Talent shows are as old as time. Samarian TV had one.
But as the Seventies progressed, traditional formulas like Hughie Green’s “Opportunity Knocks” (coll. Opnox) became old HAT.
Hughie would interview the contestant’s agent, Mum, gay lover, whoever (the “back story”) – then the contestant would do their thing and at the end of the show, the audience would “vote” for a winner based on studio applause, measured on a VU meter.
Finally, Hughie would remind the TV viewers that the gimmick was “just for fun, folks” and implore them to “vote, vote, vote” – by postcard.
Incredibly, the show was a big success – we were easily pleased then.
Starting on radio, the show ran for nearly thirty years – but by 1978, the public were demanding MORE.
So naturally, they were getting it. In Britain, “New Faces” (coll. New Fæces) introduced “the panel” – a row of judges who would provide an INSTANT decision on who would win.
And right from the start, it included a record producer or similar, who would sit at the end and “tell it like it is” (“Mr Nasty”). He would always get booed – but without him, the ratings would have HALVED.
Then in America, “Laugh-In” begat Chuck Barris’ “The Gong Show”. This introduced the facility for the panel to STOP acts deemed too awful to continue (some of whom were deliberately so) by allowing panellists to bash …a gong.
Then along came Simon Cowell. Since the first two letters of his names would probably be pronounced “sicko”, he changed the “i” to a “y” and went with the slightly less objectionable “psycho” – “Syco”.
And after gathering ALL of the above elements together; the Back Story (greatly enhanced, to satisfy lovers of “reality” shows) the Panel Of Judges, including Mister Nasty at the end (in Britain, himself) and having replaced the gong (to avoid getting sued) with a deafening klaxon (watch the contestants in the wings jump, when it sounds) – he went on to sell it to (currently) over SIXTY COUNTRIES.
Some of which even get an Old (I meant old) Spice Girl included, to round out the panel (Australia; Ginger – Asia; Sporty – America; Scary).
But all of them get the same formula – with one BIG exception. Despite Syco now having more money than God, his power is still dwarfed by one thing: THE UNIONS!
One can only assume that this is the reason why the franchise has NO UNIFYING THEME TUNE.
The thing is, those who buy the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” format get to use a distinctive series of electronic TONES – but they cannot be classed as MUSIC.
Whereas the theme tunes to all the variants of “…’s Got Talent” which THIS reporter has seen (Britain, Asia and America) are DIFFERENT (and undistinguished).
One cannot imagine Syco did not THINK of this – so it HAS to be down to the unions.
The records, films and TV shows completed in ONE country, then sold around the World, HAVE to retain their original music (imagine all of the Beatles’ records having been COVERED for releases outside the UK – or the movie “Goldfinger” screened in India, with the score played by the Delhi Symphonia – or a Saudi version of the “Bonanza” theme).
But “…’s Got Talent” is produced LOCALLY.
And not only are there the musicians’ unions to consider – the composers’ unions would kick up too, if they did not receive their share. Even if Syco himself had composed and played the theme, he would still have had to join the unions to get it played – and thus been back at square one.
However, if he had asked ME, I could have given him the solution: trawl through the thousands of public domain classics for a suitable melody, get a UK band to give it a funky disco beat – then get a local band to COVER it, in every country you sell it to. Simple.
Of course, the pieces would not have been as identical as McDonald chips (fries) – which are all derived from the same oil, size, temperature and Burbank Russet (I kid you not) spud (potato) combination – but at least it would have completed the show’s Brand Identity.
So if you come up with another winner, Syco – run it past ME first, huh?