There is an ongoing furore about just how British the primetime TV show “Britain’s Got Talent” really is, an argument that seems to be getting louder each year the whole shebang gets aired on TV. Last night we were given the list of who had made the semi-finals this year and of the 45 acts through, around 20 of them are non-Brits. I can understand why the baying crowds shout “unfair!” but I think there’s something more to this than meets the eye.
For so long, our country has valued talent as people who a) look good, b) have a good sob story, c) can warble a Whitney Houston track reasonably well or d) throw their bodies about as if electrically charged so long as they have a) and b) in place already. Sadly, we do not value talented impressionists, contortionists, acrobats, puppeteers, mime artists, magicians, story-tellers etc and what we have left is a generation of wannabe popstars with pound notes in their eyes, not a genuine desire to entertain people.
What the “foreign” acts on BGT have shown us that first of all the public actually do want to see a variety of talent on our entertainment shows, and secondly, that there is more to life than lining Simon Cowell’s (very deep and already well-lined) pockets. Whilst I applaud youngsters doing their thing in street dance troupes, or knocking out a ballad/rap with their best mate about being bullied, there is more to entertainment than the narrow field of what Simon Cowell thinks most of us want to see on our telly.
I am only 42 so I’m not one of the “remember the good old days of Saturday Night at the Palladium” brigade (although I did like the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club), but I do like to see a mixture of talent on my screen (and stage) when I am relaxing and I applaud the people from Romania, Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Bulgaria, Spain and so on for showing us that there is more to a talent show than just wailing and flipping to a beatbox on a Saturday night. There is a genuine appetite for something different on our screens and it’s a crying shame that we Brits fail to see the value in doing something other than singing and street dancing. Come on Britain – where are you sand-artists, shadow dancers, magicians and illusionists, acrobats, comedians, impressionists, musicians, mime artists, jugglers and puppeteers?? Get your act together and show the world that we do have those talents in our collective soul!
Talent shouldn’t be constrained by nationality, regardless of how the show is entitled. I’m just happy to see TALENT full-stop on telly and I don’t care how old, how young or what country the acts come from.
So maybe the question shouldn’t be “Too foreign for a British TV talent show?” but “not enough talented British acts for TV?”.