Britain's Got Talent
Britain's Got Talent is a behemoth of a TV show, now in its eighth year, which is beyond criticism. Look for reviews in any newspaper and mostly all you will see is sarcastic vitriol aimed just as much at the contestants as it is at the judges. It’s an easy target, and easy to belittle, because it is in effect people showing off in front of the nation, a lot of whom really should have stayed at home. After weeks of auditions and a whole week of live semi-finals, the final presented us with eleven acts fighting it out for a spot on the Royal Variety Show and a nice cheque for £250,000. If you think about it logically, eleven acts all given a three minute slot to impress adds up to thirty three minutes of entertainment, but because of the nature of the beast the final weighs in at a massive one hundred and fifty minutes. The nature of Saturday night entertainment, however, dictates that the channel needs to monopolise as much of the schedule as possible and a talent show is an easy way to do this.
This year was probably the most open final that BGT has given us, with no clear winner and, for a change, mostly talented acts that will probably go on to have a career, of sorts, in the entertainment industry. We had three dance acts, five singing acts, a magician, a violinist and an impressionist. The stand outs were the singers. Jack Pack and Collabro were boy bands with a difference in that they could both actually sing very well and instead of the usual homogenised pop that we are used to one gave us show tunes while the others were a swing group. James Smith held the audience’s attention with just a guitar and a great voice. The pre-show favourites were probably Bars And Melody, two young boys from Wales who Simon Cowell had paraded not just before the great British public but also flown out to America to appear on TV, but without being cruel they were easily the worst of the bunch, with questionable ability and, as shown as the results were announced, a bit of an attitude.
The acts that really never stood a chance were impressionist, Jon Clegg, who seemed to have forgotten he needed jokes to go alongside his impressions, magician, Darcy Oake, who was brilliant in the auditions and semi-final but decided to do escapology for the final which was a huge mistake, violinist, Lettice Rowbotham, who’s USP was that she was so posh she was almost a caricature, and Paddy and Nico, a novelty act which was basically just a young man throwing a pensioner around the dance floor, impressive given Paddy’s age, but very limited in its scope.
From the women I have spoken to, the most impressive act of the night were Yanis Marshall, Arnaud and Mehdi, three gay Frenchmen who performed high energy dance routines in vertigo inducing high heels. Apparently this is a skill that few women have even mastered.
In the end it came down to two acts. Lucy Kay, a beautiful young girl with a tear inducing back story (always helpful) who sang Nessun Dorma, and eventual winners Collabro, the show tune singing boy band who gave a stunning rendition of Stars from Les Miserables. It’s quite telling that these were the final two acts as it should give the producers some idea of the audience that tunes into the show. I’m sure they like to think that they have the nation’s youth tuning in regularly, but that’s rather doubtful. The nation’s youth are out on a Saturday night enjoying themselves, and the fact that an operatic act and show tune boy band were fighting it out at the end says a lot about the demographic that are tuning in every week.
A Lot of snobby critics see this kind of show as lowest common denominator TV that is only worthy of ridicule, but by dismissing it out of hand that are forgetting that the show gets massive ratings and therefore is just the kind of thing people want to relax and watch at the weekend after a hard weeks work. It’s nothing new, as people of a certain age, like myself unfortunately, will remember. When there were only three channels available (yes, we only had three to choose from during my youth!) a Saturday night would always include a big variety show and the true precursors to BGT, Opportunity Knocks and New Faces. If you think some of the acts on BGT are bad, just go online and see some of the acts that were deemed worthy of being on a TV talent show in the 70’s and 80’s. You will be amazed, and occasionally quite disturbed!
Britain's Got Talent will continue to get huge ratings and terrible reviews, but that doesn’t matter. This is a show made for people like me, who sit at home, especially during the audition phases, thinking to myself, “I could do that” and for a few minutes can dream of stardom and an escape from the drudgery of everyday life. And for that reason alone, long may it continue.