Gordon Farrer June 07, 2012
Australia's Got Talent judges (from left) Brian McFadden, Dannii Minogue and Kyle Sandilands.
Show of the week: Australia's Got Talent, Channel Seven, Wednesday, 7.30pm
IN THE world of talent shows, The Voice is like a university exam. It focuses on perfection, on getting the highest marks, on honing a skill and laying the foundation for a serious long-term career. MasterChef is the kitchen equivalent. It tests the breadth of an aspirant's culinary expertise to determine who deserves the keys to their dream career. Nothing wrong with that; there's great appeal in aiming high and demanding excellence to ensure the competing wannabes are worthy of the rewards and accolades they seek.
But there's a po-faced seriousness, a fundamental earnestness to the process and approach to these shows, that overwhelms their occasional lighter moments. In contrast, Australia's Got Talent is a rambunctious carnival, a cavalcade of colour and movement and thrilling risk-taking that leaves the audience and judges wide-eyed and gasping.
Watching it is like walking through a fairground with so many astonishing spectacles on every side you don't know where to look. In this tent are extraordinary dance crews and acrobat troupes, such as Odyssey and Outside the Box, a cross between Circus Oz and the Bangarra Dance Theatre. In that tent are the ethereal-voiced opera-singing mums Divalicious, the 17-year-old Michael Buble incarnation Rhys Tolhurst, and the sublime Andrew de Silva - all of whom would blow away half the top talent on The Voice.
Sprinkled among these acts we find Jagger, the nine-year-old who drums like a whirling dervish; Larger Than Life, a kids' band judge Brian McFadden dubbed ''a little Black-Eyed Peas''; the Divine Knights, a self-confessed ''acquired taste'' who spoof Euro electro-dance acts; and the Space Cowboy, an extreme-stunts performer who one week has motorcycles riding across his stomach and the next is balancing blindfolded on top of a four-metre unicycle, juggling a bunch of scimitars. And that's not to mention the yodelling drag queen, Pacific Island transvestite dance ensemble Runway or drier-than-dust stand-up comedian Luke Heggie.
The standout act so far: George and Noriko. George Kamikawa is a long-time Melbourne bluegrass busker who teamed up a few years ago with Noriko Tadano, who teaches and plays the shamisen, a Japanese instrument that looks like a long-necked three-stringed lute, which she bangs away at with a paint scraper. Last week they performed an original bluesy-Japanese fusion number with George on the lap guitar, harmonica and drums, and Noriko in traditional Japanese garb twanging away like some sort of metal lead guitarist. Gloriously quirky and original, they are a must-see. Check it out on YouTube if you missed it. The Voice and MasterChef lack this kind of free-flowing energy, edginess and variety.
As the show works its way through the semis in the lead-up to the grand final, we can only marvel that after six seasons there's still so much talent out there. For me, variety is still king.