I clicked on the link because Tim Blair said that it led to something "absolutely brilliant". When I saw it was a talent show, and that a chubby little bloke from the Carphone Warehouse with crooked teeth was going to sing opera, I thought, 'The poor bugger is going to be humiliated'. So when I clicked play, I kept my finger ready to switch it off at the first bad note. I didn't click again.
I was glad to be sitting up here by myself in my lofty gloom so embarassing was my reaction. From what is seen of the audience and the judges, especially the woman, I was not alone.
They're expecting humiliation, too, but they can't switch it off or turn away. Why is the effect so strong? I think because we witness a fairy story in 3 minutes - Cinderella or The Ugly Duckling. There among God knows how many hopefuls is this very ordinary bloke with an extremely dull job who puts himself forward to have his self-delusions crushed in front of millions. And where pop is supreme, he's going to do it with something as pretentious as opera. He looks entirely wrong. He must fail.
But he doesn't. Far from it. With one of the great tenor show-off pieces, rising to a note which echoes even in the ears of angels, he triumphs. And the audience is with him all the way up.
Isn't that why these shows are so popular? They enact the universal fantasy of recognition for our hidden uniqueness, the wonder of us that we can never quite find the means to reveal. As the song says,
Il mio mistero e' chiuso in me
My mystery is locked within me
Not now, not for Paul Potts it isn't.