In the movie adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin plays a ferocious sales strategist brought into a real estate office to motivate the salesmen there. His mantra is ABC – Always Be Closing (as in, always make sure you’re closing a deal with any potential customer). In a similar way, Simon Cowell has a mantra for his TV shows, except his is ABE – Always Be Emoting. Last night I watched what felt like four or five hours of new show Red Or Black, with The X-Factor providing some extra overwrought emotion in the middle of its two parts. Afterwards, I felt a bit like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
In case you don’t know, Red Or Black is Cowell’s newest production, starring Ant and Dec (obviously) and giving 1,000 people a night a chance to win £1m based purely on luck. The premise is really simple, they just have to choose red or black in a number of different scenarios and if they are right, they progress to the next one. Of course, because this is a Cowell production, it’s all got to be Incredibly Dramatic, so the scenarios involve motorcycle stuntmen and a blindfolded man trying to catch arrows. And it ends with a ridiculously over-sized roulette wheel deciding the fate of the last gambler standing.
As well as the OTT set pieces, Cowell of course insists on everyone involved reacting to everything that happens like it’s the first time they’ve ever experienced such emotional events. During the process of thinning out the participants, each set of losers are forced to express their deep sorrow that such a slim chance of Changing Their Lives has been ripped out of their hands by cruel fate. If they were being sent to their deaths rather than just back to their normal lives, their reactions would probably not seem melodramatic, but still the tears flow, even amongst those who get through, but are traumatised to see Wonderful Friends that they’d only met that morning sent back to Palookaville.
Well, not all of them are so sad to see their rivals depart, most of them are too busy having emotional and triumphant phone conversations with their families, or asking them what colour they should pick next. By the end, on the live show, we’re down to just two potential winners. By a curious twist of fate (perhaps), one of them was on 2009′s Big Brother, and it would have been interesting to see the reaction of the crowd if she’d won the £1m. While Angel McKenzie (not her actual name) was a Russian bisexual immigrant who wanted to spend her winnings on making a film about herself, her rival (no idea what his name was) was a Decent Bloke who wanted to spend his money making all of his family members happier.
Would I be cynical to suggest that this was a pretty perfect final duo for the opening night of Red Or Black? A clear hero and a villain, with the audience wasting no time in making it clear who they wanted to get the chance to spin for the million, seemingly having no desire to watch another boxing film. Happily, Decent Bloke won and then went on to claim the prize too. Convenient, but we’ll have to assume that the programme makers got as lucky as he did with their completely random gameshow. Unlike those of us who’d been watching, especially when we were ‘treated’ to a performance from Leona Lewis in a slightly arbitrary part of the game. Now what show made her famous?
Oh yeah, The X-Factor. And it was on top form too. Jade Richards has suffered a lot of trauma in her life, coming from Scotland and all, and she had a lovely gran in a wheelchair backstage cheering her on, so there was no way she was going to be one of the comedy acts. Especially not as she was singing That Adele Song That Everyone Likes. And she was singing it a little better than your average karaoke queen, but otherwise there was nothing remarkable about her. Apart from her ability to make a room full of people cry.
Kelly Rowland and Louis Walsh could barely speak through their tears (a bonus, really), while the camera zoomed in on every sobbing member of the audience. Tulisa and Gary Barlow failed to shed any themselves, but they’re still quite new at this, so they’ll no doubt learn. With the lovely gran backstage sobbing and cheering and shouting and rocking backwards and forwards, at the peak of Jade’s performance it was almost hard to tell which of them was singing. Certainly gran was winning the ‘emoting’ battle. Simon will be pleased with her, no doubt she’ll be back.
You can say that these are just TV shows and there’s no harm in them, but I do wonder what effect all of this preposterous over-emoting is doing to the people who watch or take part in them. Ten years down the line, will the country have shifted away from stiff upper lips and into full-blown hysteria over pretty much anything. After all, if a grown man can cry on national television because he’s lost a very slim chance of winning some money, how long before everyone who buys a losing Lottery ticket is in floods of tears each time a draw is made? Maybe I’m just being melodramatic. *Sniffs* *Sobs* *Camera zooms in*