Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
Ten gruelling hours in and 45 acts down, by Thursday night on ITV1, Declan Donnelly saw fit to declare: “We’ve had our greatest ever year for talent.”
And up next, as if to hammer home the point, was a mortgage underwriter for Skipton Building Society named Martyn, traipsing around the stage with a saucepan on his head, doing an approximation of a Dalek rinsing with Listerine to Rebel MC’s Street Tuff, and surrounded by giant multicoloured cheese graters on wheels.
So when Simon Cowell said this year’s semi-finalists had “100 million per cent” made the country proud, through my laughter there was only one question: “Which one?”
Latvia? Sweden? France? Germany? Hungary? The Colombian expatriate community of Leamington Spa?
They’ve all been represented on this week’s inaccurately named Britain’s Got Talent’s live shows.
But hey, the more the merrier, because when you look at the overwhelming majority of home-grown acts who’ve clogged up series six, you know it’s time to scrap border controls and throw the nation open to all-comers.
Without the foreign contingent, we wouldn’t have had German window dresser Dennis Egel, who rounded off the third semi-final on Tuesday with a rendition of John Miles’ Music while being lifted on wires to the rafters with a 60ft gold wingspan like a gruesome scene from Silence of the Lambs.
He was one of the very few highlights of a week-long TV endurance battle.
The Cowell biography hung over the show like a black cloud, with the other judges anxiously glancing to him whenever they did a joke about his private life.
There were sly digs at The Voice, the usual blatant plugs for Syco record label acts, at least 79 mentions of Cowell personally putting up half of the £500,000 first prize, his self-appointment to Team GB’s synchronised swimming Olympic selection committee, a mobile app that crashed, the dropping of any pretence that the Queen will actually show up at the Royal Variety Performance, and ridiculous comments from the female members of the panel.
Alesha Dixon: “Jive Aces, that was world class.” “Xylophone playing is something I would see at a local fair.” “Nu Sxool, this is what kids should be doing – dancing – something constructive.”
Amanda Holden: “You’re like the Peter Pan of the hoop world.” “You’re like Wallace and Gromit’s lovechild.” “It’s like when you see a fantastic pudding at a party, like a blancmange.”
None of this, though, was as objectionable as what was dressed up as a throwaway comment by David Walliams to 12-year-old Lauren Thalia last Sunday night: “I love those leggings. Where did you get them from?”
That wouldn’t happen to be the same Topshop run by Simon Cowell’s close pal Sir Philip Green, would it?
Such a pity, because Walliams, along with Ant and Dec, have carried the live shows, while not even Cowell could be bothered turning up for most of ITV2’s More Talent broadcasts, hiding from Stephen Mulhern “in a lemon bath”, according to Holden, which I’m sure won’t refuel certain baseless rumours about him.
But he probably does need to relax, what with last year’s BGT runner-up Ronan Parke this week joining 2011 winner Jai McDowall on the Sony scrapheap, news that I’m sure reassures the 11 finalists, of whom only the male half of Jonathan and Charlotte has superstar potential.
Six of the automatic qualifiers for last night’s climax were singing acts, with the other four comprising a dance crew, two ballroom dancers, a dancing dog and four underwater dancers.
That’s variety for you, and sums up Britain’s Got Talent 2012 almost as well as Amanda Holden on Monday when Ant asked: “What was the high point for you?”
Amen to that.
The narrator of C4 documentary More Sex Please, We’re British, about the country’s largest online sex-toy retailer Lovehoney: “Last year this company sold 41km of plastic penis. That’s almost a marathon.”
Ah, so that explains why they move that way in the 50km walk.
Maths whizz of the week goes to Sky Sports’ Rob Hawthorne, commentating on the Newcastle v Man City Premier League match on Sunday: “When City won the title here back in 1968, it was a six-goal thriller.
“City won 4-3.”
The week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards, of which there is much to celebrate, go to:
Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson and Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison) stealing Homeland’s finale with two outstanding performances.
The Planet Earth Live bear cubs and the elephant calf slipping in the mud.
Mary-Jess Leaverland, accompanied by the Band of the Blues and Royals, silencing the football chants with a beautiful rendition of Abide With Me before the FA Cup Final.
BBC2’s heartbreaking Great Ormond Street.
David Walliams “inadvertently” buzzing LMFAO during the dreadful Sexy And I Know It.
