Simon Cowell is going down in the history books — or at least the Guinness Book of World Records. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Got Talent franchise officially entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the globe's most successful reality TV format." We didn't even know that was a category!
So evidently, Cowell is the father of talent. The first installment of Got Talent was Britain's, which aired in 2007 and came from Cowell and his production company, Syco music. Since, the franchise has expanded with versions in 58 other countries, all with the age-old format that Cowell is fond of: three judges, many contestants, and LOTS of judgment. Cowell himself was a judge on another behemoth in the reality TV landscape, American Idol, and later The X Factor, both of which are, miraculously, still running.
So what exactly makes the Got Talent format so appealing and long-standing? As much as we hate to admit it, Cowell has tapped into our true humanity, even though he doesn't seem to have much himself (he was, of course, notorious on Idol for being the breaker of dreams and wearer of skin-tight black tees). But there is certainly appeal in watching others succeed, especially the underdog — it was, after all, Britain's Got Talent that brought Susan Boyle to the world, and making us all cry a river of ugly tears.
It's not so surprising, then, that the show has iterations in so many countries and the staying power that so many other reality TV shows lack. Yes, there's an element of schadenfreude in early episodes when contestants markedly do NOT "got talent," but there's also the pleasure in seeing "regular people" succeed. We watch the show and think, hey, that could be me! Simon Cowell could tell me I could go places in that wonderfully annoying accent!
The newest installments of the series are in Iceland and Brazil, and even though Cowell, upon hearing the news of his record-breaking show said that he was proud that "Got Talent is a homegrown British show," the franchise really is a world-pleaser.
As much as we hate to admit that Simon Cowell has given us all a feel-good, we're-all-people-here cultural and iconic TV show, he really has. So maybe that Guinness Record is deserved. Now all that's left is to look forward to Malcolm Gladwell writing a book on the most successful reality TV format and its connection to our humanity.