“This is more fun than any show I’ve done,” Dicko says of Australia’s Got Talent.
And he should know.
For a faded record exec Dicko has done more shows than even he cares to admit: Australian Idol, World Idol, My Restaurant Rules, Celebrity Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, The Next Great American Band, Celebrity Apprentice, Can of Worms and Young Talent Time.
“When I was on Idol I felt a huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders because I was looking for an artist to take back to BMG Records,” he insists.
“My ego told me that I had to try and carry a show, but I don’t really feel that now. I don’t feel like the star of a show, I’m part of an ensemble. Maybe it’s because finally my ego is a little bit more in check.
“So I feel a lot more relaxed about this.”
Now joining Eddie Perfect, Kelly Osbourne and Sophie Monk in Nine’s revived variety talent series, Dicko remains the most senior and experienced member on the panel.
“I have to say this judging panel clicked pretty quickly, in terms of how things should flow,” he notes.
“I thought I was reasonably astute as a judge, certainly when it comes to singing talent. But I must admit I’ve said my piece on this show and then listened to what Eddie’s said, and thought ‘Shit, why didn’t I see that?’
“I think he’s incredibly smart. He sees things that I don’t. I get a bit intimidated by his talent. And he’s such a lovely bloke, incredibly generous and I think he’s surprised himself. He speaks to the trendy, lefty-ABC crowd as much as any, the ‘fringe’ crowd if you like. But I think a lot of his fans will be surprised that he’s on a shiny-floor primetime show. He actually said how surprised he was at the lessons this show has taught him: the humanity that gets pushed up in front of you. He didn’t really expect to laugh and cry as much as he did, I think.
“Sophie does have foot-in-mouth disease and is the most wonderfully and innocently-inappropriate person. Some of her assessments are far-more blunt than I could ever be.
“Kelly is really feisty. She comes from ‘royalty’ and as such she likes to get her own way, I think. So her and I have probably clashed a little bit. There’s no malice, I’m enormously fond of her and really proud of what she’s done.
“She has a lot of Ozzy’s (Osbourne) spontaneity and craziness, and she doesn’t give a shit. But she also has the smarts of her mum as well.”
“I didn’t want this to be a ‘back door’ for singers”
Auditions were filmed in Melbourne before an audience at Her Majesty’s Theatre, while Finals will be filmed in Sydney. AGT, which has previously uncovered acts including Justice Crew, Cosentino, Mark Vincent, Bonnie Anderson, Timomatic, Jack Vidgen and Taylor Henderson, welcomes all skills and all ages.
“It’s not about getting people who have come out of Conservatoriums. This is ‘party piece” stuff,” he explains.
“It’s Music Hall. What our grandparents used to do before Television -go along and see Variety.
“Would you believe someone decided to do a cat act? Everybody knows humans can’t train cats. Cats train humans. So that was really awkward because the cat wasn’t having a bar of it.
“But I think we’ve seen two world-class comedy acts, which I was surprised at because comedy is quite hard to do in this environment.”
Musical acts, however, come under extra scrutiny from the former record exec.
“I didn’t want this to be a ‘back door’ for singers who didn’t want to try their hand at the others.
“But I think we have about 3 brilliant, brilliant musical acts who would absolutely punch their weight on the other two shows.”
But while it invariably unearths ‘suburban party pieces’ does it always work on TV or is it a ‘you-had-to-be-there’ moment?
“You have mad uncle Reg who always plays the spoons at Christmas, and it would seem like something that shouldn’t be on national television. But some acts have real charm, so the filter is really simple for me: did that entertain me and do I want to see it again?” he asks.
“There’s a podgy Indian taxi driver in his mid 40s from a small, country town, who does the most fantastically-awkward Michael Jackson dance. It brought the house down and it was joyous. There was another guy from Brazil whose talent was simply shaking. I’d never heard of that before.”
“It’s a different offer, isn’t it?”
And in the game of television there’s no escaping Australia’s Got Talent has been axed twice, once by Seven and once by Nine who are now reviving it with host Dave Hughes.
For all the fun and frivolity, the show is up against some serious competition from both TEN and Seven.
“Up against My Kitchen Rules it’s a different offer, isn’t it?” Dicko suggests.
“And you don’t have to follow a narrative. You can just sit there and be entertained.
“The show looks great, there’s a great team behind it, the cast is awesome, and there are some brilliant characters coming through.
“That’s all you can do isn’t it?
“Then it’s in the lap of the TV gods.”
Australia’s Got Talent returns 7:30pm Monday February 1 on Nine.