Good Night Australia: why the new Young Talent Time is irrelevant

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 31st January 2012.

To begin, I just want to state for the record that Young Talent Time changed my life…but not how you’d think.

Way back in the very early eighties, at the peak of YTT’s popularity, Johnny Young ran a chain of franchised talent schools around Australia. It may be hard to imagine now, but as a five year old, I wasn’t particularly confident, so as a way to bring me out of my shell, Mum and Dad enrolled me in the Western Sydney branch of the Johnny Young Talent School.

I remember enjoying the singing and dancing elements. All year we rehearsed our number for the end of year concert. The song was Magic to Do, which at the time I had no idea was the opening song from the musical Pippin. However, it was the drama classes that I remember being the highlight of my Saturday mornings. I’m sure we were just doing the standard games and improvisation exercises but it really awakened something in me. I’m sure that my devotion to the theatre and performing arts all began in that rehearsal room at Cropley House.

At the concert, I was allowed to busk in the foyer before the show. In my parents’ house there is still a framed photo of me in costume playing my tiny (and tinny) one sixteenth size violin. I don’t remember if I made much money. I doubt it. My entire repertoire at the time was a dozen variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Later that night, I was chosen to present flowers to the guest of honour, Young Talent Team member, Tina Arena. She kissed me. We haven’t spoken since. No calls. No dinner invitations.

My stint at the Johnny Young Talent School only lasted a year. I’m not sure why I didn’t go back. Not much later, Johnny Young closed down the New South Wales franchises and the school was no more. A few years later I started drama classes again. The gentleman who ran those classes previously managed the Johnny Young franchise and remembered me (but hopefully not my violin playing).  He became my agent and a brief career as a child actor began.

I wasn’t particularly surprised when it was announced that Young Talent Time was returning to our screens, and like most people last Sunday evening, eagerly tuned in. That is, tuned in during commercial breaks in the tennis. The new team danced and lip synched through a couple of recent pop hits, much like the original show. The team members were also individually introduced with video packaged, much like X-Factor or Australia’s Got Talent.

And here lies the problem. There are already vast arrays of talent shows on the air which feature young people singing and dancing. We’ve even moved on to other forms of young talent. Junior Masterchef anyone?

The set design with the big LCD screens resembled every other singing and dancing show on the box. And the team members remained dressed in modern streetwear. Where were the cheesy costumes and sets from yesteryear?

To give YTT its due, the team was appropriately racially diverse. As someone who thought he would be the first asian kid on the show, I’m glad to see that they finally have cast someone of asian descent. I guess in the eighties it was probably unlikely to find many asian children who sang and danced. We were all too busy learning the violin or piano.

Yes, the show was wholesome family entertainment but when was the last time you sat down and watched television with the whole family? With the advent of DVRs, smartphones and downloads, there are multiple ways to watch TV programs. YTT is no longer an event that must be watched at the same time together.

Refreshingly, no one is going to get voted off YTT. However, the lack of a driving storyline or ongoing competition is likely to give viewers little reason to tune in each week. The format is static. Watch kids perform some songs. That’s it.

The initial ratings success and then failure of recent retro resurrections, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Gladiators and It’s a Knockout proves that there is a demand out there to revisit programs of the past, but not necessarily have them return in a weekly format.

The new Young Talent Time is now just another program in a packed schedule of shows which feature young talented people. The original show may have made stars out of Dannii Minogue and (my) Tina Arena, but in the era of reality TV, every show seems to be producing the next big singer/dancer/chef/celebrity, YTT is sadly unlikely to make an impact in terms of ratings or influence on today’s popular culture.

Goodnight Australia.

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Published in: Uncategorized on February 4, 2012 at 00:15  Leave a Comment  

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