Fame Academy, BBC1

by | Dec 3, 2002 | All, Reviews

If it hadn’t been for Naomi’s bad throat, the nation would have been deprived of our Latest Pop Sensation. David Sneddon only got into the Fame Academy through the back door (I’m not talking casting couch action, by the way). Naomi got sick, David got picked and he smiled his way to the top.

David looks like Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea defender) and he sounds a bit like Del Amitri (Sheffield Wednesday midfielder – not). He’ll have a number one smash, a couple of top fives and an album that spends a couple of weeks on the chart. Then he’ll be scrabbling for scraps along with the glut of TV discoveries we’ve had over the past few years. Good luck to the lad. He seems like a nice boy.

However well he does, the manufacturing process that produced him has been a chugging, steam-age affair, as exciting as watching the production of grey plastic flanges (whatever they are).

Patrick Kielty, renowned for his dangerous humour, was reduced to adopting Davina McCall’s style of saying nothing amusing but somehow getting a laugh by shouting at the end of EVERY SENTENCE. Cat Deeley was bland, dance coach Kevin made me shiver with his scary, staring eyes, singing coach Carrie has a shameful hairstyle. No-one ever said anything remotely interesting.

The singing throughout the series was, on the whole, no better than Karaoke Sundays at the Dog & Duck. Even the final was pretty dreary with David’s ballads sweet but unexciting, Sinead roaring away while wearing a top she’d rescued from the shredding machine and Lemar being clever while wearing trousers rescued from Gary Glitter’s dustbin.

Should there be a Fame Academy 2? Only if there’s a complete change of personnel. Sack Pat’n’Cat. Get rid of dull Dick the Head, Carrie, Kevin and company. Then the ratings may just match the hype.

The final

Ten weeks ago I watched the first Fame Academy show and hated it. The contestants seemed untalented, the presenters likewise, and the Academy itself, with its palatial setting and pompous “head teacher”, reeked of old-style paternalism. A few brief viewings after that confirmed the general view of the series as an ill-conceived cross between Pop Idol and Big Brother. I switched to the final expecting the logical outcome, three mediocrities trying to be some middle-aged BBC executive’s idea of a pop star. It didn’t work out that way.

By the time the finalists had finished their first round of performances, it was clear that something unexpected had happened. They were brilliant; it sounded like real music, and they were actually expressing themselves through it, something you normally only see on Jules Holland’s show these days (and then not always). Then they sang their own compositions, and – strewth – the songs were really good, and didn’t sound as if they’d been churned out by a record company computer. Lemar was a surprising first casualty, as he seemed to have the best all-round vocal talent and presence. Of the two survivors, Sinead, outstanding in the first half, faltered in the second, but David just kept getting better, and deserved to win on the night.

All three, however, were in a totally different league to their most obvious competitors, the “stars” of ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals. But then over on ITV they’re not making music; they’re making product, not surprising when you consider that the two band managers, Louis Walsh and Pete Waterman, each bear significant responsibility for reducing the pop industry to its current dire, product-driven state.

The Popstars contestants started out with more visible talent than the Academy ones, but are ending up with less, as they say, do, and probably even think, whatever the system requires of them. The results are appalling. The boys delivered a mind-numbing dirge calculated to tug at the heart and purse strings of lovesick schoolgirls, like the endless ballads released by Walsh’s Westlife. The girls, meanwhile, did a “raunchy” number that looked cheap and exploitative, and sounded like 80s Spice Girls prototypes Bananarama.

On BBC1, David won with a ballad, while Sinead did raunchy. But he made it come alive, and she made it sound like a woman being strong. The Academy had taught them the skills, then to think for themselves when using them. The results were electrifying.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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