The funny thing about Britain’s Got Talent is that, no matter how well we feel we know it, it still manages to entertain. Last year I watched the X Factor more out of habit than necessity, but I have a real soft spot for Britain’s Got Talent. After nine years it’s hard for the show to throw anything at an audience who is aware of all the editing tricks used to make us think an act will be terrible who then turns out to be really impressive. Any show you can think will be stale after nine years, I myself was past my best when I reached nine.
Somehow though I’m able to completely disregard all the cynicism I feel about the X Factor and enjoy BGT for what it is: a Saturday night entertainment show. Part of me wishes it wasn’t a talent show at all. I tend to lose interest when it reaches live week and everything is taken with a seriousness that never quite befits the acts on stage. I’d be happy for every week to be audition week because those early weeks showcase Britain’s Got Talent at its best. Unlike the X Factor, which is often seen as mean spirited, BGT doesn’t take itself overly seriously. and the fact that the judging panel erupts in raucous laughter when a villainous Jack Russell attacks one half of the nation’s favourite presenting team shows how much fun their having. It’s the kind of fun that’s infectious. I was lucky enough to attend an audition session this year in Birmingham. I was one of those members of the audience who sat opened mouth and went overly giddy when a dog arrived on stage. The atmosphere in the arena was superb, but somehow the show manages to provide that same atmosphere at home.
The schedules are littered with poor attempts at creating a Saturday night hit, but Britain’s Got Talent appears to not even have to try. It’s got that rare thing of mass appeal. You might argue that the X Factor or Strictly have the same appeal but I’d politely turn away from you and we’d never speak again. Really young children aren’t going to get a huge amount of pleasure out of seeing Max from EastEnders wiggle his hips to a Ricky Martin song from 2001. Likewise the older generation aren’t going to be able to relate to the sickly tones of Only The Young as they skate around the stage to an Avril Lavinge song they’ve never heard of. It’s safe to say we can all appreciate a man from France who has turned his pet dog into a Ventriloquist dummie! I’ve had a night to sleep on that particular moment and I’m still utterly baffled. Then there was skating duo Billy and Emily, who even Nan would be drawn in by, and those dancers who, thanks to those sneaky folks in the editing suites, delivered the first shock of the night as they stripped down to bra and pants for the approval of our Royal Family.
It’s a good time, it’s a laugh and without even realising it you find yourself invested. Even though I’d attended the audition where the large choir from Wales filled every inch of the stage it’s the amazing the power of some Lily Allen in the background to make me emotional again. The fact that before the show us excited audience members were asked to provide a standing ovation and clap before a single act had stepped on the stage didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this opener. The reason BGT works better than any other show on a Saturday night is that is seems less self aware. On the X Factor you’re away everyone wants to be the next One Direction or Olly Murs, but with Got Talent they just want to impress the audience in the arena. Ant & Dec are another draw. There is literally nothing I wouldn’t watch them do. I think they’re brilliant. Their bits behind the stage curtain as they wait with a sister who is watching her brother audition whilst trying to hold back the disappointment of her own failed moment in the spotlight are some of the best moments of the show. It has been criticized for an over reliance on singing or dancing talent and to be fair when I went to watch in Birmingham we saw a few too many dance acts for my liking, but we have to be realistic and say that there won’t be that many acts we wont’ve seen before.
There was cynicism last year when dancers Paddy and Nico auditioned having previously won the Spanish version of the show, and whilst I felt a little deceived It didn’t really stop me enjoying their act. It’s a show that celebrates the talent and eccentricity of our bizarre little country and should be seen as that. It doesn’t matter to me whether the winner goes on to have a long spanning career or quickly fades into insignificance because at the end of the day it’s a television show, and it’s a ruddy good one!
Britain’s Got Talent Continues Saturday at 8.00pm on ITV.