Belfast Telegraph

Cowell flops, now let's make a song and dance of it

By Rosie Millard

As comedowns go, it was quite low-key. But so significant. Simon Cowell - who has never been rattled by worldwide contempt of his trousers, his hair or his manner - has let himself get upset.

And he let us know in no uncertain terms in a terse statement: "A slightly irritated congrats to Danny and the BBC," went Cowell's tweet.

Of course, television rivalry is the only thing capable of irking Cowell - a man who has forged his entire career through the medium.

The provocation was that Saturday night singing contest The Voice (made by British independent producer Wall to Wall and Dutch TV company Talpa under the auspices of Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1), is currently trouncing Cowell's Britain's Got Talent. And this after only three weeks into the competition. The simple, unvarnished truth is that Britain's Got Talent - even with Mr Nasty himself back as King Judge - is looking, well, a bit old and tired in Saturday night's Shiny Floor Show Fight To the Death.

Nearly 10 million of us are watching The Voice (which, in a senior-friendly casting masterstroke has Sir Tom Jones in the line-up), while Britain's Got Talent over on ITV could only manage 9.1 million.

At its peak last Saturday night, 10.7 million of us were watching The Voice - and in the crucial 20-minute crossover where the two go out simultaneously, it was ahead by four million.

The old adage that it takes a couple of seasons for an entertainment show to win more than 10 million viewers has been comprehensively liquidised and gulped back by Jessie J. You can almost hear the screams of joy issuing from BBC Broadcasting House.

Plus, Saturday night entertainment is ITV's thing. And to pour cold water on it from a bucket held by Sir Tom Jones is sweet indeed.

Saturday night television viewers like to see people doing something well. And not something silly, either, like obese men stripping, finger-knitting, or dancing in wheelbarrows. They enjoy people celebrating a skill, which singing - indeed, singing well - in public most certainly is.

They clearly appreciate the fact that the coaches - all pretty decent singers themselves - give constructive criticism and not outright sarcasm. They do not want to see children crying on stage. Or adults shouted off.

We're all having too bad a time generally for added misery on a Saturday night. Susan Boyle went through all that; she came out a star - but for every SuBo, there is a lot of Britain's Got Talent cannon-fodder walking around with practically zero self-belief. So will Cowell turn to the light and start being a bit nicer? If he's got any nous, he damn well should.

Because, if audiences have gone lukewarm on the talent-free, gladiatorial circus that is Britain's Got Talent, what about his other baby? Who on earth will care about the X Factor when it returns?

No wonder ITV was desperate to purchase The Voice. And no wonder the BBC is cockahoop that it did.

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