If Mary Berry had a recipe for a reality show, tonight’s first episode of Britain’s Got Talent 2016 would be it. It would be in a collection of her favourite home comforts, probably alongside a good old Victoria sponge. Because, let’s face it, we’re ten years in. No-one’s reinventing the wheel here. But it’d be damn tasty. No soggy bottom, no way, no how.
You can almost feel the show leading you through what’s going on. If it had honest subtitles they would read ‘OK, now we want you to get all emotional’, ‘now we want you to laugh’, ‘now we want you to consider sticking your head in a blender as Rainbow Elvis destroys your eardrums’. But that’s OK. It’s Saturday night and that’s what we want.
As Berry’s recipe would read, you need a big old dollop of nostalgia to kick off this tenth anniversary year. Into the mixing bowl of this opening episode goes a dash of that Paul Potts audition, a sprinkle of Susan Boyle, a pinch of Diversity and a spoonful of Ashleigh and Pudsey. Then we blitz it into 2016 with a man in yellow spandex who adamantly ignores the judges because he wants to get on with his rendition of Under the Sea. On an accordion, naturally.
As the subtitles would read, ‘It’s fine, this is the goofy bit we need before the high of the good stuff’. We viewers need to think that all of the talent has gone, is dried up, dead, over. Even Cowell muses that we may have “run out of talent in this country”, which is basically a huge great big arrow pointing to the fact that the next act will be good. When they are, we feel all warm and happy. Those honest subtitles mock us: ‘See, all better now, right?’ they say as we’re wrapped up in cosy cotton wool while we tuck into our takeaway, nodding like the Churchill dog.
And there are fantastic acts this week. There’s Trip the dog (so named because he’s a tiny little trip hazard), who is basically Pudsey Part II. He gets away with it because he does a clever little waving thing and we all have a good laugh when Cowell checks there’s just one dog. We can’t have that again.
There’s also dance troupe Elite Squad who couldn’t be more Britain’s Got Talent if they tried. They love the royal family, they’re dressed as Beefeaters and when the beat kicks in one of the kids comes out dressed as the Queen and busts some seriously cool moves (a bit like that time Her Maj did a parachute jump with James Bond over the Olympic stadium). BGT boxes well and truly ticked.
As well as the familiar panel of Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon, Ant and Dec’s stage-side banter is even better this year, too. They’ve got a lot more props. Whatever’s happening on stage, they’re hilariously copying from the sidelines. Or they’re openly criticising. When one act tells the audience “You’ve been wonderful” Ant quips: “It’s a shame you weren’t”, very much providing the voice of us the viewers. We also get a bit more of that Gogglebox-style action in the crowd, because it hasn’t passed Cowell and co by that it’s weirdly very entertaining to watch people watch TV. The best? A tiny dot of a girl who can’t express her delight in any other way than screaming.
We get a Golden Buzzer, because obviously a launch show wouldn’t be right without one. Then we get the drama. It’s a bit like one of those Goosebump books where you can pick your own ending and this week it’s near-death rather than sobbing. We’ll no doubt get the waterworks next week. And it’s SO good. So good I want to tell you what happens, but suffice to say you’ll be better off watching from behind the sofa when a sword swallower manages to combine that with tricks on a pole. And the icing on the cake, and proof – if you needed it – of the clever editing at work here, is when the camera cuts to an adorably panicking paramedic. ‘You thought you’d seen it all, didn’t you?’ those honest subtitles whisper, laughing their way to the overnight ratings bank.
BGT: tried, tested and terrific.