Ever wondered, as you slave away in a thankless middle management job in an industrial state in Brentwood, whether you could have made millions using a hitherto undiscovered talent?
It’s a scary thought. If we do away with the assumption that our muse is supposed to find us and instead discover that we’re supposed to find it, what depths of creativity and ingenuity might be festering away unused in all of us? And how on Earth are we meant to access them?
Hidden Talent (Tuesdays, Channel 4) aims to find out.
Each episode, two individuals are offered the chance to explore a skill they never knew they had. It’s not quite as optimistic as the premise sounds: we don’t all have a hidden talent after all, sadly, or at least not in one of the things Channel 4 are testing for (they never explore glass-blowing or spelunking, for example).
Via a series of Derren Brown style psychometric tests and some physical assessment, groups of hopefuls are gradually whittled down into those who will never amount to anything (possibly) and those who are actually really good at something they’d never even have given the time of day to before.
In this first episode we meet Maggie. It turns out, much to her surprise, that she’s capable of climbing really high stuff- mountains and suchlike- without needing a sit down with a bottle of Pinot Grigo and a valium immediately afterwards. Or, more importantly, without falling off it.
It soon becomes clear that she’s much better than the rest of her small group at this – she comes across as the person coaching rather than the person being coached, whilst lesser women wobbled pathetically on ropes in a desperate attempt to stop their legs going from under them.
Maggie gets picked to go and climb something really big which would terrify even a hardened climber. Miraculously, she looks forward to it.
Next up is Brenda, the top scorer on the test to spot when someone is lying – which isn’t necessarily an enviable skill to have, let’s be honest – presumably you’re always going to know when actually that dress looks horrible on you and that your new haircut actually does look like Dave from Slade’s. However, apparently it’s quite useful if you want to become a detective so Brenda is whisked off to Florida to be coached by an FBI special agent.
The FBI people aim to coach her, at breakneck speed, in the art of spotting deception. And we’re also given a quick guide to subtle body language clues that indicate when people are lying, just to make us totally paranoid about talking to anyone ever again.
While Brenda’s sunning herself in the US, Maggie has to contend with clinging to a cliff on bleak and windy Anglesey whilst her heart rate is monitored to see if she’s freaking out yet. She turns out to be a biological marvel, with her heart rate coming in lower than the man sitting securely and smugly at the top of the cliff. The woman’s so chilled out she’s practically meditating as she’s doing it – she’ll probably showboat to the top of the cliff spinning on one finger.
Turns out her final challenge is to climb the Old Man of Storr, which isn’t a hapless escapee from the local OAP’s home, but a massive sheer piece of rock sticking out of the sea. To make matters worse, it’s pissing it down. You can’t help thinking she’s got the raw end of the deal here.
It’s actually a pretty inspiring show, and makes you wonder what untapped abilities you’ve got lurking in your own psyche. If you want to find out how Maggie and Brenda got on, you can catch up on 4OD and even do some of the tests for yourself on Channel 4’s website.
It’s probably best not to try any rock climbing just yet, if you’ve never done it before – but feel free to assume everyone you meet is lying to you.
Hidden Talent is on Tuesdays, 9pm on Channel 4. You can catch up on 4od here.