The revelation on BBC1’s excellent Sporting Heroes – After The Final Whistle that “George Foreman has five sons, all called George”, which must make calling the family to dinner easier.
Louis Walsh fleecing the banker of £70,000 on a thrilling Celebrity Deal Or No Deal.
Highly strung Johnnie Mountain becoming the first chef to walk out of BBC2’s Great British Menu in a foul-mouthed torrent at judge Marcus Wareing for giving his fish course two out of 10 on the basis that “there’s no fish in it”.
And Tourette’s sufferer Jess Thom, on Wednesday’s This Morning, making light of the condition which makes her say “biscuit” every five words: “Tourette’s always likes to spoil a surprise. I’m rubbish at I-Spy, and Christmas is always a bit of a struggle.”
So what do you think ITV1 had lined up for the very next advert when they went to the break?
“With delicious biscuit and caramel, it’s Twix.”
E4’s Cardinal Burns? Less funny than Chinese burns.
There’s bias on television, and then there’s Foxes Live: Wild In The City, a Channel 4 series, from Battersea Power Station, that could only have been more one-sided had the presenters been wearing fox costumes, bushy tails and “I heart foxes” T-shirts.
For the record, I have no opinion on whether the animals are vermin or victims of bad press, but I know a whitewash when I see one.
The programme’s aim was to carry out the UK’s biggest ever fox survey, which I assumed would reveal that eight out of 10 of them prefer chickens, but actually produced the result that “95 per cent of viewers like foxes more now than before the show”. That gives you an idea of how down the middle it was.
Despite firsthand testimony to contrary, host Mark Evans and his fox-hugging guests, including Brian May, insisted attacks by the creatures on people and pets were “claims”, “alleged”, “urban myths”.
Try telling that to the woman featured with a deep fox-tooth-shaped puncture wound in her foot, or the Chihuahua whose neck was torn open by one of the animals in a fight, Evans stated, “that the dog started”.
It turns out, you see, that you can’t tar all foxes with the same Basil Brush, “just because of the actions of a few”.
So they were painted as paradigms of virtue, culminating in the story of a man named Steve Edgington who owns a fox, “Miss Snooks”, which he grooms and takes for walkies on a lead.
Cute, it seemed, until the final episode when he opened a chest freezer to reveal a deceased pet fox he’s kept in there for two years “with a couple of dead squirrels for company”.
The fact that the viewers’ GPS tracker of a fox called Chico that had killed five chickens in a back-garden coop collapsed on the show’s website on the opening night didn’t help matters.
But when it was back up and working, Evans had this question: “Over the week we’ve been following Chico’s progress. Will he return to the scene of his crime?”
Only if they let him audition for the X Factor again.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:
ITV1 FA Cup Final commentator Clive Tyldesley delivering the most idiotic pre-prepared line during a TV football match: “Graham Norton seemed to get inside Didier Drogba last night.”
Family Fortunes unofficially dropping “All Star” from its title by booking Robbie Savage and Rosemary Shrager.
Hoarders taking over from gypsies as TV documentary makers’ unoriginal subject of choice.
BBC1 sending Richard Hammond to Kenya’s Masai Mara “during the rainy season when there aren’t many animals here” for Planet Earth Live.
And Simon Cowell telling every other Britain’s Got Talent act that he hates their shtick but “likes them as a person”.
Simon, let me just say, I like you as a person...
Back now to BBC1’s The Voice where, if you enjoyed Diana Vickers on The X Factor a couple of years ago, or indeed any naval distress signal, you’d have loved Bo.
And just when you may have been thinking we were missing out on the musical genius of Cheryl Cole sung even worse than the original, on came Ruth-Ann to invent a musical key previously unknown in nature.
There was also a hasty change of clothes this time for the hosts and coaches by Sunday night’s results show, which must have meant it was going out live, as everyone is pretending.
Probably for the best too, given Holly Willoughby’s low-cut top on Saturday eveningwhich, when she stood next to Toni, made it look like Peggy Mitchell had triplets.
Sadly the hype hasn’t abated (“It was out of this world”, “It was pure magic”, “Everything he touches turns to Vince Kidd”) not even when Jessie J announced she’d “kept it real” with her team, but failed to add that meant advising them to reapply for their old jobs.
Danny O’Donoghue gave the exceptionally unlucky Hannah Berney the boot, which is an absolute disgrace.
I say this because she was by no means the worst singer in the competition.
And not because she used to be my nine-year-old daughter’s gymnastics coach.