Belfast Telegraph

Britain’s Got Talent has got a talent for being predictable

By Frances Burscough

The producers of Britain’s Got Talent found themselves in a bit of hot water this week after beady-eyed viewers noticed a suspicious continuity error in Saturday’s show.

Whilst 12-year-old singer/songwriter Henry Gallagher was performing live his song “Lightning”, his guitar capo (a clamp which enables the player to change key) mysteriously changed positions instantaneously during a camera angle switch.

Normally this manoeuvre takes a couple of seconds for a seasoned and experienced guitarist and can interrupt play unless it is done quickly in between chords. And yet, wee Henry seemed to manage it completely seamlessly without even the slightest sleight of hand. Hmmm...

Well of course this suggested to some cynical viewers that either he had been allowed to play his song more than once, or his performance had been edited to make it look and sound better which, on a competitive talent show where everyone has to perform live, would surely constitute an unfair advantage. Afterwards, naturally, his utterly flawless performance of a simple yet brilliantly catchy song had all four of the judges on their feet, wiping away teary eyes and slack-jawed in disbelief at the sheer talent. Simon Cowell predicted that this could be the beginning of an amazing career in pop. Meanwhile, however, thousands of social networks users immediately took to the Twittersphere to raise their objections.

Funnily enough, it so happens that I was watching the programme too last Saturday and that particular performance piqued my curiosity for other reasons. Here was a boy of 12 singing a song he had written all by himself and was performing — supposedly for the first time on stage — and yet his arrangement sounded (to me at least) like a slick studio production involving backing singers and an array of accompanying instruments. Not bad for a schoolboy with a guitar, even if he does use a capo.

Hmmm ... I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel like they’re making idiots out of us all. Heck, the show — like many of the same ilk — has become so formulaic and predictable it is now actually possible to work out within seconds of the introductory film if a competitor is going to be laughed at, or booed off stage, or given a rapturous response, a standing ovation and four “big fat yesses”.

Here are my observations based on a decade of watching reality TV competitions.

You know someone is definitely going to go through to the following round when they are shown with a big crowd of family and friends who’ve come along to show support. Especially if it’s a mum or dad going on stage and their kids are there to cheer them on. Think about it. A prime-time feel-good family television show is not going to show hopeful children’s glowing faces turning to horror and anguish as their beloved parent gets booed off stage, is it? So first watch out for the kids as a clear pointer to success. Another is when someone starts talking about their troubled past which can involve any of the following — a death in the family, an illness, severe poverty, bullying, abuse or a natural disaster; or a combination thereof; or, better still, all six. Remember, in these days of tabloid television, sob stories are a one-way ticket to the next round, so if you don’t have one immediately to hand then think of one quick! Hopefully you can make both Alesha and Amanda cry in the process too which in the crazy world of talent shows is only ever seen as a good thing.

Finally, the scheduling of an act in the programme is another pointer. Generally, the very first one and the very last one are winners. You need to start on a high and end on a high if the show is to work.

Then in between these, the rule of thumb appears to be three laughable acts followed by one nice heart-warming one.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Okay, I’m cynical and jaded but I still love the entertainment factor. So will I be tuning in again this evening? It’s a yes from me.

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