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Superstar, Shows 1 and 2

July 11, 2012

So, when this was announced, I blogged about it – and my concerns about ‘good taste’ were mentioned in “The Stage” newspaper on the letters page. Was I right to be worried?

Episode 1, and the answer was, “almost.” All the judges were careful to state, “you could be our Superstar”… and when one Jason Donovan said “you could be Jesus” he very quickly added, “in our new production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.” So, that was alright then.

Episode 2 and… “The Last Supper” for the candidates, in the hotel. Laid out like the Da Vinci fresco. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have whatever the opposite of “lift off” is. Naturally, it was open season from there. Several interviewees spouting that “I could be Jesus” to the camera, and the odd pointed reference to walking on water too.

As ever, it’s lucky the Christian community have a sense of humour about themselves, and at least nobody has pronounced the judges “cross and hung up” yet…

Otherwise, well, I’m rather pleased to say it’s pretty much up to the standard of the BBC efforts. Not a surprise as I think the production team is pretty much the same.

Still, we’ve had no sob-stories (unsurprising as anybody lost could  be revived, sorry, sorry, got all episode 2 there) and no outright “comedy” auditions either. Yes, there were a few untrained folks who made it to the island before being weeded out – and a few trained folks who were perhaps not weeded out who might have been, but that’s par for the course.

What the programme did show, though, was I think the ‘hidden’ side of both TV and Theatre in a single story – that of Jonathan Ansell. Already a veteran of TV talent shows, his story was eagerly followed from the start. A strong voice and stage presence, it seemed all was lost when it was ‘revealed’ he had other work lined up. Something was ‘sorted out,’ and he appeared on the second programme, only to ‘argue’ with the ‘drama coach’ and be booted out by the end credits. That was his “story arc” as a scriptwriter might have it.

For me, I felt it was one of the most contrived storylines I’ve seen for a while – and just thought (I have no proof, nor am I interested in finding any, though it seems to be out there if you believe online murmurs) there has to be more to it.

First, in TV (and all professional media), a story and how it is edited is everything. This was a good one: unknown to contest winner to star to having to start on a contest again. Got work? Knows a bit and wants input to match his skills? Plenty to build on, and it’s good TV (they were right, too, it was). If any background – like whether there was such a big clash of dates, and what was said outside of the 90 seconds of rehearsal action we saw on screen – wasn’t shown, well, it was entertaining (and, to be fair, it was).

Second, in theatre, everybody says “yes” to as much as possible, and hopes it won’t clash. Sure, walking away is unprofessional and potentially career damaging, but it isn’t unknown. It was easy to see the character of Jonathan Ansell (and he was a character in this, not a real person, as it’s all in the editing and construction, remember) as one thing, when he could well be another if we had more ‘back story.’ I’m just saying.

Still, it’s all pretty interesting and there are some good voices there. I shall be watching the rest of the series (one episode, hopefully, live) and the result could be rather good, I think.

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