Friday, June 13, 2008

George Sampson's high-energy dance earns Britain's Got Talent victory

ITV celebrates ratings triumph as 14.4 million viewers watch live talent-spotting programme.

More than 20 million viewers tuned in for the Saturday night battle of the talent shows as ITV celebrated a ratings triumph with the help of a breakdancing teenager.

George Sampson's victory in Britain's Got Talent was watched by 14.4million viewers, turning the live programme into the most watched entertainment show of the year.

The figure, 60 per cent of all Saturday night viewers, topped the 13.9million who tuned in to the first ITV Pop Idol final in 2002, when Will Young beat Gareth Gates.

The ITV1 show left I'd Do Anything, its BBC One rival, trailing. A peak of 7.3million viewers watched Jodie Prenger, 28, win the competition for the role of Nancy in a West End production of Oliver! Prenger, a size-14 singer from Blackpool, won the contest after benefiting from a public backlash against suggestions from Cameron Mackintosh, the musical producer, that she was “not right” for the part.

George, 14, from Warrington, beat nine other acts to take the £100,000 prize and will appear at the Royal Variety Performance. His high-energy dance routine to a version of Singing in the Rain, complete with a staged thunderstorm, won over the judges and garnered millions of viewers' votes. But agents and record companies are wasting no time in turning all the finalists, including Faryl Smith, a 12-year-old operatic singer, into star names. George, Faryl and Andrew Johnston, the 13-year-old singer who finished in third place, will headline a nationwide Britain's Got Talent tour beginning this Friday at Hammersmith Apollo in West London.

George, who is being guided by the public relations team that looks after Robbie Williams, will sit a mock GCSE music exam before joining the tour. The show's producers promised that the wellbeing of the child stars will be paramount as they embark on a taxing 13-date tour appearing before thousands of fans each night. Tutors will join the tour party to ensure that the children do not fall behind.

Grorge said that he plans to spend his money paying off the mortgage of his mother, Lesley, to thank her for paying for his dance lessons.

He said: “This is like the star on the Christmas tree. I've danced on many stages since being 6 but the Royal Variety is the biggest variety show of all time.”

He was less enthusiastic about his imminent exam. “I've not had much time to revise, but hopefully it should be OK.”

An ITV decision to schedule Britain's Got Talent nightly last week, building momentum for the final, helped it to overshadow Lord Lloyd-Webber's search for an actress. The audience figures for Doctor Who slumped as a result of the ITV competition. Britain's Got Talent, co-produced by Simon Cowell, averaged ten million viewers for each episode during the series, making it one of ITV's biggest successes.

The Times understands that 2.2million votes were cast during the Britain's Got Talent final, suggesting that viewers were less keen to participate than in previous shows. A total of 8.7million votes were cast during the 2002 Pop Idol final but since then ITV has admitted a series of deceptions carried out during telephone votes. George was the clear winner in the telephone poll, which raised £600,000 for the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund.

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