“Oh, not this rubbish again!” Reg complained as his wife changed the channel.
“Oh, be quiet,” muttered June. “It’s the one thing I watch all week and I don’t want you spoiling it.”
“Yeah, this and all the soaps…”
She settled back as the familiar theme tune blared out accompanied by the sounds of a crowd going wild. Reg turned his attention to his newspaper. On screen, a pair of effervescent men-children burbled through their opening monologue and introduced the celebrity judges – a quartet of people whose only celebrity came from being judges on the programme. After fifteen minutes of waffle and a commercial break, it was finally time for the first act, a hopeless ventriloquist. Even June was unimpressed. She offered to put the kettle on and disappeared into the kitchen.
Reg looked up from his crossword. “This is rubbish. I don’t know how some people have the nerve.” He continued in this vein for a couple of minutes until he was interrupted, not by his wife but by a voice from the television.
“Hoi! Hoi, mate! Yes, you in the chair. Reg, is it?”
Reg gaped, startled.
“If you think you can do better, why don’t you get off your arse and give it a go?”
“Eh?” said Reg, unsure whether this was really happening.
“This isn’t easy, you know, to come on live television, in front of the largest audience in the country, and put yourself forward and open to criticism. I’m a performer, mate. A true performer. It’s in my blood. And this is my big chance for a break and I can do without buggers like you putting me down before I’ve even got started.”
“Er” Reg looked at the door to the kitchen. It must be some kind of joke; perhaps June was behind it.
“Put your hand on the screen, Reg,” the ventriloquist’s face filled the screen, his eyes compelling and hypnotic.
Moments later, June returned with steaming mugs of tea and a packet of biscuits. On screen, a young girl who purported to be a singer was sobbing over her grandmother’s dead dog.
“You know what, Reg,” said June, “Let’s put a film on. Have a bit of a cuddle.”
Reg’s head swivelled on his neck and his mouth opened and closed without moving his lips. “It’s all right, love,” the ventriloquist’s voice seemed to come from inside him, “Let’s give them a chance. Can’t be easy, being in front of all those cameras.”