Britain’s Got Talent is back for the second time in a year – only this time, it’s bigger than ever.
Some of the best-loved acts from the show’s previous 12 years will take on other talented performers from all around the world in front of Simon Cowell and co in a bid to be crowned the “ultimate champion” (and pocket a hefty £100,000).
Another portion of what already is quite a stodgy entertainment show (the previous season ran from April to June earlier this year) may beg the question “Jesus Christ, why?”, but it seems Britain, and the rest of the world, really does have enough talent in it to justify an extra series.
With its grand opening ceremony, booths for contestants, friends and family, and huge army of ‘superfans’ in Wembley, The Champions has a distinctly Eurovision-type feel, if Eurovision was hosted by Ant and Dec. This is by no means a negative – Eurovision is one of the world’s best-loved contests for good reason.
And it’s a strong start in the first of our six shows, with BGT playing to its strengths and showcasing an astonishing variety of talent. Booty-shaking stormtroopers, a magician whose friends and family are an army of dolls and cutting stand-up comedy brighten up our first outing.
The Champions also proffers a hefty helping of nostalgia for long-time fans of the show – and even if you’ve only ever dipped in and out in the last 13 series’, it’s still genuinely quite nice to see Paul Potts tell Cowell he owes his career (and teeth) to Got Talent. It’s also heartwarming to see Connie Talbot, who you’ll remember as an adorable six-year-old, return as a teenager who is still hugely talented.
But The Champions sadly lacks that frisson of excitement that only live TV can provide.
The BGT live shows are without a doubt the best part of each series due to their unpredictable and often chaotic nature – over the last 12 years we’ve seen true identities unmasked, a pregnancy announcement and a grown woman hijack the stage for her own agenda.
I’m not saying the show would be better if a musician ran on stage and threw eggs at Cowell and co., I’m just saying that The Champions would be improved if there was at least the potential of something unexpected happening.
Acts which rely on being nail-biting benefit from the excitement of the live shows. While Bello and Annaliese Nock’s Wheel of Steel undoubtedly provided heart-in-your-mouth horror/delight from those watching in the audience (and yes, as someone who did go to a recording I can confirm it was a nauseating but brilliant watch), it doesn’t translate so well on TV screens as a prerecorded performance.
Of course Bello didn’t fall round fifty feet and crack his skull, the show’s still being broadcast.
It’s also interesting to note how much from the live show has been cut from the record. Cowell telling Talbot her original song “wasn’t great” lies on the cutting room floor. – it seems only the more sugary sweet comments made it to transmission in order to shape the show as more celebratory, no matter how inane they were. (A personal favourite was, “I didn’t know whether you were going to hit the big note Paul, but you did it. You hit the big note.”)
Got Talent: The Champions is clearly a bid by ITV to try and claw back viewers in the now bitter Saturday night ratings battles against Strictly – and I’d rather have a million seasons more of this over another dreary X Factor auditions round, any day.
But if they truly want to match the ratings of their rival, Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions will have to follow in Strictly’s ever-nimble footsteps, and go live.
Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions launches Saturday at 8pm on ITV.