Britain’s Got Talent is back, so who better to quiz about backstage gossip and give us a preview of the series than Stephen Mulhern?
The host has seen it all after twelve years he’s been bringing irreverent games and extra auditions on ITV2 spin-off Britain’s Got More Talent.
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When RadioTimes.com caught up with him, it was at the start of the year during the prerecorded theatre auditions for BGT. That means it was prior to Ant McPartlin’s arrest and subsequent charge for drink driving.
Although headlines and rumours are now swirling about this series – in particular what is going to happen during the talent programme’s live week of shows in May – when we spoke to Stephen he was in high spirits about series 12, and revealed what we can expect – from a Wonkey Donkey comeback to how the judges’ secrets are about to be spilt:
1. Simon Cowell is nicer than ever in this series of Britain’s Got Talent
Yes, really. “Interestingly, Simon’s been nicer than he’s ever been in 12 years,” said Stephen, who couldn’t really work out why this was. “I was lucky enough to start the show with Ant and Dec and Amanda from series one, and it’s just like Simon’s really mellowed out. Obviously he’s been a dad now for a long time, but honestly he’s more relaxed. I think maybe he’s just taken stock and gone ‘I’ve got a lovely boy, an amazing career, the shows are doing alright’ and because of that, [this year] all the judges have got on better than they ever have.”
2. Although that niceness might not last when Britain’s Got More Talent goes live…
“When the judges aren’t judging and there’s a bit of downtime whilst they’re setting the stage or something, we still record everything they say and do,” explains Stephen. “But that footage never gets used, so we’ve come up with an idea this year on BGMT where we’ll go ‘right, one of you said this during the auditions’ and we’ll read out what was said, whether it’s good, negative or embarrassing on another judge. And obviously by the time we go live none of them will remember what they said, but we’ve got all the evidence on camera.
“I’ve heard that from the edit, there’s apparently some absolute nuggets. It’s going to be good. Trust me, when we go live they will not know what’s hit them.”
3. Wonkey Donkey is making a comeback
The SM:TV Live reunion special might have been postponed until 2019, but we’re not going to have wait long to see Wonkey Donkey back on our screens.
Stephen has revealed that both Ant and Dec play the silly rhyming game on Britain’s Got More Talent. “It’s quite weird seeing them play their own game,” he laughs. The boys also take Stephen for a golfing lesson, while a new game also stars Amanda in ‘Low and Beholden’, where each week the judge has to take on an ex-BGT star at their own talent.
“The good thing about it, and this is why I think BGMT thankfully seems to stand the test of time compared to maybe other sister shows, is that we never do the same thing,” says Stephen. “You’re never going to turn over to ITV2 and see the same thing.”
4. He’s already predicted the winner
The theatre auditions were recorded back in January and February, meaning that Stephen has already seen all of the talented acts who are going to grace our screens this series. And, with that in mind, he’s already found his winner.
“I’m going to make a prediction – I think a variety act is going to win this year,” he told us. “And there’s two brothers who are incredible. They are absolutely incredible. This is an act that I’ve never seen the likes of before. I love going to the West End, I like going to circuses, I love variety. But I’ve never seen what these brothers can do.”
There were 3,000 people in the audience for their audition and every single person had the same reaction. It was just incredible – I’d go as far as to say mind blowing. And if they can do that live, then I think they’ve got to be at least in the top three – if not win it.”
5. And the other acts to look out for are…
“There’s an act which has gone through and I don’t know how they’re going to allow it to be seen on TV,” says Stephen, who reveals that the performance involved a knife being thrown at Dec. “It’s the most dangerous act I’ve seen on Britain’s Got Talent. When it was happening I was like ‘what?!’ It was unbelievable – it really was. It was amazing. The thing is, that guy did it in the surrounds of a theatre but he’s got to do this live. I wouldn’t be holding no board with someone throwing a knife at me, no way.”
Oh, and there’s a dog that takes socks off on command that features on Britain’s Got More Talent. Although the poor owner also got more than they bargained for…
“So people would line-up and the dog would literally take the sock off the human,” explains Stephen. “So I said to the owner, ‘do you think you could do that to me?’ I think they thought I was talking about the dog, but I said ‘no, I’m talking about you’ and I could not believe it – they did it. I had that sock on all day long. You know when things go in slow motion and you can’t believe something’s happening, but it was.”
6. The judging line-up hasn’t changed for seven years – and he doesn’t think it will
“The reality is, I can’t see them changing the panel for quite a long time,” he said. “David is constantly on fire, the girls get on incredibly well and also Simon and David’s relationship – I thought when it first started and they were having a jest and a joke about their bromance, I thought: ‘How long is it going to last?’ But they’re like brothers. It’s a great relationship and I think as long as that stays how it is, Simon’s not going to move one of those judges at all.”
7. Stephen be only be wearing one colour of pants come the live shows
“I do have a lucky charm which is the colour of my boxer shorts,” reveals Stephen. “Anyone who knows me knows that they’re always blue on a live show day – whether that’s TV or on stage. I had one instance where I realised when I got to the studio that I didn’t have blue underwear, and I literally got someone to go and buy me a pair of blue boxer shorts.” Who said showbiz wasn’t glamorous?
Britain’s Got Talent airs Saturdays on ITV