Just like an MOT or a reminder from the dentist, Britain’s Got Talent seems to come round faster and faster every year. So, here we are again. But don’t worry – it’s marginally less painful than a hefty bill from the garage or pulling teeth.
Eight-year-old comedian Ned Woodman – a boy as acerbic as he is pint-sized – sets the tone when he opens the first episode of the series with this one-liner: “Why were people so excited about that talking dog on Britain’s Got Talent? Amanda Holden’s been on it for years.” Her face is plastered with as much shock as it can muster… which admittedly isn’t much these days, but it’s a brilliant line that kicks off a mighty roasting of all the judges.
Dogs, as ever, are a big theme on this first episode of BGT. Mahny and her pooch Robbie turn up for a spot of doga (that’s dog yoga, obviously) and the judges and their pets are asked to get involved too. Amongst all the immensely-memeable moments (watching Simon clutching his tiny dogs Squiggly and Diddly feels oddly intense), it’s Ant’s huge brown Labrador Hurley that steals the show.
He decides to have a waz on the floor (Hurley, not Ant) before Mahny’s dog Robbie ups the ante and pees on David’s shoes. Watching two dogs relieve themselves on a yoga mat proves to be arguably more entertaining than many of the acts we’ve seen on BGT down the years.
Always happy to out-weird itself, BGT gets even stranger when dance troupe Paws with Soul arrive. Basically, Boogie Storm have a lot to answer for after last year. They’ve now made it acceptable and A Thing to put something stupid on your face, shrug when asked your name by Simon and then do an OK dance under the misapprehension that being ambiguous about your identity is all you need to make you interesting.
Not to mention the fact that their freaky plastic dog and cat masks bring back memories of Channel 4’s harrowing documentary Dogging Tales. Vom.
There’s also Jim the Dancer, as he’s referred to. Jim’s line in huge cardboard heads (cat, boat, alien) is admirable, but the amount of time dedicated to filming the electrical leads trailing behind him says all you need to know. An extension cord is awarded almost as much airtime as Amanda.
Thankfully we don’t think there’s anything in Article 50 that will stop European acts from entering BGT. Which is just as well, as otherwise we might never get to see the likes of Neils Harder from Holland. His unique brand of camp, slightly crap magic is a riot – with poor Ant being volunteered by Dec (why is it always Ant that gets shoved onto the stage to get involved with the acts’ antics?) to put his head in a guillotine. As Neils twerks to Beyoncé while inserting cucumbers (don’t worry, it’s pre-watershed) near Ant’s head, Dec quips: “What a way to go.”
Away from the madness, there is some solid gold talent lurking somewhere amongst the paper mache animal heads and the AO.com adverts.
Doing slightly (OK, massively) more impressive magic than Neils are DNA. You’ll be left very confused – and not just because you’ll be trying to work out whether Andrew and Darren are brothers (they aren’t… we don’t think?) but because they manage to pull off some frankly incredible trickery involving Amanda’s phonebook, Simon’s love of celebrity calendars and even their own t-shirts. Make sure you have the rewind button to hand because you’ll want to rewatch their performance very closely. We’re still trying to work out how they did it now.
Like any episode of BGT, this is as big on genuine emotion as it is talent, laughs and chaos.
Formed by a group of people who have a family member missing – in many cases, it’s parents who haven’t seen their children for decades after they suddenly vanished – the stories told by The Missing People’s Choir are absolutely heart-breaking. It’s overwhelmingly powerful hearing lyrics sung with such meaning.
When the assembled audience of journalists (not necessarily known for their sentimental outlook) watched the first episode at a press screening, absolutely everyone was left in tears. Even Ant is reduced to a blubbering mess on the sidelines, and no matter what you think of BGT you can’t argue that giving a choir and a cause like theirs such a big a platform could ever be anything but a good thing.
And as is customary, every BGT episode has to go out on a hugely-talented high. In this first episode, that honour goes to Sarah Ikumu and her rendition of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. We won’t spoil it, but suffice to say you’ll be left with shivers – and Twitter will be left in meltdown.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual at BGT. David is hamming it up more than the meat counter at Morrison’s, Amanda is constantly open-mouthed and throwing her hands behind her head in disbelief like it’s her first series, Simon looks and sounds as despondent as ever and Alesha is happy enough cackling away.
The judging panel might be the same (six years and counting, FYI) but the genius and versatility of BGT is in its variety. It’s the not knowing what you’re going to see next that keeps the show fresh.
If every episode has a mix this eclectic and entertaining, we could be in for a series more cracking than a four-day Easter weekend.
Britain’s Got Talent airs on Saturday 15th April at 8pm on ITV