Britain’s Got Talent: Everything you need to know

When is it on TV, who are the judges, are there any Irish acts and more

Britain’s Got Talent: a welcome Saturday night diversion. Photograph: ITV/PA

Britain’s Got Talent: a welcome Saturday night diversion. Photograph: ITV/PA

 

In these dark days, we could all do with a little light relief. And relief doesn’t come much lighter than Britain’s Got Talent. Once again the Simon Cowell jamboree is preparing to throw open its doors to singers, dancers, dog-trainers, spoon-benders and people who can hum the Imperial March from Star Wars while manacled, suspended upside down in a flotation tank and dressed as Princess Leia (harder than it looks, as I discovered at the weekend).

It’s slight stuff and usually the very definition of disposable entertainment. Yet these are extraordinary times. Sport is cancelled and live TV at a stand-still. So it’s the perfect moment for human Andrex Puppies Ant and Dec to come bounding in and introduce the latest crop of would-be superstars whose dreams will inevitably be crushed by Simon Cowell and his Big Red Buzzer of Doom. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the weekend’s opening episode.

When is it on?

It kicks off on Saturday night 8pm on Virgin Media One and also on ITV.

Who are the presenters and judges?

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly are back on ITV following the conclusion of their Saturday Night Takeaway. Owing to the pandemic, they presented much of that series from their livingrooms (what a surprise to discover they inhabit separate houses and don’t share a bedroom in the manner of Dougal and Father Ted).

Ant and Dec: by the magic of TV they are back in front of a live audience. Photograph: ITV/PA
Ant and Dec: by the magic of TV they are back in front of a live studio audience. Photograph: ITV/PA

Fortunately no huge sofas and shag carpets will feature in BGT. Thanks to the magic of TV, the series was filmed before Saturday Night Takeaway – hey, I think my brain just imploded – so Ant and Dec will be out and about in front of a studio audience.

Returning as judges, meanwhile, are Simon Cowell (boo!), David Walliams (hurrah), Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon (double-shrug of indifference).

Judging by the trailers, Cowell and Walliams will be forging ahead with their pretend feud. In one promo clip we see Simon explaining he is about to relax with a good book only to hold up, and then quickly toss aside, one of Walliams’s novels for kids. “Shots fired” as Irish Twitter would say.

Still, as reality judging panels go, it’s a reasonably solid line-up. Holden and Dixon come across as genuinely invested in the contestants. And jolly Walliams is an avuncular counterpoint to Sultan of Snark Cowell.

How will coronavirus affect the series?

The auditions were filmed in the months before daily life turned into a bad disaster movie from the 1970s. These will be broadcast as scheduled. However, the live episodes due to air in May have been deferred for obvious reasons. “In light of the latest government health guidelines and in line with our priority of safeguarding the well-being of everyone involved in our programmes, production of the live shows cannot go ahead as planned,” said ITV in a press release. “The live finals will therefore be broadcast later in the year.”

Will there be any Irish contestants?

If Brexit taught us anything it is that our friends across the Irish Sea can be a bit fuzzy as to where their country ends and ours begins. And it seems we are to be honorary “Brits” this season with BGT auditions held last November at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin, Douglas in Cork, and the Excel Centre in Tipperary.

Irish contestants have historically done well on BGT. Singing priest Father Ray Kelly made it through the knock-out stages with his version of Everybody Hurts by REM in 2018 while Cork comedy dance duo Lords of Strut were semifinalists 12 months previously. However we won’t know until transmission if any Irish hopefuls will feature in 2020.

Does Britain actually Have talent?

Last year’s winner Colin Thackery was an 89 year-old Korean War veteran and so is unlikely to be announced as a headliner at Longitude. But Susan Boyle became a superstar after placing second in the series in 2008. The winners that year were dance troupe Diversity, who went on to perform in arenas.

Will it give us something to cling to in these dark times?

It ultimately depends on whether you are charmed by Ant and Dec’s cheeky lads routine and Simon Cowell’s magic eyebrows. If not, there’s always Winning Streak (actually there isn’t – it’s’s been claimed by coronavirus too).

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