Not even Simon Cowell’s teeth could distract from the elephant in the room — Ant & Dec are back on Britain’s Got Talent

LET’S hear it then for the ­Vardanyan Brothers. Most daring sword-balancing act in all of Armenia.

So scary, indeed, that Simon Cowell admitted: “I was almost going to say you can’t do this, ’cos in all my years this is the most ­dangerous act I’ve ever seen on a show.”

Almost. Then he remembered he let Ant drive people to the auditions one year.

The elephant in the room on the opening night of Britain’s Got ­Talent, which was indistinguishable from every other year, apart from Amanda Holden, who’s showing the first distressing signs of developing early-onset bingo wings.

There are one or two other weird little changes as well, but not among the acts, who included the usual smattering of carefully selected ­foreign imports, hardy veterans like ­ventriloquist Jimmy

Tamley, who beat Joe Pasquale to win New Faces in 1987, and a few originals of variable taste and quality.

Starting point was a bloke in a dress pretending to be the Queen, followed by some frantic knicker-flashing from Japan’s Fabulous Sisters and Y Pedwar Covi — four old groovers from North Wales with ­frying pans covering their genitals, who are missing a bit of a trick by not calling themselves The Rhyl Full Monty.

Straight after those three, we got Jimmy the ventriloquist, fan-wafting opera from the talented Faith Tucker and my own favourite, a bloke in a Dalek outfit who forgot the lyrics to Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Solid enough Saturday night entertainment it was too, until the intrusion of Elizabeth, the mystical illusionist who found Agatha Turner, from the mid- 19th Century, underneath the London ­Palladium.

I became ­totally distracted by Cowell’s top lip, which kept getting stuck on his veneers

Which wasn’t half as entertaining as it would’ve been if she’d found Anthea Turner, from the late 20th ­Century, ­lurking around down there.

It broke up the show’s momentum badly, in fact. To the point I became ­totally distracted by Cowell’s top lip, which kept getting stuck on his veneers and left him flashing his teeth at the acts during crucial points of the show.


Victoria Wood tribute act Siobhan ­Phillips got “the teeth” when she sang about her daughter marrying Eric Cowell.

So did the Vardanyan Brothers when David Walliams asked: “What happened to your tops?” and the singing Dalek after he was told “Four nos”.

I thought at first the teeth might be a distraction technique, but if it was designed to stop us noticing the insane cackling noises coming from Amanda Holden, it didn’t work — and if he was hoping to keep our eyes off Ant, it was entirely unnecessary.

His reappearance could not have been more seamless.

Ant & Dec are always the most polished act on BGT and the main reason it’s survived in much better shape than The X Factor

Uncomfortable absence or not, if you value great television, as well as the idea of redemption, it was a very welcome return, as Ant & Dec are always the most polished act on BGT and the main reason it’s survived in much better shape than The X Factor.

For once, the occasion also got the turn it deserved as well from the Flakefleet Primary School kids, who already had the theatre ­rocking with their Don’t Stop Me Now ­routine.

Then they got Ant shoving on the tea trolley to the line: “I’m a rocket ship on my way to Mars, on a ­collision course.”

And that’s golden buzzer stuff, if ever I’ve seen it.

Great TV lies and delusions of the week

The One Show, Alex Jones: “Twenty-eight years later, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop are still making people laugh.”

Celebs On The Ranch, Stephen Bailey: “We don’t want anyone shot here.”

And BBC2 continuity introducing New World Order: “Sara ­Pascoe helps Frankie Boyle put the world to rights now.”

Although I guess “Five left-wing tosspots sit around agreeing with each other now” hasn’t quite got the same ring to it.


Great sporting insights

Jermaine Jenas: “Glenn Murray’s had a few shoves in the chest and taken them on the chin.”

Chris Hughton: “We were confident right up until we weren’t.”

And Big Ron Atkinson: “It’s the K word isn’t it — Confidence.”

Line of Duty mob are a bit suspect

Brilliant though the BBC1 drama is, questions must be asked about Line Of Duty’s OCG (Organised Crime Gang), who swan around the place like heavily armed Apprentice candidates, trying to kill anything in a uniform.

Their leader, John Corbett, lives in a penthouse.

They operate out of a High Street printing shop and a Moss Heath phone box, which works a bit like a see-through Tardis (trouble follows anyone who enters).

There’s a female member who dresses up as a nurse to visit DS Jane Cafferty, the injured police officer, and a small boy on a bike who takes the sort of pin-sharp photos that would put every snapper in London to shame.

The entire force seems to know who they are, but still hasn’t pulled one of them in for questioning.

