Dawn French and former Spice Girl Melanie Brown are to appear as judges on the new series of Australia’s Got Talent.
The double signing is a major coup for the programme and its new home, the Nine Network, which has taken over the franchise for the seventh series. The show previously aired on the Seven Network, Australia’s most popular channel, which axed it last year due to falling ratings.
French received positive feedback from ITV viewers in the UK last year when she served as a judge on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical theatre talent hunt, Superstar.
“Dawn is widely recognised and adored by Australians, and her contribution to the show will deliver on our promise for a bigger and better series,” said Nine’s director of television Michael Healy.
In addition to her comedy work, French is known to Australians as the face of Coles Supermarkets, which enlisted her last year to front a campaign promoting their FlyBuys loyalty scheme – a key weapon in Coles’ war with rivals Woolworths, a chain unconnected to the defunct UK purveyors of pick ‘n’ mix, seven-inch singles and plastic storage containers.
Mel B joins Australia’s Got Talent after two series as a judge on the Australian version of The X Factor, which still airs on the Seven Network – so Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor are now rival shows. Seven is thought to be in talks to hire Dannii Minogue – who was a judge on Talent until Seven dropped it, and is still contracted to the network – as a judge on The X Factor.
To confuse you still further, Nine also broadcasts the show that was responsible for Australia’s Got Talent slumping in the ratings: the Australian version of The Voice, where the judging panel includes Seal, Delta Goodrem and, from 2013, Ricky Martin.
The signing of French is seen Down Under as an attempt to clearly differentiate Australia’s Got Talent from The Voice by broadening the judging panel’s expertise beyond music.
Mel B is currently working as the new judge on America’s Got Talent. The Australian and American versions of Talent both normally air over the summer, but the Australian version now looks likely to be put back in the schedules – which would put paid to lingering rumours that Brown will join the UK X Factor in 2013 as a permanent judge.
It’s been reported that Sharon Osbourne, the former UK Factor judge who appeared on America’s Got Talent until last year and has now been replaced by Mel B, could join the Australian X Factor to replace Mel B.
Last year, Mel B was also the co-host of the Australian version of Strictly Come Dancing, but that’s not been confirmed to return yet and, in any case, it airs on Scary Spice’s new archenemy, Seven.