Irish great granny's (81) 'emotion-shredding' performance gets golden buzzer on Ireland's Got Talent's 'glittering debut'
Evelyn Williams from Tallaght will go straight to the live shows
From Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to Blind Date, Irish television is littered with the smoking wreckage of international formats brought in at eye-watering expense only to crash upon take-off.
TV3’s sparkly adaptation of Britain’s Got Talent is different. It’s confident, not afraid to yank at the heartstrings and, in judges Michelle Visage, Louis Walsh, Denise van Outen and Jason Byrne, has a team that share an easy chemistry.
Entirely absent is the cringe factor so often woven into the DNA of Irish versions of overseas smashes (see Marty Morrissey on Dancing with the Stars, hoofing us all towards the apocalypse).
It goes without saying that if you’re allergic to this sort of thing you won’t much like Ireland’s Got Talent.
But if you enjoyed David Walliams, Amanda Holden etc slapping their red buzzers on ITV, you’ll give the first of seven instalments a big shiny “yes”.
Producer Kite Entertainment, which has already made a success of Gogglebox Ireland, has stuck faithfully to the formula established by BGT – and, before it, America’s Got Talent – while allowing trace levels of Irishness to shine through.
The first episode featured singers, dancers and comedians. An emotion-shredding conclusion saw 81 year old Tallaght great-grandmother Evelyn Williams delivering a version of Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns that may well have reduced inanimate objects to tears.
Her reward was a golden buzzer straight to the live shows from Visage. The judge joined her on stage to explain Send In The Clowns was written to be performed by someone who had experienced all life’s highs and lows. Yes, that was a tear you were trying to hide from whoever was beside you on the couch.
The evening’s other big misty-eyed moment was courtesy of 13 year-old Shaniah Rollo, from Dublin but whose family was still back in the Philippines (aside from her father, watching from the wings). Her emotion-packed True Colours won unanimous “yeses” from the adjudicators.
Britain’s Got Talent has Simon Cowell as resident baddy and it’s tempting to conclude that TV3 hired Michelle Visage, no-nonsense New Jersey judge from RuPaul’s Drag Race, to fulfil that role.
But if unquestionably straight-talking she wasn’t afraid to show a vulnerable side, such as when giving Williams the golden buzzer.
Van Outen also impressed. She was articulate and enthusiastic – jumping up at one point to play spoons along with a traditional singer (a pity she didn’t give him a green light afterwards).
Walsh, who could judge a talent show in his sleep, was more sedate and you can imagine Byrne’s trying-too-hard “auld Dub” routine wearing thin, though he does have a breezy rapport with the rest of the panel.
In the Ant and Dec role of side-stage host / best friend of competitors Lucy Kennedy was likeable but perhaps a shade low-wattage. She knows she’s fronting a silly reality show and a slight deadness behind the eyes suggests she’s too far in on the joke.
But this was otherwise a glittering debut – and evidence that Irish television is perhaps finally at a point where it can take on big international formats without losing anything in the translation.