Britain's Got Talent: plenty of the usual nonsense

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Britain's Got Talent: plenty of the usual nonsense

April 16, 2017 - 13:49
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In 2017, ITV’s Saturday night schedules are simply a never-ending conveyer belt of talent shows. Following the conclusion of The Voice UK two weeks ago, the first series on the commercial channel since it jumped ship from the BBC, the vacant slot is now being filled by Britain’s Got Talent for just short of the next two months.

Mind reader DNA with Simon Cowell

By Matthew Gormley @MatthewPGormley

In 2017, ITV’s Saturday night schedules are simply a never-ending conveyer belt of talent shows. Following the conclusion of The Voice UK two weeks ago, the first series on the commercial channel since it jumped ship from the BBC, the vacant slot is now being filled by Britain’s Got Talent for just short of the next two months.

Now in its eleventh series, the entertainment juggernaut is the country’s most popular talent show. A 21st century version of Opportunity Knocks, it’s a format that has been done to death over the years and yet still pulls in the viewers. As much as I begrudge watching anything with Cowell’s paw prints on it, BGT does make for enjoyable viewing.

The opening episode of the new series, on Easter Saturday, kicked off in typical Simon Cowell style, with an over-staged, over-produced, over-false sequence featuring thousands of members of the public dressed in silly costumes waving Union Jacks. Such is our eccentricity, apparently. The predictability continued all the way through the 85 minute audition package.

There was a cheeky nine-year-old wannabe comedian, Ned, who shocked the judges with his caustic quips. He may have been highly amusing, but apart from insulting the panel, he lacked any real material for the next stage.

Ned was followed by the usual roll-call of peculiarities, including wannabe magician Neils Harder, who left host Ant McPartlin fearing for his life, when he placed his head in a vice. Whilst his irrepressible energy and unconventional dancing baffled the judges, viewers were instead baffled by his age, refusing to believe he was only 26. He was from Amsterdam, sadly proving, yet again, that Britain’s Got Talent is no longer about Britain. There was outrage back in 2013 when Attraction, the Hungarian shadow dance troupe, won the show, despite not residing in Blighty. Since then, there has been an influx of contestants from across the globe, which is irritating given that Talent is now a global franchise, with most countries having their own version. It’s not called ‘The World’s Got Talent’, so can we please stick to home-grown acts?

There were a couple of stand-out moments. Mind-readers Andrew and Darren, known as DNA, were astonishing. Asking Amanda and Simon to make random mental selections, they read each other’s minds and left the judges stunned, before appearing to change their t-shirts whilst on stage. Social media was awash with viewers trying to work out how they carried off this bewildering piece of trickery, but I prefer to believe that magic really does exist.

Singing impressionist Jess Robinson was another highlight, with her superb vocal tributes to Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli. At the beginning of her audition, she explained that she was trying to become a full-time performer, but she’s already a professional, having starred in a major UK tour of The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice in 2012/13, alongside Beverley Callard, Ray Quinn and Duggie Brown. There’s no doubting that she’s very talented, and her audition was very entertaining. She emulated not only the voices of the singing stars, but their diction too. However, the show is intended for amateurs, not professional performers. Showbiz is fickle, and whilst many performers have long and illustrious careers, there are twice as many for whom their fame and fortune is a flash in the pan. Jess has not only toured the finest theatres in the land, playing the leading role in a huge production, but, only last year, she had her own show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She’s already had so much of what the wannabe performers on BGT long for; this is not the platform for her. Perhaps it’s a sign that we’ve run out of talent. Maybe that’s we’re looking further afield and, indeed, opening it up to professionals. I think it’s more likely that producers are fishing for ready-made stars, all in the name of ratings.

At first glance, it seemed like the obligatory sob story, but The Missing People’s Choir turned out to be a group of genuinely inspirational people, all of whom have been hunting for their missing relatives for years. Turing tragic events into something uplifting and positive, they performed an incredibly moving version of I Miss You. The choir featured Claudia Lawrence’s father, Peter, and another member whose son had been missing since 1988. Their performance tugged on the nation’s heart strings and they thoroughly deserve to go all the way, proving to thousands of people in a similar situation that they must never give up hope.

The first golden buzzer of the series was awarded to 15 year old Sarah Ikumu, who floored the panel when she belted out Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I’m Telling You’. It was Simon who pushed the gold, giving Sarah a fast pass to the semi-finals, but the cynic in me thinks it was all a little rehearsed. When young Sarah announced her song choice, Cowell, looking shocked, said it was ‘one of the biggest songs in the world’. Cue everybody expecting to be disappointed and then looking shocked as she blows them away. Besides, she was a little too shouty for my liking.

Fear not, it wasn’t all emotion. There was plenty of the usual nonsense, including a bloke whose act involved him putting cardboard cut outs on his head and attempting to dance. (Hues Corporation’s ‘Rock The Boat’ with a cardboard boat etc.) and the insanely bonkers Mahny, a doga instructor. Yes, that really is dog yoga. Conveniently, all the judges happened to have their pets backstage ready to join in. The pooches reactions perfectly summed up the whole thing, as they relieved themselves all over the yoga mats.

Another six weeks of auditions will be followed by a week of live shows at the end of May. After the first episode, it seems there are several acts the bosses are already setting up to win. It was a refreshing change to see magician Lance Corporal Richard Jones win the show last year, instead of a singer or dance troupe.

It may be over-produced and over-rehearsed, but it still makes for entertaining Saturday night television.

The Britain’s Got Talent auditions continue on Saturday evenings at 8.00 pm on ITV.