Some magnificent elephants were filmed for Channel 4’s amazing Sunday night documentary Walking With Elephants.
However, none could cast as mighty a shadow as the one that has been in the room on Britain’s Got Talent this year.
Admittedly it wasn’t present when they filmed these auditions. As ITV all-too-frequently reminds us, this was all recorded in January and February BEFORE lockdown was announced.
The elephant has been there every Saturday since this series began though. And if wondering “what’s the point of all this?” wasn’t already your default setting for watching Britain’s Got Talent, it surely is now.
At this stage we don’t know whether there will be any live finals this year.
If there are, there seems little chance of there being a Royal Variety Performance for the winner to perform at – and that's even if we all do stay alert between now and November.
None of this is ITV’s fault, of course. No one can control a virus such as Covid-19.
What ITV and Simon Cowell can control, however, is the quality of the show.
And I’m afraid Saturday night’s effort was a bit of a stinker.
It didn’t get off to the best of starts with the opening act, The D-Day Juniors.
Putting aside the utter cynicism of booking a kids choir in military(ish) uniforms on VE Day weekend in the first place, you had to wonder whether it was wise to go ahead with the act at all given that their song was called Pass It On To Everyone.
Ouch. Even Boris Johnson’s slogan writers would struggle to create something with such unfortunate connotations right now – although to be fair to the kids, it did make a lot more sense than most of Johnson's latest efforts.
Still, it could have been worse. I mean, imagine if having made such a big deal about keeping alive memories of the sacrifice of the fallen, Amanda Holden went on to describe the very next act – a pair of Strictly Come Dancing wannabes doing some general hoofing – as being “To. Die. For.”
Both acts sailed through to the next round, of course. As have so many acts on this year’s show.
The judges have been so easily pleased, I was half-expecting those women in the audience who shouted “We love you Simon!” to be immediately awarded four yesses.
It’s Simon I feel most sorry for. Having (cough) “temporarily” lost The X Factor, he now seems to have lost the wow factor on his one remaining hit show as well.
I would never accuse him of resting on his laurels, but too many acts this year appear little more than watered-down versions of previous successes.
Kids choirs (aw man, so many kids choirs); dogs whose sob stories are more memorable than their magic tricks; soldier duos covering classic crooner tunes (hi Robson, hey Jerome); and a so-called jobbing comedian who only mentions the naff gigs he’s done in schools, barbershops and nursing homes but fails to recall the national tour and the gig at the Hammersmith Apollo.
I’ve also had my fill of BGT’s most recent scourge: people throwing on silly costumes in a bid to enliven/disguise bog-standard dance routines.
The blame for this must fall squarely on the helmets of Boogie Storm, the Star Wars Stormtroopers from 2016.
Saturday’s 2020 update was Dario The Dinosaur, for whom Cowell even trotted out the same “this is exactly what I've always wanted for this show” line he’d used back in 2016.
The problem being, Dario wasn’t very good. It was just someone in a T-Rex costume arsing about with their mates.
It goes without saying the yesses kept on coming, although part of me suspected Cowell was more interested in securing first refusal on the costume’s gleaming white teeth. Always pays to have a spare.
The worrying thing was that Dario exposed a shocking truth about this year’s show: Cowell appears to have been put in charge of the funny.
Now, Simon Cowell is many things. However, a comedy expert he is not.
It’s a baffling state of affairs. Made even more baffling by the fact that David Walliams and Ant & Dec (actual funny people) are part of the team. How any TV producer can reduce Ant & Dec to messing about with feather boas in the wings or blubbing over rescue dogs is beyond me.
I would even argue Amanda Holden’s one series circus sitcom Big Top puts her ahead of Simon in the comedy pecking order.
This lack of laughs in the main show also shines a glaring light on the one thing that has done more damage to the BGT brand than even Covid-19 has managed.
Namely, the absence of Stephen Mulhern’s excellent ITV2 sister show, which was always a lot more entertaining than the main event and which would have worked comedy miracles with the likes of Dario and Bristol taxi driver Derek’s Hot Lobster act.
Unfortunately ITV ordered a big (yellow?) taxi for Mulhern and his crew and we’ve been left ruefully singing “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
That’s this year in a nutshell, I’m afraid.
M&S Yum Nuts sponsored Britain’s Got Talent. ITV numb nuts axed Britain’s Got More Talent.