It could be, of course, they’re waiting for a traffic code violation before things get really serious.

The reasons I’m prepared to suspend disbelief, though, are the presence of Stephen Graham – who’s probably heading for all the big awards lists alongside Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure, thanks to his captivating performance as Corbett – and the Line Of Duty script which, apart from one slip into “we can do this the easy way or the hard way” territory, has me in the palm of its hand.

A happy state of affairs that’s likely to continue, just so long as all this wonderful mayhem and acting doesn’t end with Ted Hastings being uncovered as “H”.

  • Line Of Duty, BBC1, Sunday, 9pm

Quiz show dough-balls of the week

Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “The word platonic derives from the name of which ancient Greek philosopher?”

Tom: “Pluto.”

The Family Chase, Bradley Walsh: “How many bishops are on the board at the start of a chess game?”

Tracy: “One.”

And Bradley Walsh: “The Pink Jacket is awarded to the winner of the PGA Grand Slam of what sport?”

Tracy: “Wrestling.”


Daring to be funny

Made In Chelsea gonk Sam Thompson and former MP Louise Mensch were thrown out of a moving helicopter into a freezing Andes lake on Sunday night.

Why? Who cares really. Sometimes you’ve just got to enjoy the moment without ruining it by asking too many questions.

Officially, though, this was the opening challenge on a celebrity version of SAS: Who Dares Wins, which I’d assumed would be the moment this show lost every last shred of credibility.

Until it turned out to be enjoyable and very funny.

Miraculously, I also recognised everyone in the line-up apart from some hulking great skinhead, wearing the number 10 armband, who I thought might be one of Dog The Bounty Hunter’s henchmen, until instructor Ant Middleton called him up for the boxing round with a shout of “Number 10 . . .  Heather.” And it turned out she was a member of the England women’s rugby team.

Slightly more high-profile were the likes of Andrea McLean, Jeff Brazier, Sam Thompson – who’s getting killed the next time he calls Ant “mate” – and name-dropping Louise Mensch, who was the first to quit after sounding like she climaxed during the beasting exercise.

The comment of the episode, however, belonged to “Hollywood actor” Jeremy Irvine, who probably had the whole nation reflecting on the debt we all owe our dressing-up box community when he revealed that, no, he hadn’t ever served in the military but he did get “trench foot filming War Horse”.

For at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we’ll probably get over it, Jeremy.

  • Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm


Good Morning Britain, Piers Morgan on dating app profiles: “If a woman says, ‘I look like Cindy Crawford’ and she comes in and she’s 36st, you’re like . . . ?”

Snap! Fancy a 14-piece party bucket?

Random TV irritations

Judges, contestants and Emma Willis pushing the “amazing” count close to 50 at The Voice UK final.

BBC1’s Celebrity Painting Challenge serving up a naked Keith Allen as prime-time entertainment.

Greg Wise putting in such a self-satisfied ­Celebrity Bake Off performance even vainglorious C4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy thought he was a bit “smug”.

Have I Got News For You egomaniac Stacey Dooley imagining her threat to “leave the country” if Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes Prime Minister will do anything other than win him a few thousand more converts.

And Let’s Talk About Sex guest Alastair ­Campbell trying and failing to remember his last wet dream, which was probably straight after the 1983 Darlington by-election. But let’s never talk about this again.

Deaf subtitle of the week

Reports coming in suggest Friday’s Have I Got News For You concluded with the caption: “Ian and Stacey have sex, Paul and Henning have eight.” And may God have mercy on their poor babies if it’s true.



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TV gold

The return of the magnificent Polly Walker, as Gill Biggeloe, to Line Of Duty. Channel 4’s Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.

David Walliams swinging Dec around by the ankles on ITV2’s joyful Britain’s Got More Talent spin-off.

BBC2’s Race Across The World finale.

This Morning’s makeover team pulling off the first funny April Fool’s Day stunt in a generation, at Holly Willoughby’s expense.

And Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan interviewing a woman wearing prosthetic ears, who “identifies as elf”, while being playfully sledged by Bobby Davro, off ­camera, and sitting above a weather caption ­bearing the legend: “Wrexham 5°.”

Give up now, Coogan. It’s over.

EastEnders’ advice of the year

Melanie “Tamzin Outhwaite” Owen to Kathy “Gillian Taylforth” Mitchell-Beale, in the restaurant: “You’re never going to make a profit acting like that, are you?” As anyone who saw Tamzin in Hotel Babylon will confirm.


THIS week’s winner is 19th Century ­German fraudster Kaspar Hauser and Chunk.

Sent in by Simon Perry, of Herts.

Picture research: Amy Reading.

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