Aside from The Undateables, I think Channel 4s new show Hidden Talent — about everyday people discovering raw potential for talents they never knew existed — is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in a while.
1) We can all relate to it. All of us have tried baking a cake and found we were absolutely terrible, for example, and then discovered that, for no apparent reason, we just always seemed to be there in our car going 30mph when some poor sod was walking by completely unawares on the pavement. Likewise, some people just seem to always be the poor sod on the pavement; for whatever reason, they were born with that uncanny knack for always being unlucky in a hilarious way which benefits mankind more than it will ever know. Thankyou, poor sods. OK, so there are no awards for being the latter — and it has to get pretty bloody annoying, especially when it’s the third time in the same week and you come home with soaking-wet pants to the sound of your long-suffering wife crying “Oh Jim…not again, seriously…” — but it’s still a talent and we all have one, even if it is unfortunate. That’s better than nothing, right? At least we can say we’ve made our mark on this world in some tangible way.
2) It’s a hundred times more exciting to watch, say, than Foxes Live — another more bizarre Channel 4 show which documents what the lives of somewhat tame English foxes get up to when…well, when they’re just walking around and stuff, really. It genuinely is pretty pointless TV on a whole new level. The last episode saw a variety of these furry hated celebratory fiends going about all kinds of sordid mangey never-seen-before business: the biggest tragedy was that most of it wasn’t even live as had been advertised; the foxes had, apparently, seen the cameras coming (not that if it had been live it would have been that much better, as far as I can see. A fox rummaging through a bin is the same live or recorded, is it not?!).
3) Another reason why the Hidden Talent series is so good: it reminds us of old times. Alice-in-Wonderland-times — or Rambo-times, if you were a boy who cunningly managed to watch almost every 18-rated horror movie before he was 13 — way back, when we were smaller and our powers seemed unlimited. When adults were not just older, but also tragic and hysterically pointless. Take me for example. As a boy, people probably didn’t see much special about me, aside from my annoying ability to draw (my mum’s words, not mine, before you jump on me!): I seemed to have all the traits of Autism without actually being Autistic — Dyscalculia made me this way, and mangled my perception of spacial awareness and maths so severely that it warranted this statement all these years later — and a nose which was years ahead of its time in growth and maturity (we’re talking both girth and length. Really, it belonged to be in at least the year above). Yet put me up against the other boys in the toilets — even the taller boys who were said to have the advantage of a flicking wrist — and I was a formidable force to be reckoned with when it came to the who-can-wee-highest-up the metal urinals challenge. More an ancient rite of passage than just a physical matching of boy-against-boy in what might at first seem a trivial and debatable childhood act, it involved, as can be expected, three or four of us (it could be five, there was no strict enforcement of the law within these walls) all standing in line a set distance away from the urinals, and aiming the onslaught of our golden-power-flow heavenward to the highest point, until the arch of yellow descended, splashing everyone’s shoes with a very satisfying sound that made walking into chemistry with piss-soaked shoes easily worthwhile (it gives an interesting new angle to the expression “Don’t go near the golden arches!” don’t you think?). The other boys, even the bigger boys, didn’t stand a chance! To be honest, I look back all these years later and I don’t even know what they were thinking about going up against my turbo-bladder. Not only could I wee up past the metal and onto the unknown of the bricks above the stainless steel where really very few boys had ever managed to ascend to, but if I put my mind to it with particular, groin-straining, sphincter-tensing committment then I could occasionally blast it out of the window (that had always been left open for centuries to allow this sacred act to take place)! Honestly, the thought of piss dribbling down old bricks might sound rancid and wrong, but the sight of it could literally make a crowd of bigger boys gasp where they stood and say “I hate puberty!”.
So I guess what I’m really saying is this: don’t count yourself out, even if you feel like you have nothing left to give the world and your talents begin and end at just about being able to not over-cook pasta…because somewhere inside you is the raw potential for something bigger and better.
Even if it does involve a freakishly powerful bladder.