NZGT: What's quality got to do with it?

"From the outset the goal was for New Zealand's Got Talent to be the biggest entertainment event of 2012," says Jeff Latch, boss over at TV One and TV2. In a press release yesterday, TVNZ extolled the virtues of their talent contest, referring to it as "the country's highest rating television show in a decade", excluding one-off events.

The show was undoubtedly a ratings phenomenon, hitting nearly a million viewers every week (according to 5+, overnight ratings). And as far as bringing viewers to TV One, the show worked a treat. To think, once upon a time I was baffled that they weren't airing the show on TV2, which seemed a better fit for a talent contest.

New Zealand's Got Talent also reminds us of a profound truth: success has very little to do with quality.

TV One don't care about creating a quality show. They care about ratings, about getting eyeballs on their television channel. It's telling that their press release to celebrate the ratings success of the show barely mentioned Clara van Wel, the teen singer who "stood out head and shoulders above the rest" and won the competition. Of course they'll say that they care about quality, but they don't really. Good or bad, the show achieved what they wanted it to achieve.

And really, we can't hold that against them. TVNZ is a business, and businesses have to make money. TVNZ makes money by selling advertising. They can sell more advertising by programming shows that are guaranteed to draw viewers. Sure, that's a simplified way of looking at things, but it's true.

But TV One shouldn't hold the blame. Not all of it. It appears that we, the viewers, don't actually care about watching a quality show. The only reason New Zealand's Got Talent was predicted to be the "biggest entertainment event" of the year was because the programmers and producers knew that people would tune in to watch and turn the show into a hit, regardless of how good the finished product actually was.

A million viewers each week proves that we won't even reject a bad reality show, and New Zealand's Got Talent was - in my opinion - one of the worst we've seen. I'll admit, Clara was a deserving winner on the night. I just wonder how much of that was because she has an abundance of talent, as opposed to the complete lack of talent among the other performers, a ragtag collection of gimmicky singers and dancers who would be more accurately described as "cute" than "great" (or "good", or "adequate").

Even the guest performers mailed in their appearances: Evermore sounded as flat as a pancake and Dane Rumble seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else. Then there were the judges. We've got no reason to think Jason Kerrison can spot talent at 50 paces, even if he can write a decent hook and put a couple of verses together. At least he did better than Ali Campbell, who could barely string a sentence together.

I'm not bitter. This isn't another whinge about the decline of serial drama. People would rather watch a season of New Zealand's Got Talent than tune in for 13 brilliant episodes of Justified (though they would obviously have been in different time slots). I can accept that. Shows live or die on ratings, and ratings are given to the shows that draw the most viewers. Say what you want about the ratings system, but it is a form of democracy at work.

I just thought that New Zealand's Got Talent was terrible. Unwatchable, most of the time. I'm disappointed that a show which was well below the standard set by its peers could manage to suck in nearly a million people, week after week. And it saddens me that most people just don't seem to be looking for quality on television anymore.

New Zealand does have talent, of that I'm sure. We just didn't see any here. But worse, we didn't care.

What did you think of New Zealand's Got Talent? Did it deserve its high ratings?

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