The opening episode of Britain’s Got Talent saw our very first golden buzzer of the series, with the adorable Flakefleet Primary School choir, led by passionate headteacher Dave McPartlin, bringing a tearful David Walliams to push the all-important button.
But while a golden buzzer may guarantee you a spot in the live semi-finals, it doesn’t guarantee the instant success that the flashing lights and the glittery confetti seem to herald.
Since Britain’s Got Talent golden buzzer element was introduced in 2014, we are yet to see a single recipient of its hallowed press to ever win the competition – with the highest any golden buzzer act has placed only ever being third.
So why is it that the public aren’t as gung-ho as the judges to back the buzzer acts?
It may be as simple as the fact that the British love backing the underdog – we always look after the overlooked. By pushing the golden buzzer, the judges immediately highlight those acts as the frontrunners – and we are left thinking those acts are automatically safe, not bothering to necessarily invest further in them. Susan Boyle is the ultimate case in point; she left the judges eating their words when she sung Les Miserables’ I Dreamed A Dream.
She may have auditioned before the advent of the golden buzzer in 2009, but should it have been available, the judges would have pressed it; the golden buzzer intends to capture the magic of those Susan Boyle moments.
But it was the several million YouTube hits and support from famous faces such as Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama that saw SuBo cease to be such an underdog – once she was guaranteed her win, we looked elsewhere, backing the equally-worthy Diversity to take the top prize.
It may also be down to a golden buzzer act’s inability to recreate that crucial winning moment in the semi-finals as they did in auditions. Part of the magic of Britain’s Got Talent comes from not knowing what’s about to step out on that stage, but once we’ve seen it, it’s hard for the act recapture those initial feelings of wonderment.
What made Flakefleet Primary School a golden buzzer act was not because they were necessarily exceptional at singing, but because they surprised the audience with their joyfully sweet and silly routine. Now we know their deal, it’ll be far harder for them to wow those watching at home.
It’s worth adding that the golden buzzer is sometimes pushed (usually by Walliams) for ridiculous acts – which is arguably how the golden buzzer should actually be used. The awe-inspiring, breath-taking acts Simon Cowell and co push for will get through to the live shows anyway – but the ridiculous man in a tartan blazer and knee high boots belting out Tom Jones’s Sex Bomb for all he’s worth is less likely. It’s funny at the time, but both the judges and the audience know they don’t actually have a hope in hell of winning.
That’s not to say that the golden buzzer acts aren’t talented, nor that they won’t go on to be hugely successful after the competition; Calum Scott, having been Cowell’s golden buzzer in 2015 has since gone on to have huge commercial success with his cover of Robyn’s Dancing On My Own, despite only placing sixth in the finals.
It remains to be seen whether this year will finally be the year that a golden buzzer act goes all the way, but when it comes to pushing our buttons, it seems golden buzzer acts still have a lot to learn.
Britain’s Got Talent continues Saturdays at 8pm on ITV
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news