Britain's got plenty of exhibitionists, but has it got talent?

Popular show returns with some scary people. But that's enough of Simon Cowell. What about the acts?
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The Independent Culture

Britain's got... schadenfreude. It's all very well for presenters Ant and Dec to bang on about showcasing the best acts these shores have to offer, but let's be honest: the reason most of us tuned in to Britain's Got Talent last night wasn't to see the next Faryl Smith or Susan Boyle, was it? No, we wanted more Stavros Flatley and Floral Highnotes.

For those who haven't been paying attention to previous series of BGT, Faryl was an extraordinary 13-year-old mezzo-soprano who recorded the fastest-selling classical album in British history after her appearance in the 2008 final; SuBo (and if you've not heard of her, where have you been?) was the less-than-pulchritudinous but proficient Elaine Paige wannabe from last year who has sold a remarkable eight million albums worldwide, largely on the basis that she doesn't look like Britney BUT CAN STILL SING!

But far more entertainingly, Stavros Flatley were the paunchy father-and-son Greek answer to Riverdance who lit up last year's stage, while Floral Highnotes brilliantly combined opera and flower-arranging in what can only be described as a performance that was three stops short of Dagenham. Which is to say, for those not au fait with the London Underground, Barking.

Talking of barking, on to one of the "favourite" acts of last night. And by favourite, I mean the audience honks and claps like seals because the act involves an animal. Chandi – a rescue dog that jetés its way through a ballet routine with owner Tina. Well done, Tina, for training your dog to be as impressive at the barre as a four-year-old. It's old-school variety, all right, but this is meant to be prime-time telly, not Butlins. Not that I have anything against Butlins – Stavros Flatley are doing a tour of its shiny establishments this summer, after all. NEXT!

OK, so not next chronologically, but look! It's a little girl. Aah. Is she going to tug on our heartstrings by crying like fellow 10-year-old Hollie Steel did last year after forgetting her words? Fat chance.

Chloe Hickinbottom is far sturdier with her rendition of Vera Lynn's "White Cliffs of Dover". No one could have anything against that, could they? "The song's words meant so much to my generation... that a 10-year-old, however talented, simply cannot be expected to embrace, or fully understand."

Well, there has to be one curmudgeon spoiling the fun, doesn't there? And who was it that uttered this blasphemy? Oh, it was Dame Vera. Quite right; maybe some Miley Cyrus next time, eh?

Turns out, Chloe is the star of the night. Given that she's up against a woman trying to feed a parrot mashed potato (from a fork, no less!), a man who burps (not a tune or words; he just burps), two ladies playing tambourines in a stupefyingly sombre manner, a 71-year-old retiree and his unrecognisable impressions of animals, a half-baked chef reading a poem to canned music, and the crazed Kevin Cruise (manic dancing and cruise-ship crooning), that's not too surprising.

But will Little Vera ultimately win the right to perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance later this year? Doubt it somehow – the standard simply has to get better over the next few weeks. But will Her Majesty enjoy, say, the 13-year-old drummer Kieran Gaffney more?

And what does this, one of the most-watched programmes on television, tell us about the state of the nation?

Well, there's a lot of exhibitionist eccentrics out there, a lot of people who like to sit in audiences and shout "Off! Off! Off!" like little Caesars, and a smattering of people with honest-to-goodness stage-based talent. (And I don't mean Amanda Holden.)