If I was a Bad Robot, I'd be really miffed about this cover story

PUBLISHED: 12:11 19 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:38 07 September 2010

I ve long ago lost interest in television talent shows, mainly because the producers can t resist the temptation to strip emerging talents of any hint of originality, knock the creative stuffing out of them and repackage what s left as the weekly helping

I've long ago lost interest in television talent shows, mainly because the producers can't resist the temptation to strip emerging talents of any hint of originality, knock the creative stuffing out of them and repackage what's left as the weekly helping of dross that passes for prime time entertainment.

One notable exception is Mobile Act Unsigned, aired for some peculiar reason by Channel 4 at lunchtime on Sundays. I say peculiar because before this programme started, I'm convinced that many of the performers on view wouldn't have had the first idea what Sunday lunchtime even feels like.

Some of the music was dire but at least these were bands playing their own instruments, writing their own songs and determined to do things their own way, whether the judges approved or not.

Groups argued among themselves. Some turned up for their heats on the wrong days. Drummers went missing. Wobblies were thrown and egos dented. Sound systems expired. Violence was threatened and an edge of malice lingered in the backstage corridors of venues like Liverpool's famous Cavern Club and the King's Cross Scala.

I've been hooked on this rare sniff of rock and roll's dirty armpit since catching an early episode. An unsuspecting newcomer to the show, I could only watch and listen in bewilderment as one manic band confirmed a long-held belief of mine - namely that a decent sound is unlikely to emerge from any group of musicians sharing the same space, yet playing in opposing keys at competing tempos against a background of what could only be described as vocalised anguish.

My interest increased over the following weeks when I discovered that the outstanding Bad Robots, with their harmonies gloriously intact and led by an out-there singer courageously sporting the finest beard since Rasputin, came from Ham&High territory.

In fact Ben Larsen, who despite his Ozark Mountain Daredevil persona, quickly emerged as the most engaging front man in any of the bands, works for Camden Town Unlimited, an organisation which provides traders in Camden with a much-needed platform for promoting the area's manifold attractions. I should point out that he resisted any temptation to mix business with pleasure by penning a Camden Town Rhapsody.

Then something awful happened. On Sunday I tuned in and turned on, as Emperor Roscoe would have put it, only to discover that the four remaining bands had been instructed to perform, of all things, cover versions. Aaargh!

At this point I half expected to see Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell sneaking from the shadows to displace the resident judges and send for the hair stylists and choreographers.

The outcome was sadly inevitable, with Camden's Robots booted out despite a spirited attempt at defiance with their fired-up version of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time. Given the title of the programme, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again might have been more appropriate.

Confirmation that the competition had unravelled at its most vital stage came when Hijack Oscar, who deserved to be with the Robots in the final, met the same unfair fate.

If I was a Bad Robot, I'd be pretty miffed about the unexpected turn of events that so obviously contributed to their demise. But never mind lads. It might not be time to give up the day jobs just yet, but talent will find a way...

Geoff Martin

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