Tuesday sees an interesting slant on the Talent Show from Channel 4. Hidden Talent is hosted by Richard Bacon and sees ordinary members of the public discover they have a hidden aptitude for a skill they never knew they possessed.
I spoke to Richard to find out more about we can expect from this reality/documentary series and the aftermath of his recent BBC3 documentary on internet trolls.
How did they pitch Hidden Talent to you and what drew you to the series?
Its an original idea really. Its spinning the talent show around. Its not like other talent shows. Other talent shows are big entertainment productions and this is actually more like a documentary and its factual. In a normal talent show people believe they have talent and they want to be assessed and have someone to take them on and recognize a talent that they believe they already have but what we’re doing is finding out whether people have a talent they don’t even know about and have never thought about.
So how does the process work?
900 people came along to our test days and they had a range of tests and we find out through those that we had a small handful of people who have got almost world class potential to be good at different talents that they were completely unaware of. Its the biggest experiment of its kind and it hasn’t been done before.
What or who stood out to you whilst filming?
I think the best story for me is in episode three. We met a 19 year old who was living in a homeless shelter when he came to see us called James. He sat our nine tests and he discovered he was the best out of everyone at languages. He’d never had a language lesson before but he had a natural ability. So we gave him 19 weeks to learn Arabic. He achieved it and he could write Arabic so to really ramp up the pressure we took him to Jordan and he appeared on Jordan’s answer to This Morning and was interviewed live for 20 minutes. Normal language students it can take 2-3 years to learn Arabic like that and he did it in 19 weeks so I think that’s the best story.
You said in a recent radio show that your TV review section is becoming increasingly popular. Why do you think that is? Is TV better now do you think?
Probably yeah you can’t keep up with how many good shows there are. We handpick what we review and we’ll often pick shows that have already got a good reputation or shows that a lot of people are talking about so our reviews tend to be quite positive. Something we’re reviewing this week is a Scandinavian drama on BBC4 called The Bridge. Most people probably won’t even notice that show but when people say telly’s rubbish its because they’re not looking for the right shows. There’s a lot of good TV being made in Britain. There’s a high hit rate of good ideas and well made programmes.
Does working in the industry change your view of television?
Sometimes I’m amazed by how long the process takes. I made a documentary recently called The Anti-Social Network about internet trolls which was an hour long which was a lot of filming. You don’t realise when you watch these shows how much time has gone into them. Hidden Talent is six episodes on Channel 4 and a series producer has probably spent about five months in the edit. There’s a lot more work that goes into making these things than we all appreciate.
You mention The Anti-Social Network did you find that a bit more daunting as it was such a personal thing for you?
Yes. I was anxious about it going out because it was so personal and I mention my wife and my baby. I don’t feel particularly anxious about Hidden Talent going out. It may do alright or may not but its not personally revealing. I did feel anxious about the Anti-Social Network and I had concerns that these internet trolls would turn on me even more and that bothered me. I realised when it went out though that A yes they did and B they’re just a bunch of bloody idiots and you can just block them anyway.
Has making that documentary made you more wary of using social networking sites?
No it hasn’t. The best thing on Twitter is the block button.
What do you love and loathe on TV?
I love watching The Daily Show I’m a big fan of that. As far as loathe, I never liked HollyOaks. Its a boring show full of beautiful faces and blonde hair. It looks like its been cast by Hitler! I avoid that at all costs!
You mentioned on a recent radio show that you’d a lot of long running dramas like Silent Witness but you were very impressed by the episode you saw this year.
Yeah you’re absolutely right I’d never seen it till this series. That’s another thing I think we take for granted is how good these long running British serials are. For some reason I’d assumed they wouldn’t be very good. Like I only saw the last series of Waking the Dead and you put them on you realise they’re really good and really well made. I think I thought these long running dramas would look a bit like a Soap Opera so because of misplaced prejudice’s I’d avoided them.