Review By: Gringo

There's a program called Soapstars coming towards the end of its run on British television. Funnily enough, it's atrocious. I don't know if America was ever cursed with this show's predecessor; the descent into synthetic music and hollow personalities that was Popstars. That show offered five supposedly lucky hopefuls the chance to be picked from millions of similarly genuinely ambition-muted teenagers. It was tacky in every sense. Each week a panel of three people would create more and more future trips to the psychiatric ward for those pimply-faced urchins whose face or sound didn't fit in. And by fit in, I do of course mean to become a popstar in a five-piece band. Never mind that this band - which incidentally went on to call itself Hearsay, have a number one and then go nowhere fast - would be just like every other single empty, shallow inoffensive band aimed squarely at a fan base of teenagers and strange old men. It was like a window in on what the selection process for the Backstreet Boys, A1, New Kids on the Block and Five must have been like.

Anyone with any real talent that made it through to the quarter and semi finals of the selection process was subjected to the most severe tests. More than 1% body fat? There's the door. Look like a normal person? Thanks, but no thanks. Not ready for an empty existence of snorting white powder and paying twenty-buck-a-trick hookers for the chance to jack off over them in the comfort of your sordid little tour bus? See you later. The three panelists chose the five winners on the basis of - for the girls - how often they ran to the toilet to force themselves to vomit after binge eating and - for the boys - how likely it was that the better looking one of the two chosen would be gay. One of the aforementioned panelists was a guy called Nigel Lythgoe. He had an irresistible urge to make sarcastic comments, so the tabloids dubbed him 'Nasty Nigel'. Popstars was that kind of show. I detested it. I detested it with all my heart. Yet I kept watching it. A camera crew followed the hopefuls, creating one of the most disturbing documentaries I've seen since the behind-the-scenes of Ollie North's Senate campaign in A Perfect Candidate.

After seeing just one episode of the follow-up Soapstars, I am confident I won't be making the mistake of a second viewing. It's even worse than Popstars. Add to that the fact the show I watched was the semi-final and it's a safe bet I've missed far too many episodes to catch up, even if I wanted to. The point of the show pretends to be the chance for two adults and three teenagers to win places as a new family on a British soap opera called Emmerdale. This soap is boring, turgid stuff. It's set in a rural English farming community and most storylines involves potato theft and tractor breakdowns, in a village populated by characters called Jack and Percy.

Despite this fact, and despite the low ratings figures Emmerdale gets in comparison to other British soaps, everyone in Soapstars told the camera it was "their ambition" to be a part of the show. How anyone can have this as his or her main ambition in life is beyond me. Are we really at the point where a teenager's aspirations can be no better than aiming for a life of fake friendships, pointless interviews in glossy magazines and C-list-celebrity-filled parties where they have to be carried home unconscious because they mixed alcohol with their painkiller addiction? Soapstars - and the literally hundreds of thousands of teenagers who applied - must surely think so.

The documentary style is used once again for this show, as is the same guy who did the voice-over for Popstars. But there's a change; the panelists are all brand new. No Nasty Nigel this time round. Instead, there's a completely nondescript woman (I'll call her Mo), who says she "hates this". I wasn't sure whether she was talking about having to choose between a group of dewy-eyed teenagers or the show itself. Then there's a man twenty-years overdue for the welfare queue (he can be Sam) who looks a lot like Noddy Holder out of Slade, except with grayer hair.

Noddy Holder    Sam

Finally, the youngest and most irritating of the panelists behaves like a failed actor; the type of person who is always seen with a musty glass of gin in their hand and saying the word "darling" at the end of every sentence. Him I am going to label Mr. Shake Hands, owing to his bizarre reliance on shaky-shaky hand movements to get his messages across, however pointless they may be. I'm calling the panelists by these adopted names because I didn't pay enough attention to the show to find out the real ones. Additionally, I have neither the patience nor stomach to look up some Soapstars information anywhere, ever.

As is the way with shows like this - the kind which revel in subtle humiliation of all those who appear on them - the best laughs, and only real entertainment, come when decisions have to be made and people are shown the door. First up were two people who were chosen to go through to the finals. I'm putting them first because these two are the most in need of help. Please, inject some creativity into their minds and stop them bleating about how being in Emmerdale would be "my'd be a dream come true". Funny, I never dream about being in a soap.

Ashra, the girl with blond pigtails, screamed with joy when she heard she'd been picked. The panelists returned the decibel-shattering favour by turning to the camera and saying, "I'm worried. She's so bloody good, that worries me". I'm still amazed they managed to say that and sound almost sincere in the process.

Craig - the smug looking one - got through as well, but he said little and did even less. My money's on him to win a role in the soap.

Then there was a very big girl. Big in the sense of overweight, you understand. It was fairly obvious that just like in Popstars the panelists had kept a plump girl amongst the contenders right up until the last minute just to avoid claims of discrimination. Unlike the sickening waif-like, emotionless puppets making up the rest of the hopefuls who all passed with flying colours, I'm afraid Big Girl didn't make it. She took the news very well however, even when one panelist (Sam, I think) said "Basically, it's a no from this", then fell silent. This left the girl two options. She could sit crying and bitch at them and the television production company for draining the minds, souls and aspirations of teenagers everywhere. Or she could smile, laugh and say "Yes". She chose the latter.

Next up was a guy who gave Mr. Shake Hands a run for his money in the who's-the-biggest-prick stakes. Wearing glasses he'd obviously bought because he thought they looked cool, this obnoxious sod grinned and over-acted his way to the top of the rejection pile. Bear in mind that the panelists were looking to pick someone in the role as father of the new family entering the soap. This led to Mr. Shake Hands destroying his competitor in the fury-inducing championship by saying he "couldn't really believe you'd be a father of teenage children". I don't really think that the guy could ever be credible as a father, regardless of whether it's real life or not. After leaving the panelists behind, the reject said something along the lines of "It's because I'm too young". I'll leave you to judge that one yourselves and put the guy (flannel shirt included) at your mercy.

The loser brigade brought out its reinforcements with Ruth, a na´ve young girl who thought she'd lost. Before we found out her fate, the programme stopped for an advertisement break. But just before it did, it showed a clip of Ruth crying; suggesting she had indeed bought a one-way ticket back to the real world. However, after the adverts it was revealed she'd won a place in the finals. And strangely she cried. And kept on crying. Then she cried some more. For good measure, she cried again. I think she was still crying when the credits rolled.

Finally, some annoying man whom I don't recall seeing for the entire episode of Soapstars was given his verdict. Nine months hard labour would seem a wise choice for this man, seeing as he's clearly just walked off the set of a Guy Ritchie movie. Sadly, he was successful too. This man was, for want of a far better word, a twat. An absolute twat. He stormed back into the room where the hopefuls were assembled - including the tearful rejects - and screamed "Who's the daddy? Who's the daddy?". What a twat. Not content with this behaviour, he then opined to the camera that "If I get the part, it'll be my destiny". Didn't he remember what Momma Gump said to baby Forrest? She happened to believe we make our own destiny. Mr. Twat instead wants his destiny made for him; a ride on Easy Street from stealing motors to a place in a miserable soap opera. Thankfully the end credits drowned out his hooting and hollering. Tune in next week? No thanks.

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