Britain's Got Talent: the Final, review: Viggo Venn's infectious fun carries him to victory and it's the best result in years

Viggo Venn wins Britain's Got Talent - Shutterstock
Viggo Venn wins Britain's Got Talent - Shutterstock

That will teach those pesky, precocious kids. In a Britain’s Got Talent Final (ITV1) overpopulated by cutesy children, two of them reached the top three - only to be beaten by a wild-haired Norwegian clown in a hi-vis vest. It proved the contest’s most pleasing result in years.

Viggo Venn might have a name like a Game Of Thrones villain but he’s actually a cross between Billy Connolly, Mr Bean and Vic Reeves. A typically shambolic routine took in bicep-flexing, balloon-bursting and a tender embrace with the amusingly reluctant Simon Cowell. It was such infectious fun that it carried him to victory.

“I feel extremely visible right now,” deadpanned the lanky lunatic in fluorescent yellow workwear. As well as the £250,000 cash prize, Venn won a coveted slot at the Royal Variety Performance. I can’t wait to see what King Charles and Queen Camilla make of his hilariously chaotic comedy.

After a fortnight to forget for ITV execs due to the Phillip Schofield scandal, a controversy-free final would have come as welcome relief. Nobody set themselves on fire. Only one person swore (our winner, of course) and it was barely audible. Even Amanda Holden’s frock wasn’t as flesh-baring as usual. The only thing to scare the horses was the shock outcome.

Bookmakers’ two favourites for the crown both failed to even make the podium. Angelic 14-year-old opera singer Malakai Bayoh closed the show in soaring style but failed to capture the imagination of voting viewers. It was a similar story for South African amputee dancer Musa Motha, who delivered an under-lit and underwhelming routine at the wrong time.

Instead the runner-up was 13-year-old Lillianna Clifton - “the greatest dancer” according to judge Bruno Tonioli - who delivered another electrifying routine. Set to recent Eurovision winner Loreen’s anthemic “Tattoo”, it blended gymnastics, ballet and contemporary dance in dramatic fashion.

Lillianna performs a routine blended with gymnastics - Shutterstock
Lillianna performs a routine blended with gymnastics - Shutterstock

In third place came autistic Irish schoolboy magician Cillian O’Connor. He only qualified in Friday’s semi-final, so had just two days to prepare another routine. His charming if slightly ponderous set involved origami, playing cards, sleight-of-hand with a handkerchief and, unfortunately, a visible fake thumb. For his final flourish, he made co-host Ant McPartlin disappear. “I need to learn how to do that,” said sidekick Declan Donnelly. ITV bigwigs must wish they could make troublesome presenters vanish too.

A guest performance from the West End cast of Les Misérables saw a surprise return for Susan “Su-Bo” Boyle, duetting with Lucie Jones. Boyle hasn’t performed in public since 2021 and suffered a stroke last year. It was a poignant homecoming from perhaps the show’s most famous alumnus - even though she didn’t actually win.

A stamina-sapping two-and-a-half-hour finale featured eight commercial breaks, plus copious plugs for QR codes and apps. The strongest contenders were saved for the second half of the bill, meaning viewers could skip the first hour and not miss much. There was a distinct lack of variety, which is hardly ideal for a variety contest. Five of the 11 finalists were aged 13 or under. None were over 41. Seven were song or dance acts. All but two were solo performers.

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly with winner Viggo Venn - Shutterstock
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly with winner Viggo Venn - Shutterstock

Half-an hour into proceedings, head judge Cowell appeared to be choking and was suddenly unable to speak. Blessed relief to some, no doubt. Had a Haribo Tangfastic caught in his throat? Had he swallowed a fly? Or was he spluttering with indignation about being upstaged by a Scandinavian dressed like a motorway maintenance worker?

The 10 qualifiers were joined by a wildcard pick, “naked” Japanese pose-striker Tonikaku. An irresistibly daft routine injected another welcome dose of silliness. His Freddie Mercury moustache malfunctioned. One of his nearly-nude impersonations was of Cowell himself. Don’t worry, he was wearing pants. Alesha Dixon laughed so hard, she “broke her ring”. Best not to interrogate that too much.

On the judging panel, David Walliams’ replacement Tonioli has been a one-man blooper reel - swearing twice during the live semi-finals, pressing buzzers at the wrong time and generally injecting some flamboyant unpredictability. The Italian stallion’s casting can be deemed a success, not least because it’s one in the eye for his former employer Strictly Come Dancing. As if to rub the BBC’s noses in it, Tonioli wore a jacket resembling a glitterball and said this was “the best show I’ve ever been in”. You could picture the eye-roll from Craig Revel Horwood.

Now in its 16th series, the variety contest continues to tread water. Averaging around 6m, ratings remain solid but a far cry from the 13m who watched in its heyday. Recent winners have been highly forgettable - Jon Courtenay, Axel Blake or Colin Thackery, anyone? And it’s many a year since this talent search unearthed a bona fide star.

Venn’s unexpected triumph might just reinvigorated the stale franchise. The days when it was talking point TV might be long gone but tonight, BGT was spontaneous, sofa-pleasing entertainment again. And all thanks to a hi-vis Viking who looked as baffled as many viewers. “One more time” indeed.