A classic eccentric at the start, a child-based tearjerker at the end, and weird bits in the middle: BGT more or less gave itself this week off.
Nerves turned Graham Blackledge into an accidental comic genius. He asked where he should stand (next to the mic please, Graham) and repeated every question asked by the judges as if there were several other acts also on the stage. “What are you going to do?” Simon Cowell asked.
“What am I going to do?” replied Graham innocently, before explaining he would play the organ and sing. Then he sat in silence for several seconds before asking, “Do you say go, or..?”
Alesha Dixon said go. The act was cheesy pub-style organ, with showbiz grinning. The singing never arrived so Simon waved and requested no grinning and some singing. Graham: “Shall I just carry on from where I left off, or…?”
Graham carried on from where he left off, eventually sang La Bamba, and brought the house down. His finishing flourish made him inadvertently back-hand the mic stand. “Have you ever thought about doing stand-up comedy?” asked David Walliams.
“Have I ever thought of doing stand-up comedy?” Graham was through.
After that there was a long run of acts we couldn’t really judge because they weren’t on for long enough. In many cases this was probably just as well.
The Jive Aces wore banana-yellow suits and scored double points with Simon by playing The Bare Necessities. Genuine happiness flickered briefly across Simon’s face. He mouthed the words with the childlike joy of someone who regularly hunkers down at home with a sack of Haribo and a few Disney classics.
We also saw Nu Skool, a decent kiddie dance troupe; Be Minor, a decent kiddie close harmony group; Callum Oakley, a decent teenage stand-up; and Molly Rainford, a very good 11-year-old singer whose lipgloss and wildly inappropriate song choice (Jennifer Hudson’s One Night Only) went unmentioned, but might prompt a quiet word between now and the live shows.
At one point Simon Cowell was seen giving comments while distractedly peeling a satsuma. Carmen Electra popped up to cement her position as the most underwhelming judge on any talent show, ever. A strange and quite offensive running joke revolved around Geisha Davis, who was soundtracked backstage by the Twilight Zone music and did a bizarre performance-art version of Humpty Dumpty (in geisha make-up and costume, which she said she wears all the time).
Geisha got through. My exploitation-ometer went off quite loudly.
After the sadly only briefly glimpsed Gerhard Donie – a middle-aged German whose act was throwing plungers at the backs of hunky men and hoping they would stick – the big finish was Malaki Paul, far too young for the competition at nine years old, as evidenced by him breaking down and crying halfway through singing Listen by Beyonce.
BGT cranked up the emotion by, for the first time that I can remember, going to ads halfway through an act, leaving Malaki still on his mark but sobbing with his mother. When we came back, Malaki decided to carry on, steeling himself and then brilliantly completing the song.
A feelgood, tear-soaked story of courage and triumph, based entirely on a small child cracking under the strain of an ordeal meant for someone a lot older: that’s BGT!