I’m not one to usually watch talent competition shows, mostly because there are just too many of them and are usually lacking in quality. I actually detest America’s Got Talent. I think it mostly comes down to the overwhelming presence of underwhelming “acts” – No, I do not need to see you play a harmonica with your nose! – and of course the judges’ panel. I can’t stand Piers Morgan. I know I’m in the land of the Brits, but something about that guy rubs me the wrong way. And don’t get me started on David Hasselhoff, Howie Mandel, and Nick Cannon. I can deal with Sharon Osbourne, but in that setting she becomes this shrill presence in the midst of idiots. Basically, you have people with questionable talents judging others with questionable talents. My favorite talent competition show remains So You Think You Can Dance, firstly because I come from a dancing background, but also because the contestants are increasingly more impressive and the judges are experts in their fields and the affable Cat Deeley is a pleasure to watch (and so is her great sense of style). I’ve seen my share of American Idol through the years, and was able to simultaneously catch glimpses of the US and UK renditions of The X Factor, but that show becomes nauseating with its over-the-top commercialization of some really talented singers, who then get pushed aside by petty attempts of the has-been judges to steal their spotlight.
Yet the other day I caught the first episode of the new season of Britain’s Got Talent and had quite a different reaction watching it compared to the US version. It’s still schmaltzy and predictable, but TV ads have been constantly promoting “The Return of Simon Cowell.” I wasn’t aware that he went anywhere. He’s maybe been in the US for like, what, a year? Oh the Brits, always hyping things up (I see a tabloid culture seeping through!). That said, I must admit that I really like Simon Cowell. Don’t you remember when the first season of American Idol aired and everyone was saying, Who is this guy? He’s terrible AND hilarious AND so right! You hated yourself for loving him so much. After all the years of him running these talent shows and turning them into global franchises, he doesn’t appear to have changed that much. I’m sure he thinks he’s more important than he really is, and maybe recently has been less harsh in his criticism, but he still possesses a balance of likeability and repugnance – the perfect combination for a successful TV personality. There are two female judges who I’ve never seen before, but all I could glean from the episode was that one is a famous ballroom dancer and the other…I have no idea. Most likely a member of a 90s British pop group. But I found the addition of new judge David Walliams to be a very interesting, albeit refreshing choice. You may know Walliams from Little Britain, a peculiar sketch comedy with Matt Lucas. In the last decade he has procured from what I can tell an esteemed place in Britain’s popular culture scene. From the first episode, Walliams played on the public sentiments towards Cowell, poking fun at Cowell’s celebrity and idolizing him in the process, treating him like royalty with appropriate pomp and circumstance. But during the live auditions, you can see that there is a bromance abrewin’. One that is light-hearted and quite genuine and not played up for the cameras. This comes down to Walliams’ humble demeanor and his gift for wit and charm, while still being honest and rejecting contestants. Meanwhile, Cowell reacts in amazement and envy, not only admiring Walliams’ handsome constitution but his grace and bravado at rejecting and accepting those that audition. I look forward to seeing where this goes – I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You can watch the emerging bromance and comedy duo below on The Jonathon Ross Show.