Simon Cowell’s DJ star search – a talent show too far?

Will people really tune in to see people watching the wheels of steel go round?


Simon Cowell is back!


Yep, unless you live under a rock with no internet coverage and a retired paperboy, you’ll have noticed Mr Syco is currently pushing his big properties in the UK after a less than perfect 2011 for Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor and… hmm, Red or Black?.

But amid the fever of excitement about whether Cheryl Cole will return to the big X and speculation that the BGT winner might get fired into space by Richard Branson (here’s hoping), Cowell has another trick up his sleeve in the shape of an “exciting” format. 

It hasn’t got a name yet, but Cowell’s DJ Idol, a co-production with Will Smith’s production company, is the media mogul’s latest attempt to cash in on the talent show market – one that he’s dominated in this country for the best part of a decade, and is hoping to continue to grow in the US. 

So, what is this show? Well, according to Cowell, “DJs are the new rock stars”. Ergo, people want to see a star search to find “the greatest talent”, right?  

Er, maybe. However, is DJing really a TV spectator sport? Superstar DJs do exist and people flock in their thousands to see them perform for hour after hour, surrounded by ecstatic revellers. But that’s the issue. Unlike watching a band perform a track, or a karaoke star sing a song for five minutes, a DJ’s talents – and the experience of enjoying them in a nightclub or festival environment – are very hard to boil down into short, mainstream TV-friendly soundbites.  

What exactly are people expected to judge these DJs on? And just how easy is it going to be for a mass audience to understand and engage with the would-be DJ superstars’ plights as they get up to speed on the wheels of steel and hit the crossfader?  

Of course, if this is a Syco production, we should expect a healthy dose of “inspirational” back stories from the contestants and a panel of mean industry experts doing their best to turn the show into a pantomime.  Also, I’m sure there will be star guests, flashing lights, lasers and dancers galore. But as we saw with Red or Black?, sometimes sentiment and stunts is not enough – the meat of the show, the talent bit, has to be interesting enough to keep us hooked. DJing doesn’t – no matter how much scratching is involved – on the face of it, fit the bill.  


2012 is going to be a competitive year for Cowell as the BBC launches The Voice – an X Factor-style singing show – to take on BGT this spring and The X Factor continues to be challenged by Strictly Come Dancing. Is DJ Idol going to help the media baron rebuild his empire – which, by his own admission, took a knock last year – or simply add to his woes?