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

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEATURE -

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

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