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TV review: Britain's Got Talent 2012
Britain's Got Talent contestants, Only Boys Aloud
It's the show that turned Paul Potts, Susan Boyle, Diversity and, erm, Jai McDowall into household names. Well, sort of. Yes, Britain's biggest talent show is back, and this time it means business.
Gone are judges Michael McIntyre and David Hasselhoff. In their place are Strictly's Alesha Dixon (poached very publicly from the Beeb), David Walliams, and the returning Cowell, whose disappointment in last year's series (recorded largely in his absence) has been made a matter of public record.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last month, you'll know that this year's series was deliberately moved forward to compete with holier-than-thou BBC singing show The Voice UK.
Much has already been written about this clash of the titans but, post-broadcast, neither show can claim to have convincingly drawn first blood; The Voice UK's overnight average was 8.4m viewers to BGT's 9.4m (excluding ITV1 +1). However, the newcomer bested the veteran talent show by over 2m viewers during the much-hyped 20-minute clash between 8pm and 8.20pm.
Camp German Dennis's bonkers winged performance is - to paraphrase Simon Cowell - what Britain's Got Talent is all about.
Camp German Dennis is booed by the audience purely on the basis of his nationality. Shame on you, Britain!
Judges aside, there's nothing new or different about series six of Britain's Got Talent. Let's face it; Simon Cowell isn't one for radically changing formats when churning out the same old jaded dross year after year will do.
Indeed, this year's pre-show hype can be put down to one thing and one thing alone: the return of Mr Nasty himself. Because - love him or loathe him - he still makes for great telly.
"love him or loathe him - he still makes for great telly"
Helping Cowell in his bid to win the spring ratings war, David Walliams is a welcome addition to the panel.
Anyone who can make the Dark Lord squirm in his seat by asking inappropriate questions about contestants' sex lives ("Have you ever made love wearing rollerskates?") is OK by me.
Alesha Dixon's role is less clear. She adds little to the mix besides handing Cowell the golden opportunity to stick two fingers up to the Beeb. Indeed, at times she seems woefully out of her depth, eschewing actual opinions for eyelash-batting and hair-flicking. She may as well be replaced by an automaton; I doubt anyone would even notice the difference.
Friends, Romans, countrymen
And so to the acts; those hapless dreamers from the fringes of society who pitch up for our 'entertainment' in the 'hilarious' audition stages.
The silliness appears top have been turned up to 11 for this, the opening show, perhaps as a deliberate riposte to The Voice UK, in which - gasp - even those afflicted by alopecia, weight issues, or being a member of the boyband Five, can potentially prosper - BECAUSE THE JUDGES (sorry, coaches) CAN'T SEE WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE.
First up was retired HGV driver Tony, whose act consisted entirely of dressing up as a Roman guard and intoning words gravely over a backing track. Dutifully, the judges feigned puzzlement and Simon asked:" Is that it?"
Naturally, Tony's gladiatorial performance represents the high watermark, until - as inevitably as night follows day - a chubby kid with greasy hair takes the stage in the show's dying moments, and blows the panel away with a roof-raising performance that already has the tabloids dubbing him - wait for it - SuBoy.
Best of the rest
In between, we got gay ballroom dancers, an all-male Welsh school choir, a stilt-walker dressed as Santa Claus, a singing, gold-lamé-clad German butterfly, and a 19-year-old Norfolk native who performed a simpering, derivative rendition of Adele's version of Make You Feel My Love.
"In other words, it's business as usual"
It's "a beautiful moment," says Alesha. "I've never felt so moved," agrees Amanda.
Meanwhile, David is "blown away" and Cowell delivers the verdict every 19-year-old singer on BGT wants to hear: "You nailed it."
In other words, it's business as usual. It's a format that - with the exception of last year's Cowell-free blip - has demonstrated again and again that the UK's appetite for variety shows remains undiminished.
For me, it's a safe bet that as the short-lived novelty value of The Voice UK wears off, Britain's Got Talent - and Simon Cowell - will emerge triumphant in the ratings war this year.
- Rating: The format may be jaded, but Britain's Got Talent remains the biggest and best talent show in the UK. Four stars out of five.
TV quotes of the week - Britain's Got Talent
"Waiting for Simon is like waiting for Santa Claus at Christmas." - Surely David Walliams means The Grinch?
"My Roman name is Maximus." - No, your name is Tony.
"It was like someone had pressed fast-forward on the TV." - Don't tempt me, David.
"We met at a gay choral conference, in Tampa in Florida." - No, not Ant and Dec, but ballroom duo The Sugar Dandies.
"I'm not gonna have a relationship with an owl." - Now there's a sentence you don't hear every day.
"That was a long time ago, we're friends now." - Cowell rightly admonishes the crowd for booing German Dennis.
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