Britain’s Got Talent promised the usual mix of the good, the bad and the utterly atrocious – and the opening show certainly had a thick sprinkling of the latter.
Here, in reverse order, are the three people who came out of the first episode worst.
Meet the opening act, Maximus.
Actually, he was a 57-year-old retired heavy goods driver called Anthony, but that wasn’t going to get in the way of him impersonating Maximus and Commodus from the film Gladiator.
It was good to see the series hadn’t abandoned one of its central tenets: finding ‘characters’ like this and wheeling them in front of the nation to be laughed at. Because this is very much laughing at not with.
Dressed as a Centurion, Anthony (sorry, Maximus) insisted on shaking hands with presenters Ant and Dec in “the Roman way”, gripping their wrists to check neither had a concealed dagger (luckily they weren’t). He admitted to being nervous, but apparently was “doing this for Rome”.
Cue a bit of moody music and him on stage reciting a couple of lines without moving.
Simon Cowell was first to give his verdict. “Anthony, the act is...” he said, for once seemingly lost for words.
“Crap,” Anthony (sorry, Maximus) interjected.
Clearly, the man had more self-awareness than it might be easy to give him credit for.
It turned out his special talent was flailing around the stage
A flat and uninspiring judging debut by the Little Britain star.
The show, desperate to give him a USP, worked hard to emphasise the Walliams and Cowell chemistry.
“As auditions continue, it seems like another double act is forming,” we were told. Then later, just in case we hadn’t got the point, that they were “getting very paly paly”.
We were then shown clips, presumably to highlight quite what amazing chemistry the two of them had, of the pair sitting together in the same room, on a sofa together, walking together – even, once, eating food at a table together.
When they dragged out Walliams’ mum, he wasted no time in plundering the Simon angle in a fascinating exchange that went something like:
David: Are you excited about meeting Simon?
David’s Mum: Yes.
David: You don’t really watch the show though, right?
David’s mum: No.
It quickly got boring: David flirting with Simon, teasing him about how it would be if they danced together and self-consciously announcing: “It feels like we were meant to be together.”
It simply didn’t make up for a lack of judging presence, with a genuinely funny man somehow rendered unfunny by this show’s format.
At one point, he pointed out to one contestant that “crushing people’s dreams” was Simon’s main skill.
It was about the only incisive he made and, if his performances don’t improve pretty sharpish, he could find that it’s his dreams of future appearances on this show that Simon is crushing
Barbara and Bradley
An unlikely pairing with a less-than-cryptic stage name.
The “good friends” were promising contenders for the ‘worst of the worst’ title from the start: she looked like she’d had bad cosmetic surgery, he looked like the sort of man who rides buses all day carrying a flask and nibbling sandwiches.
But one thing we have learnt from shows like this is you can never judge a book by its cover (remember Susan Boyle).
“I’ve been writing poetry – it all started when I had a Siamese cat and it died and I wrote about it,” Barbara declared. “And also I was on the Kilroy Show about unrequited love.”
Bradley, meanwhile, was staring vacantly off into the middle distance. Maybe, on second thoughts, this was going to be one book you could judge by its cover.
“We were going to be called The Owl and The Pussycat because I think Bradley looks like a great big owl,” Barbara added.
Bradley, still staring off into the middle distance, was probably fuming inside at this point. We’d seen a clip of him earlier reacting to the owl accusation, snapping: “You can’t talk about someone as being like an animal... it’s offensive... I wouldn’t say to my mum: You’re a cow.”
He explained how the act would work – while Barbara was “doing her special talent which is poetry, I’m going to be doing my special talent which will hopefully add and bring Barbara’s poetry back to life”.
It turned out his special talent was flailing around the stage (it couldn’t be described as dancing) in a white Stetson, looking a bit like, well, an owl.
And it would have taken a lot more than that to bring Barbara’s poetry to life. Frankly, you’d be more like to get Tommy Cooper back on stage.
Afterwards, she spoke of the profile the pair had got. “This was millions of pounds worth of publicity – you couldn’t wish for better publicity.”
Clearly their fledgling showbiz career hadn’t taught her one important lesson: There is such a thing as bad publicity.
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