Because, apparently, this past weekend was pre-ordained to be the weekend of the octogenarian, an 81-year-old grandmother of thirteen, Janey Cutler, appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, the Simon Cowell–hosted singing show, and knocked everyone’s socks off. The video of her performance, like all videos of people who can unexpectedly sing on Britain’s Got Talent, will likely go viral. With all due respect to Janey Cutler, who seems lovely and to have a perfectly sweet voice (if not one that you’d want to buy a CD of), this was all much more interesting, moving, and authentic when it happened the first — and second — time around.
Cutler has been dubbed NuBo because of the obvious similarities she shares with SuBo (Susan Boyle). In both cases, an uncool person appears on the show and explains, sort of awkwardly, why she’s there. We, the audience sitting at home, have a flash of angst for this deluded person. Said person then goes onstage, where Simon Cowell condescends to her. The camera pans to the studio audience, whispering what we can only assume are disparaging remarks. Then the performer opens her mouth and something unexpectedly good comes out! The audience cheers! The judges’ faces register surprise, comeuppance, catharsis. (Cowell’s face in the NuBo video also seems to be expressing a particular “Ah yes, I have created another culturally relevant moment, mwah-hahahaha” kind of smug.) The underdog has triumphed! Let’s all watch that on YouTube another million times!
Like pictures of kittens and puppies, this formula will always elicit an “Aw,” but one that will get quieter and quieter the more times you see it. Part of the reason American Idol has felt so tired this year is because it, too, continues to rely on the same drama templates; the false suspense of the “Judges Save,” the “I’m sorry to tell you … but you’re still in the competition!” switcheroos. Simon Cowell, hopefully you can cook up some new audience-manipulating tricks for The X Factor. In the meantime, maybe I’ll watch this NuBo video again.