TV-watching in the Dixon household is normally a rather sedate and intellectual affair. A quiz here (preferably of degree-level difficulty), a Dickens adapatation there, plus the occasional historical or scientific documentary to keep the brains topped up with facts. Generally speaking variety is not us, telly-wise.
But not this week. For some bizarre reason the younger Dixons have broken out of the rigid straitjacket imposed on them by our traditional viewing habits and become obsessed with a reality show: Britain’s Got Talent. And where they lead their parents have little choice but to follow.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask. It gives the kids an entrée into all sorts of conversations they wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to join, and it means that we as parents no longer have to apologise regularly for not watching The Apprentice. For once in our lives, the Dixons exude TV coolth.
But for those of you who haven’t yet succumbed to the coolness that is Britain’s Got Talent, here’s a brief run-down.
Singers, dance groups and novelty acts from across the country vie for the chance to appear before the Queen at the Royal Variety Show. A panel – consisting of a highly-qualified music impresario, an erstwhile newspaper editor and an ex-Mrs Les Dennis – whittle out the no-hopers, and the remaining 40 acts (it would be stretching a point to call them artists) go on to the semi-finals, where they are subjected to a public phone vote. Eight successful semi-
finalists go through to the finals.
Our hosts are two cheeky chappies who have a history with phone votes. The cheeky chappy on the left appears to be operating on one-third power. Look a little below the stuck-down coiffure and the hearthrug eyebrows: the lights have gone out inside.
Now that we’ve reached the semi-finals, the judges are doing their best to ensure a satisfactory outcome by applying a basic rule of thumb to the contestants: Would the Queen really want to watch this?
It’s an easy way of dismissing any act that you don’t like, but it assumes a knowledge of Her Majesty’s tastes that we don’t actually have.
Perhaps it’s time for the Royals to turn the tables. Imagine the scene: the Windsors, like some real-life Royle family minus the overflowing ashtrays and the Pomagne, settle down on the sofa at Buck House and switch to ITV to discover what Cowell, Morgan and Holden are devising for their night of variety.
“Well,” says the Queen. “One really would rather like to see more of that chep who swings fridges around with his earlobes. Why does that fraightfully common Mr Cowell not like him?”
“One knows what you mean,” says Prince Charles. “And personally one would prefer some opera-and-flower-arranging action to a singer with all the stage presence of a tree.”
“Stuff and nonsense,” says the Duke of Edinburgh. “Thet Susan Boyle rocks one’s world.”
“Really, pater?” says Princess Anne. “One would have thoight, with your Greek heritage, that you would have favoured the Terpsichorean stylings of Stavros Flatley”.
“Stavros my shooting stick,” says the Duke. “Edward, go and make the tea. Darjeeling for oneself, Earl Grey for mater. Then get on the phone and start voting.”
Edward, much in the manner of Anthony Royle, screws up his face and mutters under his breath, but obliges. The next act attempts to impersonate a saxophone and fails. The corgis howl in doggy mirth and Prince Andrew sneaks out to the boozer.
Yes, we’re in very good company tuning in to Britain’s Got Talent. And at least, unlike the Royals, we don’t have pre-booked seats for our very own Variety Show.