You know what the world needs most right now? What it needs is five good-looking-ish, talented-ish blokes dressed in a mélange of artfully deconstructed dove-grey suits singing one of the songs out of Les Misérables, like a boy band but one that does numbers from musicals rather than original compositions, oh, and preferably with the kind of crap name that you can imagine being brainstormed by one of the teams on The Apprentice...
Well, if that’s what you’ve been thinking these past few weeks, lucky you! You’ll surely have loved the final of Britain’s Got Talent, which gave exactly the result you were pining for: not the slightly rubbish impressionist; not the sickeningly precocious boy rap duo; not the hunky Canadian illusionist; not the posh bird fiddle player; not the girl singing opera; but — yes — Collabro.
Not that I actually watched the programme, you understand. Well, I did, but only half-heartedly on ITVplayer, skipping through it as quickly as I could (which isn’t very: the adverts take an age) just to get a taste of what it is people are talking about when they say that Britain’s Got Talent is on its last legs. Clearly they’re more discerning than I am, because so far as I can see it’s no less rubbish than it ever was. But, hey, what do I know? I’m afraid I’ve long since reached that stage of crusty middle-agedom where basically you hate everything on TV that’s not University Challenge, the latest Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad must-see epic drama or something about the second world war or that rather good Adam Nicolson documentary about whaling on South Georgia.
Part of my problem — one many fellow old farts will recognise, I’m sure — is that I stare rheumily at my screen like some bewildered geriatric home inmate and I just Don’t Know Who These People Are. All right, Simon Cowell, Ant & Dec and David Walliams, I know them because they’re properly famous. But the two women in the middle: what planet did they come from?
Sometimes when I’m feeling brave I’ll ask Girl, who watches BGT assiduously. If she’s in a good mood, she’ll fill me in on the runners’ and riders’ details, often by way of forcing me to watch lots of clips of stuff on YouTube, just like her brother does all the time, too, and which I grudgingly endure for how else am I ever going to get a window on to their world?
If she’s in a bad mood, she’ll usually begin her sentence with ‘No offence, Dad...’ and then proceed to be very offensive indeed. I think that was more or less the response I got when I asked why they’d gone and replaced the two dolly birds who were on the panel the previous week. ‘They’re the same people, Dad. Duh! They’ve just been restyled. Moron. They’re called — God, how can you not know this? — Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon!’
Alesha Dixon? Me neither. As for Amanda Holden, I thought I sort of knew who she was. Didn’t she once pose naked for Tatler with a python covering her naughty bits? Anyway, having done a bit of Googling I realise that the bad is all mine — as the kids probably wouldn’t say — because she has been around the block this Amanda Holden, having first risen to prominence on Blind Date in 1991, then having starred in lots of popular television series I somehow missed like Wild at Heart and Hearts and Bones. Sorry, Amanda — but if it’s any consolation, there are loads of incredibly famous footballers I wouldn’t recognise either.
In the good old days, the kind of people who watch Britain’s Got Talent would instead have gone to watch public executions. It’s a shame this option is no longer available since, speaking as a responsible and caring father, I’d say it’s a much more edifying and less cruel spectacle for an impressionable child than the barbarically evil monstrosity that is BGT.
Hanging is less cruel than BGT, obviously, because — well, have you seen the whipped-puppy look in the eyes of the eager contestants as, still glowing and beaming after what they fondly imagined was the best performance of their lives, Cowell proceeds to tell them with deadpan relish how totally shit they were? And remember, unlike if they’d been hanged, they then have to go home and spend the rest of their lives knowing that they’re total losers — and that everyone else in the country knows it too.
And it’s more edifying because it doesn’t nurture any delusions about the world being a great place where, if only you try hard enough and really believe in yourself, you too can take over the world with your amazing performing dog act. It was done, last year, by Ashleigh and Pudsey. Never will it happen again. Dream over, kids.