Britain’s Got Talent has only been back for two weeks and already it is getting a lot of criticism for numerous reasons, such as scheduling and apparently inappropriate acts. It is all of the same obscenity that the show is criticised for year after year, and yet it continues to get high ratings that mean year after year people continue to enjoy or at the very least watch the talent show. While it might be true that ratings are lower than when the show first started or that the show may have seen better years, it was still the highest rated show on launch night. That would seem to indicate that it isn’t simply that less people are watching Britain’s Got Talent but that less people are watching television on a Saturday night overall.
The criticisms of the show appear rather baseless anyway when you really look at it. Many media outlets reported that ITV were actively attempting to compete with BBC One’s The Voice UK by moving the show forward to seven o clock in the evening despite having always been shown at eight in years prior. In this age of television on demand, I’m not sure that moving a programme earlier in the schedule should really constitute as competing. I guess there might be a certain matter of pride involved in saying that your show was watched on the television screen on the night rather than a couple of days later.
That said, the type of show generally affects who watches what when. Britain’s Got Talent is a entertainment programme that you can imagine groups of people gathering around to ridicule the hilariously bad performers and watch with awe at the genuinely talented. Given The Voice UK’s more serious approach to singing and the contest as a whole, it is harder to imagine people gathering around to do the same thing. It feels like the type of show that you would watch later when you might be alone and capable of focusing.
However, I have to say that ITV’s scheduling makes a hell of a lot more sense than BBC’s. In past years, Britain’s Got Talent hasn’t always been preceded by other entertainment programmes such as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. It certainly wasn’t last year. This year Ant and Dec’s show had returned and was rating well, even beating the second season premiere of The Voice UK on launch night. It makes sense that ITV would follow through with that and place Britain’s Got Talent in the exact same time slot. In that case, if someone tunes into ITV at seven o’ clock, even if it is purely out of habit, ITV will have given themselves a vital opportunity to engage the viewer and draw them in. It does seem slightly hypocritical because Simon Cowell previously stated that it was a ‘silly game’ and he preferred when reality shows didn’t overlap. That said, we don’t know how much of the decision to move the show forward was up to Cowell or whether it was ultimately made by ITV.
On the other hand, BBC’s programme organisation and scheduling has been much more sporadic. Doctor Who returned at 6.15 on Saturday 30th of March, with The Voice UK airing directly afterwards from 7 until 8.35pm. The following week was the same, although The Voice UK ended five minutes earlier. Last Saturday, however, Doctor Who aired at 6 pm rather than 6.15 and ended at 6.45pm whereupon The Voice UK aired until 8.20 pm. Although I had read about the change, I tuned in at 6.15 pm out of habit and was one of the unfortunate viewers who missed the beginning of Cold War. Last night the schedule changed yet again. The Doctor Who episode Hide aired at 6.45pm until 7.30 pm and wasn’t immediately succeeded by The Voice UK. Instead the national lottery separated the two programmes by almost an hour, moving The Voice UK almost completely out of Britain’s Got Talent air time. If nothing else, ITV is much more consistent.
The BBC recently condemned the clash, suggesting that ITV wasn’t acting in the best interests of the viewer when they moved the programme forward. I guess the BBC thinks that they are acting in the viewer’s best interests by moving their programmes around constantly. Honestly, I just find it frustrating. As previously mentioned, this is the age of television on demand. Networks should have the confidence to place their shows on the schedule that best suits them with the assurance that even if a few people choose to watch a different programme it will all be made up with on-demand ratings. The Voice UK obviously got enough ratings on demand last year to warrant a second series since the programme bombed once it hit the live stages. That will be the real test for this second season and that’s really what the BBC should be focused on if they are more concerned with what the viewers want.
Conversely, ITV because they are funded differently, probably aren’t quite so concerned about criticisms and complaints that viewers have made. One such example would be that the programme is constantly admonished for allowing strippers to be shown when the show airs pre-watershed. Really, though the strippers are barely risqué, I saw part of Keri Graham’s performance and it was really quite tame. Another act, Arisxandra Libantino got a lot of flax for singing ‘One Night Only’, a song from Dreamgirls. It was called inappropriate but if anyone has seen Dreamgirls they would understand the context and, furthermore, the song was meant to demonstrate her vocal ability. It was not a declaration of her personal beliefs or actions. Some news papers called it controversial but a week that includes the Boston Marathon explosions, and the capture of dangerous suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, really puts that into perspective.
So far my favourite acts have been Attraction and MC Boy (not MC Roy, as many thought) . I particularly liked Attraction’s shadow dancing performance as I thought it was uniquely creative and powerfully emotive. It is still a little early to say if there have been any winning acts. Some are good but in this show, as with many things in life, consistency is vital. The acts not only have to perform well at the audition but will have to improve and inspire again at the live voting stage. It is a hard road but for one talented, not lucky, act it will be life changing.