Arts

Television: Why ‘talented children’ deserve the spotlight

Most of us live in horror of “talented children”. It suggests a vile eight-year-old girl with pigtails and freckles, screeching The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow as mum watches hungrily from the wings. Or, God forbid, one of those strange toddler pageants that Americans go in for – magnets for trailer trash and sexual deviants. Children should not have adult ambitions. They should veer between the banal (climb a tree) to the absurd (go to Mars). Everything in between is projection by sad grown-ups who should know better.

Or so I thought until I saw Channel 4’s Tiny Tots Talent Agency (Tuesdays, 9pm). It follows the work of Bizzykidz, a company that helps place underage stars in photoshoots, chorus lines and – most surprisingly – a tyre safety commercial.
Maybe the producer went native and showed us only the most flattering material, but the show actually makes a great case for “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. Ten-month-old Ornella has hair like candyfloss and a face that could melt the stoniest heart. Mum is a Ghanaian immigrant; dad hasn’t even met his daughter. So, yeah, I want her to do well.

Other kids, not so much. Cenk is 10 years old and already has his own fashion label and website. Like all the other singers promoted by Bizzykidz, he can’t sing. And mum offered some fascinating advice on how to interview celebrities for his website: “Ask questions, listen to the answers and pretend to be interested in what they’re saying.” In her own, awful way Mrs Cenk showed that she understands children better than most of the adults in this show.

Kids don’t feel complex emotions the way adults feel them because they haven’t yet grasped the full joy and terror of life. The best they can do is act – and even that is hit-and-miss. Cenk’s mum paid for him to receive tuition on performing Hamlet.

He said: “To be or not to be” with all the passion of a 10-year-old facing the prospect of sprouts for dinner. Cenk might be a star but he’s also reassuringly normal.