The first episode in the new series of Britain’s Got Talent aired tonight on ITV1. The two new judges have showed their worth, with Michael McIntyre proving to be an excellent and entertaining addition to the panel. Unfortunately the new city in the audition tour, Liverpool, failed to live up to the promise of talent a former European City of Culture should deliver. Despite a supportive audience, the first taste of the city’s acts were left in the shade by their counterparts from Birmingham and Cardiff.
As eager to make a good first impression as most of the acts at its auditions, the first show of Britain’s Got Talent gave us a glimpse of what must have been a very long day in the Merseyside city. First up, and kicking off BGT 2011, was Mary, a 44-year-old fan of the Queen who managed to mistake Amanda Holden for Joanna Lumley (“She’s the one who made the comedy Absolutely Fabulous.”) – definitely a television first – and believed new judge Michael McIntyre when he introduced himself as Simon Cowell. Dumbfounding the panel with a hectic whirligig of foot-tapping and harmonica-blowing, McIntyre egged her on with his best Cowell impression (“Reality check. I didn’t like it. I loved it.”) before Mary received the triple-X that thankfully sent her packing.
A naked OAP dressed as an American Indian, an untalented comedienne and a off-key rendition of a Beatles song showed that Liverpool couldn’t really top Mary. An inauspicious start to the new series and one that left The Hoff to remark “I’m flying home tonight.”
Moving swiftly along to Birmingham, the next act up proved to be a lot more promising. Nine-year-old David Knight has already been in the headlines as the young comedy act Michael McIntyre made cry by buzzing him during his introduction. Despite McIntyre’s faux-pas – which is actually pretty funny if you’re not David (sorry David!) – the young comedian went on to deliver a performance that, while it saw him through to the next round, probably won’t get him into the final. Definitely one to watch for the future though…
Children form one of the major groups of acts this year, with several junior dance groups making it through from this audition show alone. In fact, dance acts still make up a disconcertingly large proportion of the auditions, despite show producers announcing that there were fewer dance acts this year and more Glee-style choirs. But they must be saving these for a later show, because there were none in the first episode.
Instead we were treated to a host of weird and whacky, yet for the most part talented, acts. The first dog performance of 2011 saw 66-year-old Donelda show brilliant command of her sheepdogs Mega and Biba in Birmingham to produce a doggy dance act that left the judges voting unanimously to progress her (darling).
A talented team of martial arts sisters were among some of the other acts to impress the judges and David Hasselhoff seemed to be enjoying himself when gurning hula-hooper Murawa won his heart. But just when it looked as though Britain really does have talent, up stepped Blair. I really hope the financial analyst from London was dared to turn up to audition in Liverpool, but judging by the look of devastation in his eye when McIntyre delivered his reaction about Blair’s dolphin impression – “Now we understand why the country is in financial crisis” – I’m guessing not. Oh dear.
Next up were a dance act called ‘Tongue ‘n’ Cheek’ . Enough said. XXX.
And things seemed to be taking another turn for the worse when we met with the greyest of the grey – Steven Hall, 53, a telecoms engineer from Kendal. Shown sitting with a vacant stare in the audition room with his wife, he trudged on stage to audition in a dull suit and answered the judges’ questions in a dull monotone. The music began to play and…
Steven Hall sprang into life, a dance maniac. Ripping his trousers off halfway through to reveal Flashdance legwarmers, the man turned a routine he practised in his kitchen into a crowd-pleasing show-stopper that leaves the crowd whooping for more. There might be hope yet for Liverpool – not bad for a YouTube rip-off. On he goes to the next round.
By far the strangest act had to be Antonio “Popeye” Francis, a fat dancer whose rhythmic gyrations are punctuated by his bulging eyeballs. Gross, but he got the three ‘yeses’ he needed to progress.
Next came the true highlight of the show in Cardiff, a man who introduced himself far better than I ever could:
“My name’s Michael, I’m 19 and I work in a computer shop in Plymouth. I live with my mum and dad on a caravan site. It’s not too bad actually, it’s quite posh really. You’ve got to have a little key card to open the gates, it’s pretty good. My fiancée is called Sarah. About a year and a half ago I proposed to her in a bit of a stupid place – an all you can eat Chinese restaurant, in front of her mum and sister! She was embarrassed and started crying. But Chinese and a pint, it’s gotta be done.”
Loping onto the stage in a bright orange tracksuit top, offset with style by grey tracksuit bottoms, Amanda Holden visibly sneered at the young man. But her curled lip turned to a dropped jaw shortly after Michael began his rendition of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, showcasing his brilliant voice and putting himself as an early frontrunner for the BGT final.
Back in Birmingham, husband and wife duo Gay and Alan Cooper wrapped up the show with their tale of romance over recorder practice and a hand-bell rendition of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that gets the crowd singing along.
With only a few of the highs and lows shown, on the strength of this first episode, the fifth series of Britain’s Got Talent is going to be a corker. Simon Cowell is reportedly ecstatic with the results and the new judging panel and it’s easy to see why. The Hoff is just plain crazy, Michael McIntyre is suitably hilarious and Amanda Holden holds court, steering the her new partners through the process with ease. At this week’s press screening the judges revealed their picks to win the final, none of which have yet been seen. With such talent yet to come (some of which might even come from Liverpool), you can bet I’ll be tuning in next week…
The next episode of Britain’s Got Talent will be shown next Saturday at 8pm on ITV1.