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Nicki Chapman on TV Talent Shows at War: 'Will Vs Gareth on Pop Idol was like Brexit!'

NickiGarethCrop Nicki Chapman

We all love a good TV talent show battle and a new three-part documentary, TV Talent Shows at War, lifts the lid on the clashes both on-screen... and off! Host - and Pop Idol judge - Nicki Chapman tells us more...

Nicki Chapman on her new C5 documentary TV Talent Shows at War, which exposes the battles behind the scenes of our favourite talent shows...

What can viewers expect from TV Talent Shows at War?

Nicki Chapman: "Everyone knows that when it comes to TV talent shows, although we had Opportunity Knocks and New Faces years ago, it's only really in the last 20 years that talent shows have changed beyond all recognition – and I was involved with Popstars and Pop Idol in 2001, which were the first of that 'new breed' of talent show.

"So, with this documentary, I thought it would be a good idea not to just look at these shows but also at the battles on and between those shows. You had networks against networks, judges against judges and bands against bands. It's about the battles within battles that were going on."


Arlene Phillips talks to Nicki about her departure from Strictly Come Dancing

Which of our favourite talent shows will be featured?

NC: "As well as Pop Idol, we’ve got Dancing on Ice, Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice UK plus The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. These shows dominate TV on a Saturday and Sunday night getting millions and millions of viewers and they’re also shows that the whole family can watch. But this documentary is looking at those interesting relationships… ITV trying to outbid BBC for different shows, the conflict among the judges and the conflict between the people taking part themselves."

What do you think caused the talent show explosion of the early Noughties?

NC: "When I got involved in Popstars, it really was part of this new generation of talent shows. We revealed the audition process of putting this band together, Hear’Say, and they had success. But when Pop Idol then came along shortly afterwards, it was about taking things to that next level: suddenly YOU had the power. It was now up to the viewers to make somebody a star but phoning in and voting for their favourite singer. I don’t think we realised at the time how big it was going to be but, within a couple of weeks, we were like: 'This is enormous!'"


Nicki with reality judge legend Louis Walsh

We have to talk about Darius… he's arguably the contestant that put Popstars on the map!

NC: "Oh, Darius was a gift wasn’t he? This guy was just 18 years old then, he had charm, he had charisma and was extremely talented but he over-egged it, every single time. It was as if he'd read the 'talent show' manual and was trying to play out this role. He was very much a solo player and we were looking for a band. So, when he did THAT Baby One More Time audition, which is featured in this show, we were slightly relieved because he effectively gave us a reason to tell him he wasn't in the band. Afterwards, he told us he was going to have a platinum album and we all laughed... but he soon proved us all wrong. He's delightful."

The most famous 'battle' on Pop Idol was Will Young Vs Gareth Gates. It completely whipped the public up into a frenzy…

NC: "I know! I think more people voted in that final than they did in the general election and I still, to this day, get people coming up to me saying: 'I voted for Will' or 'I voted for Gareth'. We had the campaign buses, shops had posters up of 'I'm voting Will' or 'I'm voting Gareth'; we wanted people to get involved but they took it and ran with it. The momentum was incredible, the like of which hasn’t been seen since. The public had their opinion and the people that were happy that Will Young won were jubilant and, the people that wanted Gareth to win, still moan to this day. It's like Brexit!"

You’re a big fan of Strictly, would you ever want to appear on it?

NC: "I’d do ANYTHING to be on Strictly! However, I have a very ugly, dodgy ankle. I’ve had three operations and I will be having a fourth in the not-too-distant future, so I would probably last about a week. So, sadly, no. In my heart I’m up there dancing but, in reality, it’s never gonna happen."

And would you fancy being a talent show judge again?

NC: "Yeah, I would. I adored my time doing that. And I think I come from a position of strength. Whether they want people like me, I don’t know, but certainly from an industry point of view I tick all those boxes. But often it’s about publicity and other things. They’ve got to get the mix right. But if the right show came forward and asked me to be a judge, I’d absolutely love to do it."

As a music promoter, you’ve worked with some of the biggest names in showbusiness such David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Spice Girls and Take That. Has there been a career highlight?

NC: "If there's one defining moment, it would be working with The Spice Girls when they played a charity concert in South Africa in 1997 and met Nelson Mandela. Just to be there when something like that happened was incredible and really moving as well."

Are you as excited as everyone else about The Spice Girls' upcoming reunion tour?

NC: "Of course! It's a shame Victoria [Beckham] is not going to do it but I do understand her reasons. And when you’re a Spice Girl it isn't just about turning up for rehearsals for a couple of days, it's a massive commitment. Working with all five of The Spice Girls is something I'll never forget. I know it's gonna be a brilliant show!"

TV Talent Shows at War starts on Sunday April 7 at 7pm on Channel 5.

Victoria Wilson
Victoria Wilson

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!