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Review "Britain's Got Talent": No, It Really Hasn't

By Caspar Salmon | TV | April 22, 2011 |

By Caspar Salmon | TV | April 22, 2011 |

The dearth continues. As the year progresses and so few good programs make it onto our screens, I’m driven to ever more fanciful conspiracy theories as to why there’s nothing good on the motherloving television box anymore. Of course there’s the Crimson Petal thing, and “Twenty Twelve” has been good, but what’s going on? Why are we remaking “Absolutely Fabulous”, as I just heard? Where’s the new stuff? There has to be some huge, great reason that it’s all being kept from us. But what is that reason?

And so, without further ado, to the only show I watched this week. I didn’t dare attempt the tripe with Max Beesley on ITV. I’ve got some pride, damn it.

Britain’s Got Talent


I can’t be the first person to observe that “Britain’s Got Talent” is a statement of blatant and shameless falseness — certainly in the context of the eponymous ITV program aiming to make Simon Cowell a truckload of $$ discover Britain’s hottest and most inspiring new cabaret-style acts. Indeed, “The Only Way Is Essex” is the only prog on television currently able to rival “Britain’s Got Talent” for the mendacity of its title.

On “Britain’s Got Talent,” the paucity of actual ‘talent’ (as it’s unfortunately referred to on the show, by such people as judge David Hasselhoff who, when describing himself as on the hunt for ‘talent’, merely seems a sad old man like so many others on a tragic quest for poon on a Saturday night in Liverpool) makes Rebecca Black, Channing Tatum, Larry The Cable Guy and a dog trying to go down on itself look like, respectively, Aretha Franklin, Meryl Streep, Louis C.K. and Harry Houdini. This is true equally of the bits that the program-makers deem crap (juggling harmonica players; terrible singers; bad dance acts), for us all to laugh at, and of the bits that they present to us as the very apogee of gobsmacking bodaciousness. Let me reveal now the ‘talent’ unearthed on Saturday’s show. Are you ready for this jelly? They discovered: a terrifyingly creepy 9 year-old stand-up comedian; an unprepossessing chap who was revealed, a la SuBo, to have an ‘amazing’ voice; a woman who trains dogs, with her dogs; and a husband-and-wife team of bell-ringers who played ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and brought the house down.

Yeah, that’s right. Try not to be sick on your laptop, there’s a dear. You’re only reading about it; I had to watch the damn thing. The new SuBo, whose name I forget and who rasped out a perfectly generic version of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ that did nothing except remind me how much I love Tracy Chapman and hate people who cover her, wouldn’t be famous for even 15 minutes in today’s crushing celebrity times. The bell ringers looked like “Little Britain” characters and were fucking awful, but, much like dog woman, were put through so that BGT can pretend it’s got a heart and loves nothing more than to cheer on the amiable loser/eccentric. Remember SuBo? Eh? How fat and disgusting she was, how she made you feel literally sick because, like Simon Cowell and Co., you’d never seen anyone so repulsively real and fury-inducingly normal on-screen? And yet how, as soon as she started singing, you swallowed some of your barf in wonderment and looked up, thinking, “Dear Lord, thou didst neglect to mention the face of heaven was like unto a monster’s! Why, this harridan doth verily make tremble this fair world’s firmament with her angelic vocals and stuff!”? Hey, remember that? Well, “BGT” still has that ability to look past people’s grotesque, almost inhumanly revolting appearances, to get to their true core of awesome uniqueness. That’s BGT! Not a freak show at all! On the contrary! Simon Cowell isn’t laughing at you, as he sits on a throne made of spun gold, listening to Kylie’s 80s hits and chuckling his fat head off just thinking about how much money the diamond buttons on his silk underwear are worth - no, he’s laughing with you!

Such is the show’s devastating hypocrisy, posing as an oasis of non-judgmental, family-friendly good old entertainment from back in the day when people didn’t use to swear so much, and were kinder to their grandparents. In fact, of course, it is firmly a post- Anne Robinson theatre of sneering cruelty, exploiting naïve contestants and dumping them immediately, with even less of a promise of long-term success than you get on the “X-Factor” or “American Idol” (where you can sometimes get almost a year-long career!).

But sorry, back to the heart-warming program at hand. The new judges this year, in the absence of Simon Cowell and Piers Moron, are Michael McIntyre and the Hoff. Michael McIntyre is Michael McIntyre is Michael McIntyre, i.e. a furiously inane observational joke wrapped up in the body of Mike Myers crossed with any Earl or Baronet you choose to imagine; and the Hoff is his amiable, perfectly equable self as usual. He seems incredibly stupid, to the point that I don’t think he’s even wondering what he’s doing on the show - which he really should be wondering. He, Michael McIntyre and the charisma vacuum with blonde hair that is Amanda Holden, have as much knowledge of spotting acts as - well, as any one of us. And they have just as little at stake! At least when Lord Cowell stooped to conquer, there was the spectacle of sometimes seeing the little dollar signs light up in his eye-sockets when he spotted a potential money-spinning act. But what does it matter to these three gentle clowns if they don’t find someone good? No, really, the whole thing has just become a sort of village fair with cutaway shots of modern people laughing in the audience, with no reason to exist except that you HAVE TO FILL YOUR SATURDAY NIGHTS SOMEHOW, AND IT’S NOT LIKE ANY OF US FANCY EACH OTHER ENOUGH TO TURN OFF THE BOX AND MAKE A SAUCY MOVE.

So there we have it: Cowell lives on as a buck-counting phantom, presiding spectre-like over the witless cock-in-a-box proceedings judged by Tom, Dick and Holden, while everyone in the land, dulled into senselessness, awaits the royal wedding with a flutter in their heart. Coincidence? I think not.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.