'Britain's Got Talent is recycling the same old shtick but with more Golden Buzzers'

Ant & Dec were back to front Simon Cowell's long-running talent show, but has it run out of talent at this stage?

Britain's Got Talent returned to Saturday night's with an 'if it aint broke' approach. (ITV)
Britain's Got Talent returned to Saturday nights with an 'if it ain't broke' approach. (ITV)

There was some encouraging news early last week when the judges and hosts of Britain’s Got Talent announced that the new series was “the best ever”.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was. I had been beginning to think that, after 17 years, its glory days were well and truly behind it, and that its recent trick of recycling the same old schtick year after year was wearing ever thinner.

Of course, there was still a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that the pronouncement was just another one of Simon Cowell’s publicity stunts, designed to get us all talking ahead of the launch weekend’s double bill.

I harbour similar thoughts about the supposed row between Amanda Holden and Simon’s Celebrity Big Brother vipers Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, but I suppose we’ll have to see how that one plays out. (My money’s on one or both of them being invited to take some kind of guest judge role on one of the live shows.)

Britain's Got Talent returns to Saturday nights. (ITV)
Britain's Got Talent returns to Saturday nights. (ITV)

Anyway, I reassured myself, surely Ant & Dec wouldn’t say it was the best ever if it wasn’t. So I sat down to watch the opening show firmly believing my weekends would be sorted until the end of May. I’m afraid to say this is where the needle jumping off the record sound effect kicks in.

Unless ITV is saving the best for last, this year’s BGT looks exactly the same as last year’s BGT. Only with more Golden Buzzers.

So it was kind of amusing that the comedy turn on Saturday night was Bobby Goldfinn, a guy pretending to be a goldfish.

Bobby’s act was based on him having a terrible memory (like a goldfish - geddit?), and Simon and ITV were clearly hoping the show’s viewers all suffer from the same affliction. For the record, Bobby’s act went down like a lead balloon each time the judges brought him back out.

The only lasting amusement came from the thought that Simon had actually allowed his producers to book an act with the body of a man and the face of a rubber fish and, presumably, never even considered they might be trolling their boss.

The only other explanation for Bobby’s presence was that ITV had lazily booked another Edinburgh Fringe-style act after Viggo Venn’s one-trick pony hi-viz nonsense went down so well last year he ended up winning.

Read more: Where are the other BGT winners now?

I have a feeling lightning will not be striking twice in that respect, but don’t be too surprised if Bobby reappears at some point between now and the live final. Still, there is every chance that 2024's winning act will have a familiar ring to it.

In fact, despite Alesha Dixon telling us to “expect the unexpected”, by the end of Sunday’s episode I had already almost completed my BGT bingo card.

The Trickstars fulfilled BGT's dog act quota in week one. (ITV)
The Trickstars fulfilled BGT's dog act quota in week one. (ITV)

Dog act? Check. Kiddie dance troupe? Check. International act that has appeared on other versions of the show? Check? Lovable school teacher harbouring a secret talent? Check. Someone from the forces? Check. A fire act with a Do Not Try This At Home warning? Check. Cute kid who has been handed a surprise audition by the judges and is clearly going through or else why would they have bothered? Check. Act that has been on the British version before? Double check. Singer that has been on Simon Cowell’s radar for a few years, waiting for the right time to launch? No definitive check yet, but I do have my suspicions.

Sunday’s show even closed with another old favourite: The poor singer who had, apparently, once been told by actual opera experts that they were not good enough to be a professional, but who was being given one last chance by world-renowned opera aficionados Simon Cowell, Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden.

Innocent Masuku impressed the judges on BGT. (ITV)
Innocent Masuku impressed the judges on BGT. (ITV)

A few blasts of that tune Pavarotti used to perform (no, not the World Cup one — the other one), and South African tenor Innocent Masuku sailed through to the next stage with Amanda telling him “In 17 years, you’re the best opera singer we’ve ever had.”

Full marks to Amanda for toeing this year’s “best ever” company line, but her verdict was a bit of a slap in the face for Paul Potts.

Some viewers pointed this out to Amanda on social media. Others were simply unhappy about the fact that Innocent failed to receive a Golden Buzzer pass to the semi-finals, especially as the judges appear to be eagerly handing them out these days, like free breakfast bar samples outside a rail station

The cynic in me might suggest that the reason Innocent went home buzzerless was that ITV knew everyone would be searching his name online and would begin to question the “plucky loser” narrative the minute they discovered that he has actually had quite a career in the opera game.

The online clamour for almost every act to receive a Golden Buzzer did confirm one thing though. The Golden Buzzer is now worthless. Apparently, those pesky judges and Ant & Dec just couldn’t help themselves and issued nine during the auditions this year instead of five.

It has basically become a sideshow performance of its own. Sadly, like all the other overblown guff on BGT these days, I fear its existence is purely down to Simon Cowell’s boredom and his desire to hide an uncomfortable truth: Britain’s Not Got Talent.

Either that or Simon and ITV just can’t be bothered to go out and find it anymore.

Britain's Got Talent airs on ITV on Saturday and Sunday evenings, and streams on ITVX.