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Britain's Got Talent 2020: Amanda Holden joins Ashley Banjo for first socially-distanced semi-final


Britain’s Got Talent 2020 made its long-awaited return to screens on Saturday night after being forced to put its semi-finals on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis.

For the first time in the ITV show’s history the so-called ‘live shows’ were pre-recorded to ensure they could adhere to social distancing guidelines.

First to earn his spot in the final was comedian Steve Royle after he won over the panel with comedic juggling routine with the help of hosts Ant and Dec.

It’s back! Britain’s Got Talent 2020 made its long-awaited return to screens on Saturday night, as comedian Steve Royle landed the first spot in the semi-finals

Speaking to hosts Ant and Dec after the victory, Steve thanked the judges for inviting him to perform in the semi-finals, after being unable to entertain audiences for months due to the lockdown.

He gushed: ‘I just – I’m very rarely – my wife and kids will tell you – that I am lost for words. I am lost for words. What can I say? I’m absolutely blown away. Four! All four judges thought I was funny. There you are. 

‘Just let my missus see that. I never, when I entered this way back when, last year, I never dreamt I would come to the semi-final and now the final. It’s both surreal and exciting. I am so unbelievably thrilled.’

The panto veteran left the judges in side-splitting laughter with a chaotic Riverdance-inspired performance, with David Walliams admitted he regretted not pressing the Golden Buzzer during his audition. 

Steve’s victory meant that the remaining seven acts would go head-to-head in a viewer vote for a place in the final.  

Thrilled: Speaking to hosts Ant and Dec, Steve thanked the judges for inviting him to perform

On hold: He admitted he'd been unable to perform for months due to the lockdown

Thrilled: Speaking to hosts Ant and Dec, Steve thanked the judges for inviting him to perform in the semi-finals, after being unable to entertain for months due to the lockdown

We're back! As ever Ant and Dec were back as hosts for the new socially-distanced format, which drew comparisons from some viewers to Black Mirror

We’re back! As ever Ant and Dec were back as hosts for the new socially-distanced format, which drew comparisons from some viewers to Black Mirror

Funny: Fans made the hilarious comparison to one of Black Mirror's first episodes, titled Fifteen Million Merits, which satirised the talent show format

Funny: Fans made the hilarious comparison to one of Black Mirror’s first episodes, titled Fifteen Million Merits, which satirised the talent show format

It was certainly a BGT semi-final like no other as the entire programme was performed with a socially-distanced format and a virtual audience watching from their homes. 

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Many fans were quick to compare the new format to an episode of Black Mirror titled Fifteen Million Merits, which famously spoofed the talent show format by featuring character taking part in the show Hot Shot. 

Kicking off the show were the dance troupe Urban Turtles who got Alesha dancing in her seat with an energetic routine after rushing from their home in the sewers to reach the studio in time.

Despite judge Ashley Banjo admitting he didn’t feel they could win the show, the group still earned plenty of support for their street-inspired routine.

Next up was the father-son magic duo James and Dylan Piper who left Ashley speechless with their incredible performance. 

Changes: This year's BGT semi-finals have seen viewers watching virtually from their homes, with the judges seated two metres apart to ensure they adhering to COVID-19 guuidelines

Changes: This year’s BGT semi-finals have seen viewers watching virtually from their homes, with the judges seated two metres apart to ensure they adhering to COVID-19 guuidelines

Reunited: Judge Amanda Holden shared a socially-distanced selfie with the rest of the judging panel as the pre-filmed semi-final was aired

Reunited: Judge Amanda Holden shared a socially-distanced selfie with the rest of the judging panel as the pre-filmed semi-final was aired

Non-stop: Kicking off the show were the dance troupe Urban Turtles who got Alesha dancing in her seat with an energetic routine

Non-stop: Kicking off the show were the dance troupe Urban Turtles who got Alesha dancing in her seat with an energetic routine

After asking the dancer to choose six photographs, James asked his son Dylan – who was appearing via. Zoom – to guess what they were, which he did without hesitation. 

James then revealed that the sixth and final snap was a heartwarming image of Ashley and his baby son Micah, who was born during lockdown, and then showed that the other five snaps were perfectly arranged to spell his baby boy’s name.

Amanda Holden praised: ‘The best thing about your act is the chemistry the love and the sentiment that you bring to it and that’s what makes it stand out and that makes it a lot more meaningful.’

Moving: Next up was the father-son magic duo James and Dylan Piper who left Ashley speechless with their touching performance

Moving: Next up was the father-son magic duo James and Dylan Piper who left Ashley speechless with their touching performance

Sweet: Their showcase featured a moving reference to Ashley's newborn son Micah, who was born during lockdown, leaving the dancer stunned

Sweet: Their showcase featured a moving reference to Ashley’s newborn son Micah, who was born during lockdown, leaving the dancer stunned

Croydon-born singer Imen Siar Imen also earned universal praise from the panel for her rendition of You Say by Lauren Daigle.

