Ever since David Walliams and creative partner Matt Lucas had the sense to retire their hit comedy show once it had become a catalogue of diminishing returns - all tired catchphrases and excuses to dress in the same drag - it's been hard to pin Walliams down. Despite critical acclaim for his turn as Frankie Howerd in BBC4 drama, his over-expressive face makes him hard to visualise as a straight actor. And, although he is a professed authority on all things James Bond, it'll be a very brave man who puts odds on him ever playing 007.
But the last couple of years have seen him sneak into the room marked 'National Treasures' - helped by an astonishingly valiant charity swim the length of the Thames, and marriage, jaw-dropping to many, to supermodel Lara Stone.
And now, judging by last night's season debut, it seems he's sealed the deal with the British public's affections, with his show-stealing gig on Britain's Got Talent. Here are five reasons why Walliams has come home...
1. THE LOOK
All too often, we've been subjected to Walliams' complete lack of self-consciousness when it comes to dropping his clothes with not always pleasant results. Saturday night's show told a different story. His bespoke suit was cut to within an inch of its life, the collar was spotless, and the ensemble was an effective contrast to Simon Cowell's ruffled, T-shirted affair. Slick hair and porcelain skin completed his metrosexual presentation.
2. THE BROMANCE
The girls Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden frankly shouldn't have bothered going into makeup, the camera was on them so little on Saturday's show. It was all about the burgeoning relationship between Walliams and Cowell, a mixture of flirting on Walliams' part, visible discomfort on Cowell's, equal attempts at one-upmanship and finally Walliams winning Cowell round with his contagious sense of fun. He's the puppy running around Cowell's legs, and who can resist a happy Labrador? As he said last night, "I feel like I've found my family at last..."
3. THE REPARTEE
Walliams is much quicker than erstwhile judge Piers Morgan, and has his finger firmly on the zeitgeist, unlike the wide-eyed David Hasselhoff. Last night saw a gay couple have a twirl to You Raise Me Up. When Cowell expressed his concern that the small man was lifting the taller one, Walliams was quick to retort: "It's good to be equal." He couldn't resist adding: "You know if we danced together, Simon..." at which point he was swiftly cut off, but not before he'd got his dancing duo through to the next round.
4. THE SENTIMENT
I don't think there's ever been any doubt that David Walliams is in touch with his feminine side, but such sentimental credibility gives him the right to come over all misty-eyed during a performance by a 122-strong choir of Welsh teenagers - without the pound signs you see twinkling in Cowell's big brown blinkers.
5. THE KNOWLEDGE
Walliams is attached to this kind of end-of-the-pier, nothing-to-lose entertainment, arguably more than any other judge in the history of the show. As he has proved in his own various get-ups from Little Britain onwards, nothing is too outlandish to tickle him, unlike the more conservative Cowell, and the ladies who, whatever they claim, always take their lead from the ringmaster.
This was made clear during one unique act on Saturday's show, the Evanescence warblings of German Dennis Egal, who felt the occasion warranted a gold lame outfit, shower cap included, but whose piece de resistance was four insect-like wings that extended half way across the stage as the act reached its climax. When Walliams boomed how much he liked it, he was believable, possibly even in an unironic way, and that kind of engagement with the contestants can provide magic that even the producers' international chequebook can't often buy. Which, of course, Cowell's smart enough to know. Which is why, with a rise of his bushy brows, Cowell once again allowed Walliams to have his way.
WATCH: Dennis Egal leaves every BGT judge speechless... except David Walliams:
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