Ah, the drama! 'BGT' favourite Ronan is pipped at the post

Jai McDowall wins 'Britain's Got Talent'. Nick Duerden on how Simon Cowell's applecart was upset

And so this, in the end, was what it all came down to, a male-dominated Britain's Got Talent final featuring an impressionist, some warblers, a loony organist who may well have been Peter Kay in sequins, and the old bloke from accounts. No space for the man who sings nursery rhymes to the tunes of Celine Dion, nor the woman of a certain age with rodents dressed as dogs incapable of choreographed mischief.

They say that reality TV holds up a mirror to the nation. Well, if that's true, then one must conclude that in 2011 the British rather run our collective talent pool dry. But then, of course, we have. When Hughie Green suggested that "opportunity knocks" four decades ago, he meant for a precious few only. These days, it's viewed practically as everybody's birthright.

Perhaps, then, this is the reason the latest series of BGT has struggled. Not because of the absence of Piers Morgan, gone, like The Beatles and Right Said Fred before him, to America. But, rather, because we are all so well versed in the script and the players by now: the court jesters; the tremulous who croon in memory of the recently dead; and the funny dancers who, this time around, aren't quite as funny as the funny dancers of the last time around.

Nevertheless, a great many of them continued to pluck away at our heartstrings, making open mockery of our vulnerability as they did so. But even heartstrings harden, and there is only so much affection we can muster for quite so many unlikely looking vessels (the portly, the plain, the past-it) out of whom such mellifluous loveliness unceasingly pours.

But never underestimate a panto for whipping up a climatic storm of kitsch and glitter, and BGT certainly did that last night. Simon Cowell, back in his seat since the semi-finals, had returned purportedly to rescue the show – and the ratings – by bringing with him not only his teeth and unbuttoned shirt, but a lot of fluff and nonsense over whether or not he actually created one of the finalists himself in a secret laboratory on Dr No's island.

Though Cowell protested his innocence – amid scurrilous suggestions from shameful cynics that it was he that planted the story – it is easy to see why little Ronan Parke could be thought a spawn of this particular devil. With Justin Bieber's hair, Bambi's eyes and an Osmond's likeability, he was born for TV talent shows, to say nothing of the fact that he possesses the same Voice of an Angel as previously owned by Charlotte Church, Paul Potts and Susan Boyle.

The controversy helped sustain a nice frisson throughout – so much weight on such slender shoulders, and so on – and over two punishing hours of performances, an endlessly excitable studio audience, surely high on E numbers, and Amanda Holden's indefatigable hair, we gathered, in edge-of-seat fashion, in fear of a last-minute upset, the favourite Parke pipped at the post by, perhaps, one or two who might just have deserved it more, the piano prodigy, for one, or those adorable little boys that will grow up to become JLS by this time next week.

And then – oh, the drama – he was! Pipped at the post! And not by an obvious frontrunner either, but Jai McDowall, an oddly-bearded Scot with a voice as deep as oceans are wide, and whose fellow countryfolk did what Scots always do in such circumstances: phone in en masse, and upset the applecart, Cowell's applecart.

Little Ronan Parke, bless him, was gracious in defeat, with a composure beyond his years. Perhaps he's still young enough to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.

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