Every Friday, CasinoBeats is thinking out loud

IN the UK in the nineties and early noughties, and revived briefly more recently, in 2015 to be precise, there was a TV show called Stars In Their Eyes.

If you saw it, you will remember it, probably fondly. It was from a time when life-changing fame couldn’t simply be achieved by going on a reality TV show and completing a task/eating a wichetty grub/attempting (and failing) to have sex with a soap-star’s daughter.

No, SITE was propelled onto ITV’s top table by the notion that ordinary folk – opticians from Liverpool, plumbers from Frome, actuaries from Ely – could successfully imitate some of music’s most distinctive stars (and Curtis Stigers).

Yet the gap between genuine Streisand-like greatness and Jill from Clitheroe never seemed greater than when the latter was belting out one of the former’s bangers from Yentl.

As these everymen and women impersonated their idols, the whole concept celebrated both the hidden talent of the Great British Public and the largely unattainable qualities of true stars.

Saturday tea-time was no longer the sole property of Hannibal Smith and his A Team – variety had taken over. It is an arc that continues with Ant and Dec’s BAFTA-laden monopoly of all telly.

Turns out it’s not as easy as you might think to go on national television in front of an audience of nigh on 12 million and do a passable Boy George. Kev thought he could do it, Kev’s mum Bev thought he could do it – hell, even host Matthew thought he could do it. But he wavered four bars into Karma Chameleon and that was that.

Neil Diamond was a favourite – indeed, rasping Diamonds Carolined themselves to glory on two separate occasions. But, even when – GASP – these wannabes not only sounded but also looked like the Star in question, there remained a glorious fallibility. You could just tell.

“We love a trier, we want them to do well but, when twist comes to shout, all we really want is the real thing.”

And that was SITE’s true charm. We love a trier, we want them to do well but when twist comes to shout, all we really want is the real thing. Nobody’s buying greatest-hits compilations from a pretend Barbra Streisand. Last time we checked, Barb is still in LA being fabulous while Jill from Clitheroe is, well, still in Clitheroe.

Imitation is flattery, or something. But we don’t want imitators. Those buying prints of famous works of art are only doing so because they can’t afford the real thing. That €25 Breitling Navitimer your dad picked up in Kavos looks the part from a distance but it’s just pretend. It doesn’t make him James Bond. But in the absence of the necessary five grand or so it would take to prise one from a jeweller, it’ll have to do.

But what if he could have a real Navitimer as easily as the fake? What if both were available from the same website at the same cost?

Online slots come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the simplest ideas remain the best. In other instances, the months of hard work shine through in a glistening showstopper of a product. It’s not always easy, on first impressions, to tell the good from the bad (and the ugly). And yet there are so many imitations seeking to catch some of the reflected glory of the original.

“…slots players can be fickle. They crave new options (if not new ideas). This can make it a numbers game.”

It’s hard for developers, too. It must be acknowledged that slots players can be fickle. They crave new options (if not new ideas). For the suppliers, this can make it a numbers game.

Just churn something out each week or month, or two, and adequate volumes of players will be sufficiently interested for the product to, financially at least, wash its face (as they say in Clitheroe).

You make a product cheaply and it turns a small profit so you make another one. No harm in that. Except the slots market could become awash with mediocrity as a result. In which case, the innovators and creators – the true stars – struggle to be heard.

There was a reason that the all-conquering Stars In Their Eyes was eventually decommissioned, albeit gracefully. Put simply, the novelty wore off. Impersonating the real thing became, well, a bit naff. Tawdry and lacking sufficient creative quality.

Some might point to a number of latter day TV shows that would appear to be the epitome of cheap and nasty, and they’d be right, but SITE’s specific successors are entertainment rollercoasters. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly – these are telly behemoths. Teams of writers and producers ploughing millions – no, tens of millions of pounds – into your prime time.

Cheap telly exists still, of course, and some of it compelling. Gogglebox is a work of simple voyeuristic brilliance, for example.

But mostly, the easier it looks, the harder it is. That slick slot series with the two-minute animated trailer straight out of Pixarland – these are the developers challenging the players and the industry and taking it forward.

Your slot about dog walking sounds cutesy enough but it’s a dying breed. Let’s move on.