We need something less evil than Britain's Got Talent. How about public executions?

The reality TV behemoth is on its last legs – with any luck

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

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.

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Show comments
  • rosebery

    Too po-faced by half. I’m old enough to show Ed Reardon how to be grumpy, but BGT [and its fellow talent shows] is not serious, except for some of the more delusional contestants. Cowell knows who will make him money and signs them up once they’ve been manouevered to a sufficiently high place in the pecking order. Look back and see how many people who did not win these talent shows have outshone those who did. One Direction is only being the most spectacular example of several, including Susan BoyleOlly Murs and Cher Lloyd [unaccountably popular in the US]. Every finalist, win or lose, gets a chance to go on a UK tour and for most it’s a final hurrah and pay day. It’s entertainment for a certain demographic, mostly female, mostly willing to spend a stupidly high sum to register a vote by mobile phone. You don’t have to watch and if you do it just to wind up your wife and daughter, as I do, you deserve the abuse you get.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “We need something less evil than Britain’s Got Talent. How about public executions?”
    How about public floggings on the village green? Now that`s what I call prime time television.

    • Shazza

      You may jest Jack but if we carry on with the current demographic of a certain peaceful religion, this comment of yours may prove to be prescient.

      • Kennybhoy

        It’s no’ that long since we used flogging man and I bet you that a majority of the population would like to see it’s return…

      • LunarCity7

        When I saw the headline to this piece, my first thoughts went in that general direction…

  • balance_and_reason

    It is curious that the rise of this fatuous sentimental excrement has coincided with a dearth of any innovation in popular music…it is dead in the water, re hashing old tropes

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh not public executions, it would me right off my roast pheasant.
    Although I know we were a blood thirsty bunch once and people
    used to travel for miles and bring lunch, it was a day out to see
    a public execution. How about placing heads in stocks and
    throwing apples at them.
    Britain’s Got Talent reminds me of the London Exibitions they
    used to have in Victorian England, noble gentleman and ladies
    looking at exotics in glass boxes and fainting. I suppose some
    might say Victorian freak shows, such as the two headed stable
    The likes of Simon Cowell standing in judgement amusing himself
    at the expense of others. And others seeking the world of fame.

  • Gwangi

    TV Talent shows are essentially cruel, base, mediaeval entertainment for the baying mob. The instincts are the same. What it is NOT about at all is music or talent.
    But then, in an age when TV appeals to the lowest common denominator to get ratings (whether through vile and crude salacious ‘adult’ shows; predictable emo-po-rn drama aimed at women in soaps; cheap ‘shiny floor’ shows designed to up the jeopardy and inflict torture and pain on victims) this is really not surprising.
    Only a matter of time before we have public executions on TV, or perhaps game shows where stakes really are high (and not faked as now), or perhaps the sale of babies, or gladiatorial combat, or other horrors yet undreamtof.
    TV is a monster.

  • Paul Lamarra

    If we must have public executions can it be moved from the dawn slot to something more sociable?