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SHELLEY ViSiON: Talent? It's too early to judge.


AS TV show titles go, Britain's Got Talent is just asking for trouble.

Our teachers have complained that the nation's school kids have adopted "Am I bovvered?" as their mantra.

The girls on Big Brother have one ambition and that is to be a WAG.

Even our talent shows have produced a string of talentless non-entities - Steve Brookstein, David Sneddon, Shayne Ward.

So by bringing back the good old days - a variety show - Simon Cowell has set himself something of a challenge.

The opening show saw Opportunity Knock for a bloke banging an ashtray with a set of keys (admittedly more talented than last year's X Factor runner-up Ray Quinn), a kid who could make his ears squeak and Rupert "the piano-playing pig".

Rupert's owner, having seen Chris Moyles' rise to fame and assumed talentless pigs were in vogue, had trained Rupert to go through a door, open some miniature curtains and "play the piano".

It seems churlish to point out, as Cowell did, that "he's not playing the piano, though, is he?" Rupert was just stepping on it with his talent-free trotters.

The difference between this and the dancing bears in Russian circuses that we all find so offensive eluded me.

Even Cowell voted Rupert through. He and his sparring partner, TV's Piers Morgan, were in surprisingly charitable mood. (Come on, Piers! Call yourself American TV's new hate figure? I was relying on you to at least make some nasty remarks about Rupert having a long career ahead of him - as a round of bacon sandwiches.)

A bloke with a monkey puppet miming to Michael Jackson songs and a Milky Bar Kid "comedian" who ended his act with a nauseating version of Cabaret also received a disappointingly soft ride.

But my guess is that novelty acts like this will be weeded out pretty quickly and Cowell and Morgan are keeping their powder dry for later - when it matters.

As for the other judge, Amanda Holden, it's hard to care what she says about anything. Neither pretty and silly nor astute and smart enough, how she got a gig like this remains a mystery.

Cowell summed up the potential problem of quality when he described the audition in Manchester as "absolutely useless. If it's going to be like this," he flounced, "I might as well go back to America."

Most of the acts were sloppy, lazy and amateurish. Only two hinted at a show offering something more worthwhile than cheap laughs at people's lack of talent.

First, a guy working at Carphone Warehouse made Amanda cry - although not in the way I would have wanted - by belting out Nessun Dorma.

And best of all was a young 25-piece dance troupe doing a Michael Jackson routine. Here, at last, was some of the dynamism, the determination and the sheer hunger for fame you see on American talent shows.

You could see they had put some thought and hard work into it, rather than just turn up.

"Sensational!" said Piers, while Cowell observed that young talent like this gave the show a reason for existing.

What it doesn't need is endless examples of Cute Kid syndrome or touching - but not remotely entertaining - turns such as the male baton twirler who have a hard luck story that everyone can patronise by letting them through to the next round.

Neither does it need more performing animals. Sunday's episode featured cats, dogs, horses, snakes and budgerigars.

It would be nice if the winner was a) actually really talented and b) human.


HAM IT UP: Rupert tinkles the ivories; CHARITABLE: Piers, Amanda and Simon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2007

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