A battle of the Sexes
Why did Amanda and Alesha walk out? Can they compete with David and Simon’s ‘bromance’? And what’s the deal with Pudsey? As Britain’s Got Talent makes a comeback, the judges tell all to Jenny Johnston
S o spring has sprung — and the dark days of winter will soon seem like a distant memory. In TV terms, it’s the time of yea r when things start getting a bit frisky — or should that be freaky? Yes, that lucky dip of television talent shows, Britain’s Got Talent, is back. The annual jamboree of crazed unicyclists, manic magicians, pint-sized Pavarottis and, of course, dancing dogs returns to our screens next week. Mad? Of course it is. And the assumption always was that it would get progressively more barking, in every way.
Last year’s show was famously won by Pudsey the dog and his owner, Ashleigh. No sooner had Pudsey won the trophy than he was off to Hollywood in a private jet.
So when I catch up with the BGT judges after they’ve just finished filming all the auditions, it’s with a long list of doggie-related questions. Just how many wannabe Pudseys do we have in the running this year? And what amazing feats have they mastered? Alas, there’s some shocking news. This year’s dogs are utterly devoid of talent, according to Mr Cowell et al. There are no dogs at all in the live shows. ‘There was one in the auditions but it was useless,’ harrumphs Alesha Dixon. ‘It came on and just stood there. My dog does better tricks.’ Amanda Holden thinks it’s probably for the best. ‘I mean, you couldn’t top Pudsey, could you, really?’
Even Simon Cowell — a man who always has an eye out for the next big thing — seems disappointed. ‘Maybe there really is only one Pudsey,’ he concludes. ‘So it’s right that we should be looking in other directions.’ At one point it did look like this was going to be the year that other animals got a look-in. ‘We did have a raccoon and a donkey turning up to the auditions,’ says Alesha, cheering up for a moment. ‘Mind you, they were rubbish too.’
It’s a very fickle world, showbiz, but at least none of the judges has been culled this time around. Simon does like to shuffle them but this year the status quo is being retained. Comedian David Walliams, who was brought in to replace Michael McIntyre, seems to have earned his spurs. ‘David was a wonderful addition to the team,’ admits Simon. ‘He’s a raving lunatic, obviously, but he’s incredibly funny. His humour is a bit near the knuckle sometimes — he needs editing — but he’s very kind too. Audiences like him. And yes, I like him. It’s a really fun line-up.’
The editors really have had their work cut out with David. It sounds as though much of what he says on camera isn’t usable. Has he been asked to tone it down? ‘No, not at all,’ David insists. ‘The great thing about this programme is no one has ever asked me to be anything other than myself. It’s a tricky one because a lot of it isn’t suitable for a family audience, yet there’s a studio audience that needs to be entertained while we’re filming. So yes, a lot of it doesn’t make it out on air.’ The banter — ‘bromance’ even — between Simon and David has everyone intrigued, especially the female members of the panel. Alesha says, ‘I mean, people go on about girls being competitive, and they’re always trying to claim there’s rivalry between me and Amanda. Well, hello! This is where the rivalry is,’ she says, pointing at Simon and David.
‘These two are always in competition to see who can be funnier, camper, more insulting. Why? I think it’s because they both have enormous egos that need regular stroking. They both think they’re brilliant — which they are, obviously — but they need to have that confirmed.’ Actually, they sound like bold schoolboys. Amanda says, ‘ They can be quite smutty. Filthy, actually. But it’s quite sweet too. I think at heart neither of them has many real male friends, so they’ve developed this sort of bond. And Simon likes someone who spars with him. I think it’s good because you see a different side to Simon when he’s around. David makes him seem more human.’
Simon, being Simon, encourages rivalry on his judging panels. ‘It’s much more of a girls versus boys situation this year,’ says David, ‘to the point where Alesha and Amanda actually walked out when we refused to let them put someone through. Simon does encourage it though. He’ll send me a message in the morning saying, “Let’s wind Alesha up today.”’ The two women insist they get on but concede they’re very different. ‘We’ve definitely developed this solidarity though,’ says Amanda.
Britain’s Got Talent, Saturday, 7pm, UTV/ TV3
BGT judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, David Walliams Dixon