Chart Throb is Ben Elton in full satire mode. This time, the likes of reality TV shows like Pop Idol, The X Factor and The Osbournes deservedly come under fire. Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne are the stars of the show, although they're given new names and Mrs. Osbourne has been made a transsexual for the benefits of the story. It's stated unambiguously - and rather clumsily - early in the story that the book's characters have nothing to do with their real life counterparts, but Mr. Elton is fooling nobody. Calvin 'Cowell' Simms is a cynical media genius, Rodney 'Walsh' Root is a desperately status-sensitive failure, and Beryl 'Osbourne' Blenheim is an equally cynical fraud who plays the nuturing mother only when the cameras are rolling on her and/or her family.
It's hard to say where Chart Throb exposes the truth about exploitative shows like The X Factor and where the book's eponymous TV program is a far more exaggerated, cruelly cynical form of the shows it righteously pardoies. Mr. Elton is more privy to life behind the cameras than you or I; a short note at the end of the book letting us know from where he drew his inspirations might have made even more interesting reading.
As some of the other reviewers have pointed Mr. Elton does overplay certain jokes in Chart Throb. The vacuous, "keep dreaming the dream, babes" reality TV soundbites are funny the first few times they are repeated to show them in their full, trite witlessness. However, these same catchphrases are used whenever a camera is turned onto any one of the Chart Throb culprits/victims, which is to say almost constantly. The satire becomes as overused as the subject matter.
In spite of this book's flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ben Elton's observations of human nature at its most vulnerable, venal, exploitative, ambitious, desperate and vengeful are never so good as when they're in print and it's this hallmark that gives Chart Throb its strength. I kept my eye out for Mr. Elton's other trademark - the (often multiple) twist at the end of the tale. However, even forwarned, I wouldn't have seen the book's conclusion coming in a month of Sundays. Although in my defence, it was a little far-fetched.
So, buy the book? Go on, you might as well. At the time of writing, my local newsagents is running a two-for-one on paperback bestsellers, so I got this for a relative bargain. I'd say I'd got more than my money's worth.