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Amanda gushed: ‘Oh my goodness me that was abs phenomenal, like Simon said you made that song your own as well and that whole performance just beamed out of you like a great big golden light.’

Dancer Yakub also won over the panel with his dance inspired by The Lion King, but the schoolboy needed some reassurance to ‘believe in himself’ from the judges. 

Beautiful: Croydon-born singer Imen Siar Imen also earned universal praise from the panel for her rendition of You Say by Lauren Daigle

Beautiful: Croydon-born singer Imen Siar Imen also earned universal praise from the panel for her rendition of You Say by Lauren Daigle

Emotional: Dancer Yakub also won over the panel with his dance inspired by The Lion King

You can do it! The schoolboy needed some reassurance to 'believe in himself' from the judges

Emotional: Dancer Yakub also won over the panel with his dance inspired by The Lion King, but the schoolboy needed some reassurance to ‘believe in himself’ from the judges

Things then took a nail-biting turn when Marine James Stott risked his life by hiding in one of five different boxes hooked up to explosives, with his act ending on a heartwarming note with a sweet tribute to his veteran grandfather.

Up next were SOS From the Kids, who reminded viewers that despite the coronavirus pandemic, climate change remains an important issue, as they wowed the panel with a moving pre-recorded performance.

Teen Fayth Ifil, who received Simon’s Golden Buzzer during the auditions, proved she deserved her spot in the semi-finals with a jaw-dropping performance of Andra Day’s Stand Up For Something. 

Tense: Things then took a nail-biting turn when Marine James Stott risked his life by hiding in one of five different boxes hooked up to explosives

Tense: Things then took a nail-biting turn when Marine James Stott risked his life by hiding in one of five different boxes hooked up to explosives

It's still an issue: Up next were SOS From the Kids, who reminded viewers that despite the coronavirus pandemic, climate change remains an important issue

It’s still an issue: Up next were SOS From the Kids, who reminded viewers that despite the coronavirus pandemic, climate change remains an important issue

Incredible: Teen Fayth Ifil, who received Simon's Golden Buzzer, proved she deserved her spot in the semi-finals with a rendition of Andra Day's Stand Up For Something

Incredible: Teen Fayth Ifil, who received Simon’s Golden Buzzer, proved she deserved her spot in the semi-finals with a rendition of Andra Day’s Stand Up For Something

Following Steve’s performance Ashley reunited with Diversity for a moving performance inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which saw a huge increase in interest during lockdown following the death of George Floyd. 

Judge Ashley has stepped in for Simon Cowell after he was forced to miss the semi-finals due to a back injury. 

Simon was forced to pull out after breaking his back in a cycling accident, and after a six-hour operation has been recovering at home. 

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The music mogul has insisted producers have made the show the best it can be despite social distancing now being in place – and has even hinted he will indeed appear at the live final in October, despite being on bed rest. 

Asked ahead of the show’s semi-finals whether he worried the 2020 series was a right off, he said: ‘Yeah, for a moment! But then I thought, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

‘I just thought that if we can talk to each other all over the world on something like Zoom then there must be a way for us to do the live shows.’ 

Memorable: Following Steve's performance Ashley reunited with Diversity for a moving performance inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement

Memorable: Following Steve’s performance Ashley reunited with Diversity for a moving performance inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement

In awe: Judge Ashley has stepped in for Simon Cowell after he was forced to miss the semi-finals due to a back injury

In awe: Judge Ashley has stepped in for Simon Cowell after he was forced to miss the semi-finals due to a back injury

Simon underwent emergency surgery in America after the accident in Los Angeles earlier this month, and has been recovering after having a metal rod installed in his back. 

This year marks the first time in BGT history that the semi-finals have been pre-recorded, and has also seen changes to the way acts will advance to the final. 

Eight contestants will perform in each semi-final and the judges will choose one act to go through. The second finalist will then be chosen via public vote when the episode airs.

With safety concerns paramount, some acts will take part remotely via video link whilst others will perform in the TV studio – with the virtual audiences’ reactions then beamed into the studio on a giant screen.  

The series will then culminate with the live final, in October, where one act will triumph as Britain’s Got Talent 2020 Champion and win the life-changing £250,000 prize plus a coveted role on The Royal Variety Performance.

Britain’s Got Talent continues on Saturday at 8pm on ITV. 

Back soon: Britain's Got Talent continues on Saturday at 8pm on ITV

Back soon: Britain’s Got Talent continues on Saturday at 8pm on ITV



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