself surprised to read the name of the fictional characters not those of the real X Factor panel.

                  But where the X Factor is about the contestants this is about the judges manipulating the contestants to make good TV, grouped as Clingers, Blingers and Mingers they are manipulated in to giving the comments which boost viewing figures. But this series something else is on the agenda, Calvin's soon to be ex wife wants a specific winner, and Calvins former researcher also wants this person to win. So can he keep both women happy and make this man and unlikely winner?

                  Sadly the plot felt too thin, the funny situations didnt amuse me as they were meant to. And more than anything I was left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment, since his previous books have been much better than this. The book does however make you think about the possibility that the reality TV shows we seem to love so much might actually be staged more than is generally admitted. If you want to read a good book about reality TV then his Dead Famous about shows like Big Brother it is much better.

                  The length and pacing of the story are good but let down hugely by the thin plot and that it almost felt like Elton didnt know what he was writing until it was done since at times the events just didnt seem to fit with the overall story. At 465 pages long it is a pretty standard length book, it is light enough in style to make it a reasonable holiday read. I paid £3.50 for my copy from Asda (current offer chart books 3 for £10 or £3.50 each) and is also found at the usual online sources.

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                • Product Details

                  Ben Elton's Chart Throb is the ultimate pop quest. There are ninety five thousand hopefuls, three judges, just one winner. And that's Calvin Simms, the genius behind the show. Calvin always wins because Calvin writes the rules. But this year, as he sits smugly in judgement upon the mingers, clingers and blingers whom he has pre-selected in his carefully scripted 'search' for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The 'real' is about to be put back into 'reality' television and Calvin and his fellow judges (the nation's favourite mum and the other bloke) are about to become ex-factors themselves. Ben Elton, author of Popcorn and Dead Famous returns to blistering comic satire with a savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern television talent shows. Chart Throb has one winner and a whole bunch of losers.