What’s going on with Britain’s Got Talent? I sat down with Lisa to watch last night’s episode. I say “sat down”. What I really mean is, she tied me to an armchair in the living room, taped my eyelids open and forced me to watch it. Truth be told, I haven’t been invested in Britain’s Got Talent since the first series when Paul Potts won and the world gave a genuinely talented man a shot at his dream.
What unnerved me about last night’s show was that there’s about 30 seconds’ worth of performance to every 4:30 of backstory, waffle and bizarre ‘filtering in’ of upcoming acts. Not to mention the adverts.
The audition which stands out for me here is young Liverpool standup comedian Callum Oakley. The wonderful David Walliams heaped praise on the kid, telling him “I have never seen a stand up comic so young, and so brilliant. That was amazing.” That’s high praise indeed – so what did Callum do that inspired Walliams to such lofty praise?
Well, if what we saw on screen is correct, Callum told a very funny gag about video game violence that involved him air-punching for about 20 seconds. And it was a good joke. But that’s all we saw. One joke equals the best young comedian David Walliams has ever seen?
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism of David Walliams or Callum’s routine. The editing is simply atrocious. The acts are getting less and less screen time, to the point where we’ve barely been given a taster of the act, then it’s on to the next audition.
To make matters worse, some brainiac on the production team has decided to intercut footage of people preparing to audition backstage with the people auditioning onstage. It might be that they’re hoping to give a flavour of what happens on audition day: someone’s out front hoping to impress the judges while nervous hopefuls are making last minute preparations behind-the-scenes.
The actual effect of this is to take our attention away from the act on stage at that moment. You know that old reality TV adage that stems from Andy Warhol about everyone having their fifteen minutes of fame? Well, auditionees on Britain’s Got Talent don’t even get that anymore, because the show is already teasing us with the next act. Which implicitly says to the viewer “This act’s not worth your attention, there’s someone much more interesting coming up…”
Example? As the Jive Aces were auditioning on stage for Cowell and his talent-spotting chums, we were seeing child dancers Nu Sxool preparing for their routine. We barely got to see the Jive Aces in action, but they should have been the focal point for that moment, not the next act in the queue. It doesn’t feel quite fair – considering how much time Jive Aces will have spent auditioning and hoping to impress the audience, they don’t even get proper screen time for their audition.
Spotlight on the talent?
I said at the top of this article that I’m not a big BGT fan. I’ve seen America’s Got Talent, and it’s leaps and bounds ahead of what the UK version is showing us. The scope and diversity of the acts on AGT is incredible. We’ve got street dance, singers and dog acts. Yawn. That’s why I’m not a regular BGT watcher.
The problem for ITV is that it’s running against The Voice, which is obsessively focused on singing ability. So, you switch from BBC One to ITV and you go from 10 incredible vocal performances to a 15 minute segment featuring a man waffling endlessly before playing an extended instrumental on a keyboard. Seriously. what is the point of this?
And no, I don’t think Britain’s Got Talent needs to radically transform itself, but ITV’s talent shows are suffering from a drastic lack of talent. Sure, they serve fine as light entertainment vehicles, but you’ve got to remember that the auditionees take this programme very seriously. They see it as a vehicle to recognition and turning a talent into a career. What’s the point in auditioning if you can’t even get your audition televised in full? Might as well head for Sky 1’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
If these people are going to show up to audition, at least give them the decency of showing their audition in full. Don’t show us one joke and declare a kid the next John Bishop. Cut out 60% of the waffle and show us more of the ‘Talent’ that the show promises.