ROLL up, roll up for the return of telly’s greatest talent show.
It’s been ten years since judges Simon Cowell, David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon first came together with hosts Ant & Dec for Britain’s Got Talent.
Now they’re feeling fresh and ready to go again after a year off telly during the pandemic.
And with a new Golden Moment feature, plus better acts than ever before, they’re ready to shock and awe with a brand new series, starting on Saturday at 8pm on ITV.
Today we bring you a glimpse inside the BGT Big Top . . .
RINGMASTER Simon faced a tough decision this time last year.
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In the depths of the pandemic it seemed impossible to gather together so many people for the auditions, and he recalled: “We had to stop it at the last moment. It was a difficult decision to make but it was the right one.
“I’ve got to be honest, because of what was happening at the time, which was the new variant of Covid, I got really nervous about it.
“We were about two or three weeks out from auditions and I just thought, ‘We can’t do this, the risk to everyone is too high’.”
Simon can’t wait for viewers to see the show, especially the audition by a busker called Maxwell, which he likens to the discovery of tenor Paul Potts in 2007.
Paul went on to win the first series after amazing everyone with a stunning performance of the aria Nessun Dorma.
Simon said of Maxwell’s audition: “It was a real surprise. I had no idea he was going to sing like that.
“He was so shy and I was praying it was going to work out for him.
“It was very much like the Paul Potts moment.”
THIS year’s competition is chock-full of choirs, says Amanda — with some of them only meeting for the first time on the day of their audition due to disruption caused by the pandemic.
She said: “We’ve got loads of choirs, which is something we’ve never had before.
“What was really special this year is that many of the choirs had just come together that day because they had only ever met on Zoom before.
“We had loads of moments like that, where people were actually physically meeting for the first time.”
Amanda said she was thrilled to be back filming the show after a year off, adding: “When I walked into the Palladium, that iconic building, and walked on to the stage, I nearly burst into tears when I saw a proper audience there for the first time in so long.”
COMPETITION was so fierce this year that contest hopefuls might even have faced a challenge from the underworld.
Alesha said: “Simon was convinced Britain’s Got Talent had its first ghost audition. There was an act that didn’t speak, we couldn’t see him. He was invisible, or as Simon thought, was our first ghost.
“That was shocking. I don’t even know what happened. I can’t wait to watch that back on the TV just to see it again, because there was so much going on.”
Spooks aside, former pop star Alesha said the talent this year was off the scale, adding: “At the deliberations we had more than 90 acts that we had to get down to 35.
“After we said yes to our semi-finalists we looked at the pile of acts that were left and all said, ‘This is probably the strongest ‘no’ pile we’ve ever had. Any other year there’s a couple of winners in that group’.
“It’s testament to how good everyone is this year that a lot of the people who didn’t make it through may have got through in other years – and even won.”
FUNNYMAN David is chuffed to be back doing live TV on BGT — because it means he can say whatever he likes.
He said: “The live shows can be very anarchic and chaotic, because live TV adds something extra — you never know what might happen. And often we say things that can’t be edited out, which is always fun. I love that — you just don’t know how things will play out.”
This year’s show features new element the Golden Moment, where members of the audience are invited to perform. David — given a body he could only dream of for the circus-themed publicity pictures — said: “There was a dad whose daughters decided he should audition. He thought he was there to watch the show but he was then made to audition.
“I felt for him a bit, because I feel it’s a big thing to have that sprung on you. But he did so well.”
Ant and Dec’s verdict
ANT and Dec say life felt “a bit empty” without their yearly BGT stint, and are thrilled to be back hosting the show after a year off — their first time with a live audience since the pandemic struck.
Dec said: “The time off was bizarre, because it has been an annual event.
“We would come back from the New Year and the first thing we’d do was BGT auditions. Just to not have that in the diary felt a bit empty and a bit weird.”
But both say the break has worked wonders for the standard of acts.
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Ant said: “Acts had two years to really work on their performance, so the talent was really strong.”
And Dec added: “We had a lot of acts who have gone, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve never had the courage to, but since everything that’s happened over the last years, I’ve just thought, sod it. I’m going to go for it, grab my opportunity’.”