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That Book Was Distinctly Average
Chart Throb - Ben Elton
Member Name: samueltyler
Chart Throb - Ben Elton
Advantages: Great insight into 'reality' TV
Disadvantages: Too cynical, lacks stroy
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
Summary: An interesting, but flawed, book
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