tue 16/07/2024

I Dreamed A Dream: The Susan Boyle Story, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

I Dreamed A Dream: The Susan Boyle Story, ITV1

I Dreamed A Dream: The Susan Boyle Story, ITV1

Susan Boyle's story may be amazing, but what about super-Svengali Simon Cowell's?

Piers Morgan hails Susan Boyle, whose debut album has already sold a million copies in the UK

"They all laughed at Rockefeller Centre, now they’re fighting to get in,” as the Gershwins put it.

Much the same applies to Susan Boyle, the implausible contestant from Britain’s Got Talent who has soared fantastically from a closeted life of caring for her widowed 91-year-old mother in West Lothian to the top of the American album charts. In the inimitable stat-speak of music trade mag Billboard, Boyle’s debut album I Dreamed A Dream “marks the best opening week for a female artist's debut album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.”

ITV1 hailed Boyle’s astounding rise with this hour-long special, though like the entire sprawling weekend of The X Factor which preceded it, it could have delivered its message at half the length. It was hosted by the indefatigably-smirking Piers Morgan, who looked as if he’d been lightly greased with chip fat and who couldn’t help giving himself little pats on the back for being one of the Britain's Got Talent judges who hastened Boyle on her way. Never mind that initially all three judges had been quite prepared to dismiss her as a tragic weirdo who should have been thrown offstage by the security guards, though admittedly turning up looking like an escaped asylum inmate who’d spent the night in a hedge didn’t help her case.

Boyle’s emotional problems after she was beaten into second place on BGT were lightly touched upon, and there were a few slender insights into her background from some neighbourhood friends, but mostly this was a chance to reprise her favourite tunes and sing a duet with her idol Elaine Paige (or at any rate with a drastically-facelifted woman with a caption saying “Elaine Paige” underneath). The most interesting part was a glimpse of Boyle’s rapturous reception in America. Far from viewing her as a pitiable anomaly with learning difficulties, mature Americans have been enraptured by Boylemania, and the ones interviewed here seemed sincerely moved by the singer’s example.

“She brought happiness into my life,” said one woman, while an elderly man added that Boyle’s success signalled that “there’s no time limit on your dreams.” Boyle sang a new song which included the line “I’m who I was born to be”, which typifies the self-mythologising drivel these reality shows feast on, and yet contains a grain of truth about her belated emergence from the cramped cell of her earlier life.cowell_small

Of course, looming over the Susan Boyle story is the permatanned, fanatically-groomed Simon Cowell (pictured), who will be reaping an Ocean’s Eleven-sized payoff from her album sales. His coffers will be boosted yet further by the doubtless glittering future of 18-year-old Joe McElderry, winner, as you may have heard, of last night’s X Factor, on the strength of being able to sing rather like a young Johnny Mathis. A quick tip of the hat here to Ryan Giggs for winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, incidentally, because he’s a quiet lad and I’m a bit concerned that he’ll be cruelly brushed aside by the Cowell juggernaut.

There’ll be books and movies about the Cowell-isation of British popular entertainment in years to come, but after a weekend featuring six hours of Cowell-centric programming, surely the situation is now approaching some kind of critical mass. The notorious pop Svengalis of yesteryear, like the fabled Larry Parnes, never wielded anything remotely comparable to the cross-media monopoly currently exercised by the crocodile-grinning Simon. People always moan about Rupert Murdoch, but the Cowell Supremacy surely merits some close scrutiny. On Saturday night ITV1 brought us an hour of Cheryl Cole’s Night In, during which Cheryl (pictured below) hilariously climbed into a new costume during each ad break and admitted she still wasn’t entirely comfortable as a solo artist, followed by two hours of The X Factor. Last night we had the two concluding hours of X Factor, padded out with tediously repeated highlights from the night before, followed by the Boyle programme.CHERYL_nite_small

Perhaps it’s only Cheryl who can mount a challenge to the all-conquering Cowell, especially now she’s super-empowered after driving her protégé McElderry to victory over Simon’s bumptious Olly. Her amazing gifts of empathy are on the brink of turning her into the Madonna of Tyneside, and the way she morphed into Joe’s mother-substitute (sobbing along with his family in South Shields, and crying buckets as she told him how his story reminded her of her own) was flabbergasting. Wonder what grouchy husband Ashley is making of all this. But ITV should watch out. Cowell is twisting their arm to provide more funding for X Factor, but what if he casually asks them to hand over the entire company to him? They could hardly refuse.

Buy Susan Boyle's album I Dreamed A Dream here

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