“It’s time. To face. The Light Entertainment!”
Well, not quite. Unlike its Thames TV stablemate, Britain’s Got Talent doesn’t utilise voiceover supremo Peter Dickson - but the new series is back bigger, better and slicker than ever on Saturday.
I was in the audience for yesterday’s press launch, which saw episode 1 played out in glorious HD within the National Film Theatre at BFI Southbank. And the first thing you notice (apart from the cheesy pop video at the start, in which Ant & Dec mime to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, backed by a huge array of variety acts) is a new, slick editing and presentational style.
Once the aforementioned video has played out, the Geordie presenters take a muted backseat, with the narrative elements being portrayed in a much more filmic, documentary style. Instead of the new judges talking to camera or to Ant and Dec, we see them interacting with journos as they arrive at the first audition session. And when the auditions start, the old printed flats that adorned the stage have been replaced by The X Factor’s digital backdrops, making the show feel like it’s finally accepted the 21st century.
The change in style is an interesting approach, and after so many series of both BGT and the X Factor (and, indeed, their many predecessors and imitators) using a similar format, gives a vibrancy and visual flair that has been lacking. After the first ad break, the more usual voice-over style returns slightly, but overall there’s a feeling that BGT is slicker and more enjoyable than ever.
It helps, too, that the bulk of the acts featured in this opening show are at the very high quality end of the audition spectrum. There are the usual weird performances, from “spesh” acts that don’t quite work to the sort of people who don’t quite realise how awful they are. But even the most bizarre auditionees come across as charming eccentrics, rather than Jeremy Kyle show rejects.
And as for the judges themselves? Simon Cowell is clearly relishing being back in the UK — he always seems far happier on Britain’s Got Talent than he does on The X Factor. David Walliams and Alesha Dixon slot in easily, making it seem like they have been there for ages. Dixon and Amanda Holden get on well together, and provide a physical buffer between Walliams and Cowell, whose badinage together is just a joy.
In the Q&A after the screening, Cowell stated that The Voice — the BBC1 singing competition which also starts tomorrow — will need to get a sense of humour if it is to compete with Britain’s Got Talent. On the evidence of the first show, I think it will need a lot more than that.
- Britain’s Got Talent starts tomorrow (Saturday, March 24) at 8.00pm, ITV1