Britain's Forgotten Talent
Originally published on my personal blog on the 27th of May 2013.
It's that time of year again! Just as the evenings begin to draw out and warm up, we choose in our millions to sit indoors and gorge on Britain's Got Talent. And why not? Its reputation as surely the greatest TV talent show of the 21st Century is as hard-earned as it is well deserved.
To have missed the final stages of the show's preceding six series is to have missed the début performances of a number of household names. Unlike the acts from new-age farce The X Factor, many have extended their time in the spotlight long after the passing of “flavour of the month" status. But for every Susan Boyle and Ashleigh and Pudsey, there are the also-rans (and I use that term in the least disparaging manner possible): likeable, entertaining contestants who made the cut on TV but have returned to their roots off-screen. I've delved through the archives (well, YouTube) to rediscover five examples of Britain's Forgotten Talent.
Damon Scott (Series 1, 2007)
First up is the runner up from the very first series of Britain's Got Talent. Whilst many will remember champion Paul Potts, and his ascent from Carphone Warehouse to the Sydney Opera House, fewer will recall the truly unique variety act that Paul pipped at the post. Damon Scott, a.k.a. 'The Monkey Man', used his extraordinary puppeteering skills to manipulate a make-believe monkey called Bubbles in time with music from Michael Jackson.
Craig Harper (Series 2, 2008)
If you opened the dictionary and looked up “likeability", by rights there ought to be a picture of Craig Harper smiling back at you. In a twist straight out of Stars in Their Eyes, Craig's unusual act combined singing and impressionism – but without resulting in mere karaoke. His audition routine was a take-off of all five members of Boyzone, performing the singing parts of Ronan Keating and the late Stephen Gately, with uncannily nonsensical dance moves for “the three who just stood at the back".
Paul Burling (Series 4, 2010)
Typical: you wait ages for an impressionist, and then two come along at once. Perhaps because, whilst they add enormously to the variety of the auditions, without the element of surprise impressionists struggle to wow the audience compared to the singers and dancers in the semis. I digress: Harry Hill lookalike Paul Burling had been there, done that, and got the Butlins knobbly knees contest trophy to prove it. Hoping to transition away from holiday camps and towards HRH, Paul's quickfire rundown of characters including Scooby Doo, Popeye, Bugs Bunny and several residents of Springfield received 3,003 yesses.
The Arrangement (Series 4, 2010)
Even BGT mega-fans are likely to have forgotten The Arrangement, a group of sixth form music students who auditioned in 2010. Deliberately dressed for a formal performance in keeping with their classical instruments, they subverted expectations by performing The Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce instead of Beethoven and Brahms. Though frontman Jono Miles' voice received an early buzz from Simon, the performance was a hit with Piers, Amanda and the audience.
Jai McDowall (Series 5, 2011)
Rather controversially, I end my rundown of the forgotten stars of Britain's Got Talent with Jai McDowall, who of course claimed the title in 2011. It was a changeable year for the series as a whole, with only Amanda Holden staying on from the previously established judging panel. Morgan made way for funnyman Michael McIntyre, and Simon's vacant seat was filled by that prat from Knight Rider. With so much different about BGT 2011, perhaps it wasn't surprising to see the contest won by a very safe act: a good looking and amiable Scot who could belt out a tune. Jai's talent would have been equally at home on The X Factor, and following his victory the outcome was very X Factor-esque: releasing an album, and being released from his recording contract.
Nevertheless, Jai remains a fine example of the homegrown talent that Britain's Got Talent unearths each year, come rain or come shine.