Well. Another year. Another Britain’s Got Talent Final. Last year a dog, named after a bear, won the competition. This year the favourites were a Hungarian shadow dance troupe or a 14 year old stand-up comedian who has cerebral palsy. While there were debates before the programme about whether a non-British act could and should win BGT, there was also media debate about the number of children in the show, included a dance troupe called ‘Pre-Skool’ who were all nursery age. In the end, the Hungarians beat the child. So, despite concerns about xenophobia, UKIP and fears about immigration, the British public still voted for Eastern Europeans.
As ever, running order is important – most of the last acts in the semi finals won their heats – partly because the producers save the best to last but also because later acts remain in voters’ memories. The top three were in the last four acts, and the winner was the last act.
Anyway, here are the 11 finalists, in order of my preference (ascending):
A pre-school group of dancing children from Wales. Most of them were too young to understand the judge’s comments or appear to understand what was going on. They weren’t always in time with each other; but they were energetic – some bits were good choreography and they obviously had the ‘cute’ factor. I hated them.
A 9-year old (I think she was nine?) singer who sang Beyonce and liked to call herself a ‘diva’. Ant called her ‘cocky’, but meant it in a good way. The judges love her, but I didn’t think her singing was all that. Although they kept on saying she was good irrespective of her age, she mainly got through because of the ‘cute’ factor again. Meh.
9. Jordan O’Keefe
A young male singer with a guitar from Belfast. He had a whole ‘back story’ about how he had applied to do music at college but his father had changed his course to business, and then how he had redeemed himself in his father’s eyes by his success in BGT. He sang an acoustic version of Katy Perry’s Firework. It was ok, but nothing special.
8. Francine Lewis
A female impressionist. Apparently she had a bit of a career before, but it was unclear what happened. She was good in the semi-finals and her audition, but overdid it in the final with a song and dance number as Katie Price. She did Geri Halliwell – but Geri’s not one of those people whose voices you particularly recognise. And a host of others – not all that exciting.
Another child singer (11 years old?) who sang ‘One Night Only’ in her first audition, which cause some public concern about a pre-teen singing about a one night stand. In the final she sang a Christina Aguilera song – competent. Not particularly exciting, but ok.
A 14 year old singer-songwriter with a catchy song called ‘The One’ with a chorus of ‘put your lighters in the air’. She sang a new song in the final. You wouldn’t think they’re the most original songs in the world (they have a touch of NDubz to them) but they are very catchy. She wears onesies, and could get a career as a songwriter rather than a singer.
5. Richard and Adam
A pair of classical singer-brothers from Wales, who work in their parents’ sandwich shop. They brought their grandmother to their audition, who by the final became very dolled up. Anyway, they had a very good semi-final performance of ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story. In the final they sang ‘Impossible Dream’, which was ok. They were ambushed by a woman who got on stage and started throwing eggs at Simon Cowell and they were remarkably unfazed by it. They ended up in third place, probably more on the strength of their semi-final performance and sympathy about the disruption. But pretty forgettable in a few weeks time.
A four-piece band from London. The girl is the lead, the white guy also sings. The guy with the guitar also sings, and the guy with the rucksack beat-boxes. They are, in the words of Will-i-am, ‘fresh’. They had a better semi-final than final, and were never going to win but should have some sort of career afterwards.
3. Jack Carroll
A fourteen year old with cerebal palsy who is a stand up. He writes his own jokes and is very witty – making off the cuff jokes when not on the stage, and incorporating a line about the egg-throwing incident in his act. He mocks himself and the situation. He’ll obviously have a career. Not a winner in my eyes though, because he still needs to sharpen his act a bit more – and the rhythm between his jokes (he pauses a bit too much), but a worthy runner up. He did openly want to win though, which was part of his charm, but seemed a bit sour about becoming a runner-up. That could just be a misconstruction by me, and partly down to his age, but I do feel he gets told a lot that he’s funny and it could go to his head – but lots of stand-ups are arrogant.
On the strength of the audition stages, they were the public’s clear favourite – and my favourite at that stage. They’re original, inventive and moving. They dance and make shapes behind a screen – and these shadows make images like castles, animals, trees, and stories. Their audition piece was a great story about a guy who goes to war; the semi final story was about the director’s mother dying. In the final they did an odd piece without a story, but an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the British public. With snippets of famous British speeches (Winston Churchill, David Cameron (!) etc), snippets of Land and Hope of Glory etc, and made images of the Queen, ‘Keep Calm’ and the British lion. They’re very skillful. They won and they’ll have an international career. They’re a professional group so I’m not sure how hard they’ve tried before to forge success; they might get boring after a while, but the novelty factor worked for now.
1. Steve Hewlett
My favourite act of the final was a ventriloquist. I know. I didn’t expect to like the act. He’s not just a good ventriloquist, he’s a great comedian. In his semi-final performance he did some great current jokes, about BGT and Simon Cowell (with a Simon Cowell dummy) as well as his main dummy (pictured) of Arthur Lager. He didn’t win his heat, but was given the ‘wildcard’ entry by the judges. His final performance was brilliant. Not only did he bring back the Simon Cowell dummy, but brought in a Sinitta dummy in her infamous pine leaves bikini outfit. He can even sing as a ventriloquist. In the semi, he threw his voice while drinking water. The exact kind of act that should be in the Royal Variety Performance – and that’s the only kind of show that he would excel in. A shame he didn’t get in the top three and I hope he’s still in the Royal Variety anyway – we’ll see. I probably won’t remember him in six months time, but for tonight he was the most memorably and I’d love to see a longer act.