With The Voice UK now having sailed away into the distance, Saturday night is shaping into quite the battleground between the two channels and this instalment will take a closer look at what both BBC1 and ITV are offering up as light entertainment.
We start with the Saturday night entertainment show that always triumphs in the ratings, I’m talking of course about Britain’s Got Talent. Now in its eighth year, the series has once again reunited judges Simon Cowell, David Walliams, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden. As I’ve spent years watching these sort of shows I always believe that little can surprise me anymore. That was certainly true in the case of boy band Collabro who were initially presented as quite a rubbish quintet who’d only been together for a month. But I could see through all of the raised eyebrows and so didn’t let out much of a gasp of amazement when they broke into a fantastic rendition of a ‘Les Miserables’ number. Similarly unsurprising was the fact that beautiful yet tormented Lucy would have a tremendous voice. However, in my personal opinion, I felt that Lucy’s sob story was far too over-the-top and it overshadowed her fabulous singing. Thankfully the final act proved that I hadn’t lost my capacity to be surprised by a talent show such as Britain’s Got Talent. That was due to the dance provided by 79-year-old Paddy and her Spanish dance teacher Nico who initially presented a sedate routine that Simon Cowell wasn’t a big fan of. But the pair soon shocked the entire audience, both in the arena and at home, when Nico began spinning Paddy around and throwing her in the air. The result was both entertaining and heart-warming as Paddy revealed that she’d started dancing following the death of her husband. The couple was later rewarded for their efforts when Amanda pressed her golden buzzer allowing them to progress straight through to the live semi-final.
The other talent on display was a mixed bag and mainly featured some hopeless oddball acts including a performing owl and a man eating an onion. I personally really enjoyed Light Balance, a combination of Daft Punk and Diversity, whose Ukrainian leader reminded me of the spokesman for last year’s winners Attraction. The one thing I didn’t like about Light Balance was the opening VT which talked about the hostile situation in the Ukraine, mainly because the act didn’t require any sob story to get them over. In addition to Light Balance we had an energetic country music group and a couple of junior street dancers. But if there’s one thing that we’ve learnt from The Voice then its that the combination of judges is as important as the talent itself. I do feel that David Walliams’ addition to the panel revitalised the programme and his casting continues to pay dividends. Walliams’ pursuit of Simon is still amusing in small doses as his reaction to the acts. Conversely I think you could replace Alesha Dixon with a cucumber and nobody would know the difference. Amanda Holden is like part of the furniture at this point and has become sort of the Louis Walsh of the group. Meanwhile Simon’s presence legitimises the show and it seems that he still cares about promoting British talent, even if most of the acts are from abroad. Ultimately, Britain’s Got Talent proved that it can still be entertaining, moving and above all shocking even to a cynic like me.
Following on from Britain’s Got Talent was ITV’s newest Saturday night vehicle Amazing Greys. ITV obviously think highly of Paddy McGuinness as they’ve put him in charge of yet another primetime project. This one sees him introduce a number of young competitors who all think they can successfully beat a group of older opponents in a set of challenges. If the youngsters can beat the Amazing Greys two out of three times then they’ll win a cash prize but, as we soon learn, these aren’t just any old pensioners. The team is headed up by Angela Rippon, who sort of acts as a co-host but is still introduced by Paddy every time she has something to say. Amongst the group were sporting legends, Mastermind Champions and legendary DJ David Hamilton. Obviously the two young competitors thought it wouldn’t be too hard to vanquish their adversaries but it wasn’t too hard to predict that the greys would probably better them every time. This was certainly true of the first young man who lost a weightlifting challenge before just coming up short in a music quiz opposite Hamilton. The second competitor faired a little better losing after three challenges rather than two, but he went to pieces when up against the Mastermind champ. Whilst a good idea in principle, Amazing Greys quickly becomes repetitive due to its predictable format and cheesy production values. One of my main issues with the show was the fact the irritating incidental music which was constantly played between segments. Although I like Paddy, I don’t really feel that he can anchor an entertainment show like this and I feel he’s much at home on something tacky like Take Me Out. Angela Rippon on the other hand is almost too good for this show although she does provide some much-needed gravitas to the programme. I do feel that this will be the only series of Amazing Greys that we see and I think the show will soon go the way of Paddy’s other Saturday night flop, Your Face Sounds Familiar.
The fact that Britain’s Got Talent was significantly delayed due to some football match meant that I got to indulge in the new series of Pointless Celebrities that was airing up against it on BBC One. While I don’t know how much of a good idea it is pitting Pointless against Simon Cowell’s entertainment juggernaut, I do feel that it has more universal appeal. Pointless is a lot less cynical than its ITV rival and therefore probably attracts more of a family audience most of whom probably watch the ordinary version on weekday afternoons. I’m personally a fan of these celebrity specials as they allow hosts Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman to up their comedy banter quota. The fact that most of the specials now have a theme to them is also a nice touch as it sets the programme aside from other celebrity versions of quiz shows. Saturday night’s theme was the 1970s which allowed a lot of obscure names to return to TV even if it was just for one evening. Among the eight contestants was Benny from Crossroads, who know looks incredibly orange, as well as Tiswas’ Sally James who apparently now runs a successful school uniform business. However it was 1970s musical favourites Rick Wakeman and Roy Wood, who’ve both been on the show before, who won the jackpot after demonstrating knowledge about famous vans. But, as always, it was the brilliant chemistry between Armstrong and Osman which provided the majority of the entertainment. The pair are so relaxed in each other’s company it makes me relax into the show and I also like the fact that they donned dodgy moustaches to join in with the episode’s theme. While it may not be as glamorous as its ITV rival, Pointless still has a certain charm to it and its quiz-show element means that everybody can have a go at home.
Later in the evening BBC One presented its latest Saturday night entertainment programme in The Guess List, which is hosted by the affable Rob Brydon. The show was essentially a take on the classic Blankety Blank as two contestants answer a series of mundane questions alongside a panel of famous faces. However, The Guest List sees the panel answer the question first before the contestant can then agree with one of their answers or choose their own. The highlight of the entire show though is the presentation style of host Rob Brydon, who realises how ludicrous the entire programme is. It’s clear that the producers have given Brydon a lot of leeway as he appears to be ad-libbing for large sections of the programme. Due to Brydon’s light-hearted style his interaction with the celebrity guests doesn’t feel forced and I do think that these segments could’ve been excruciating when put into the hands of a less jovial host. Brydon bounced especially well off James Corden due to their existing chemistry as Gavin and Stacey co-stars while gymnast Louis Smith essentially became a performing monkey as he was tasked with both singing and dancing. But the surprise of the evening was the participation of Simon Callow who isn’t your stereotypical BBC One panel show star. Callow’s tremendous laugh coupled with some of his more outlandish answers made him the perfect foil for Brydon and the two played off each other magnificently. The tone of most of the questions was slightly suggestive and as this was a pre-watershed programme there was a little bit of smut thrown in. My big criticism was of the format itself, with not one of the celebrities helping the contestants with an answer all evening. But, at the end of the day, that didn’t matter too much as I found The Guess List to be perfect Saturday night entertainment that didn’t ask too much of me as a viewer and provided plenty of laughter throughout.
Next Time: Tommy Cooper – Not Like That, Like This, Jamaica Inn and Derek