The semi-finals of a game show like Britain’s Got Talent can get a little tense. The contestants have a lot riding on getting into the final – even if you don’t win, the extra exposure from being in the final can be a game changer for an artist – and the judges have the job of whittling down those that got through the screening to the finalists.
The opening segments of the BGT semi-final on Friday 1 May 2023 were more eventful than usual. First, Dec Donnelly sported a pair of red “Wizard of Oz” shoes. Then Ant McPartlin demanded a wildcard for beatboxers MB14 from Simon Cowell. But the claws really came out in the judges’ responses to the first act, dancers Romeo and Icy, who Simon liked.
Simon told Romeo and Icy: “I’ve always thought you were fun, what the show needs and I thought you did amazing tonight, seriously.” Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden were complimentary but thought that Romeo and Icy hadn’t done enough to go through. This prompted Simon to make noises – widely described as cat noises – while Alesha and Amanda commented.
Simon’s noises persisted, and increased in volume, causing Dec to intervene: “Simon, can we just hear what the others have to say to the guys?” In the audience, Simon’s feline sounds got a few laughs, but most people didn’t get it & applauded when Dec asked Simon to pipe down. On the internet, a storm broke. If you want to see the act that prompted this reaction from Simon, watch Romeo and Icy’s semi final performance below.
A few outliers thought that Simon was amusing, but the vast majority of responders felt that Simon was downright rude for undermining the opinions of 2 judges in the semi-final. Here’s a more restrained comment: “What’s up with Simon making those stupid noises, very childish and not very professional?” On the theme of cats on BGT:
According to The Best Cat Page, Simon misted up with tears as “the former Mr Nasty announced ‘Your whole act is dedicated to your pet’.” (BGT 2016. Contestant Rick Schmull’s cat’s name: Meow Meow).
Going back to Dec’s red shoes; that’s easy to explain. They were worn for the introductory skit about the Wizard of Oz, which coincided with the Wizard of Oz cast guesting on the show. And Ant asking for a wildcard? That’s another example of tensions arising during the judging of the semis. On Thursday 31 May, the judges needed to decide between the aerial hoop act Duo Odyssey and musician MB14.
The judges deadlocked so Bruno asked the public to vote a second time. Duo Odyssey went through, leading to social media pleading for MB14 to be given the wildcard. This was picked up by Ant on the Friday show. Was Simon implying that Alesha and Amanda were being catty in their responses to Romeo and Icy? Surely not.