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Richard Bacon presents a new series helping people to unlock their previously hidden talents and skills

About the Show

Richard Bacon presents a new series helping people to unlock their previously hidden talents and skills

Series 1 Summary

How far can natural talent really go and what if it could change your life? Hidden Talent discovers people with extraordinary hidden talents they never dreamed they had.

Hundreds of randomly selected people are put through a series of tests to identify those with hidden abilities and nine participants discover if they can go from being a total novice to a top-class performer in record time.

Presenter Richard Bacon follows their progress, uncovering the amazing science that enables these individuals to achieve what others can only dream of.

  • Episode 1

    The first episode focuses on rock climbing and lie detection.

    After experts test members of the general public in both physical and mental capacities, they narrow their search down to find the individuals that they believe have the greatest potential to excel in each field.

    The 10 finalists in rock climbing are put through a series of tasks by world-class climbing coach Martin Chester, testing their agility, ease with heights, leadership qualities and communication skills.

    Maggie, a 45-year-old nurse and grandmother, is selected to take her new-found skill even further by receiving one-on-one training ahead of her final challenge: to ascend the 200ft Old Man of Stoer sea stack in Scotland, the base of which can only be reached by abseiling across the turbulent sea, and which normally takes years of training to attempt.

    Only one in 400 people can spot a liar with any degree of accuracy. After hundreds of volunteers are tested on their ability to read body language and identify the liars as people respond to a series of questions, Brenda, a 63-year-old retiree who previously owned a wedding boutique, emerges as the most successful 'human lie detector' with a remarkable 80% accuracy rate.

    To develop her natural talent, Brenda travels to the US for a two-day crash course in interrogation techniques and reading body language. Her Hidden Talent experts are ex-FBI agents Jack Schafer and Joe Navarro, who between them have over 40 years' experience in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.

    Brenda learns the skills that usually take years to hone to an expert standard, and for her final challenge, she must interview five people to determine which of them has taken a bag containing £500 from a room they have all entered independently.

  • Episode 2

    The second episode looks for someone with the physical and mental capacity to succeed in the international free-diving arena, and an individual who, with no previous artistic training, can spot a masterpiece in a room full of fakes.

    Once the 12 finalists in the free-diving tests are selected, top instructor Emma Farrell observes each candidate to see who has the best biological and psychological aptitude for the sport.

    A small amount of people have an advanced mammalian diving reflex, which enables them to hold their breath for upwards of four minutes and dive to a depth of over 60 metres without scuba gear.

    After the participants have had their natural skills tested in a freezing quarry, 28-year-old Roxanne Messenger, an art director at an advertising agency, is selected to undertake further one-on-one training to push her newfound talent as far as it will go.

    Although Roxanne has never considered herself sporty and was, until recently, overweight, she faces the challenge head-on as she receives intensive training from Emma, ahead of her final diving challenge.

    As she travels to Egypt, Roxanne is taken under the wing of Marco Nones, one of the best free-diving instructors in the world. With only weeks to master this complex skill, can Roxanne learn fast enough to compete with professional free-divers?

    Lee Yenson, who has always worked in a tractor factory, has never set foot in an art gallery and never considered a career in art.

    But one of the Hidden Talent test days reveals that he has a keen eye for art, after he attains an exceptional score in the 'aesthetic appreciation' test - he scores higher than many people who work in the art world.

    Lee says he fell into working in the tractor industry, having struggled since school to find his direction in life.

    Art expert Professor Matthew Kieran gives Lee intensive training in all aspects of art, from theories of composition to depth of field, before he undertakes his final challenge.

    After a day's training, Lee's challenge is to identify a multi-million-pound Monet masterpiece in a room of fakes, some of which were created by art forger John Myatt, who was involved in what was said to be the biggest art fraud of the 20th century.

    Will Lee's lack of artistic experience let him down, or can he conquer his doubts and use his natural potential to identify the real work of art?

  • Episode 3

    In the third programme in the series, the tests are designed to seek out one extraordinarily talented - but unknowing - linguist, whose way with words could change their life.

    Three language experts - Dr Radia Kesseiri, Lecturer in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Leeds; Dr Anil Biltoo, Coordinator of Less Widely Taught Languages and a language teacher at the School of Oriental And African studies; and Major Eddie Trowbridge, The Defence School of Languages - all tested groups of people from across the UK using the MLAT (Modern Languages Aptitude Test), which requires participants to have no prior knowledge of foreign languages other than school level, ensuring only those with a natural talent for languages come through.

    For the next test they are challenged by the language experts to work a shift as waiters in a Turkish-speaking restaurant, after only a day of Turkish lessons. The five hopefuls are thrown into the lunchtime service, tasked with recalling the menus and greetings they've learned and serving the correct food orders. It's a tall order.

    The experts monitor their progress to see how well they perform under pressure and whether they have the practical skills to learn a complex language.

    Surprisingly, it's 19-year-old James Whinnery, an A level drop-out, who impresses the experts and wins the chance to unlock his linguistic ability learning one of the world's most complex languages - Arabic.

    When James came to the Hidden Talent test days he was living in a homeless hostel after falling out with his mother.

    Having dropped out of his studies and with no full-time job, it's a huge opportunity for James as he's thrown into learning this extremely different language, not in the two or three years it takes most talented linguists to become fluent in Arabic, but in just 19 weeks.

    Faced with this exciting but hugely daunting prospect, James takes on tasks such as ordering in Arabic in a restaurant, driving around London using an Arabic-speaking sat-nav, memorising nearly 100 words a day and getting to grips with a strange new alphabet and pronunciation.

    During his training, James also reveals that this opportunity means much more to him than learning a new language: it is a chance for him to prove his true potential to himself and his family.

    Nearing the final stages, James travels to Jordan to immerse himself in Middle Eastern culture and prepare for the ultimate challenge: a live interview on Jordanian breakfast television after only 19 weeks of learning Arabic.

    But as the stress mounts, James struggles with old demons; he's anxious about failing and about his family situation. Will he crack under the pressure or pull off this unbelievable ask and open up a potentially different future?

  • Episode 4

    The Hidden Talent experts look for two very different abilities: the natural aptitude for becoming an opera singer and the inbuilt instinct to navigate through the wilderness without a map or a compass.

    To find a potential opera singer, Musical Director Stuart Barr puts the participants through a range of singing tests to objectively find someone with the magic combination of range, power and resonance to sing opera.

    Out of almost 600 people, 34-year-old charity contracts manager Jayson Khun-Dkar emerges with the hidden talent to be an opera singer. It's a total surprise for someone who can't read music and has had no formal musical training.

    For Jayson it's the chance of a lifetime and 'better than winning the lottery because the lottery is just money.' To help Jayson hone his potential, Stuart Barr enlists the help of operatic legend Joy Mammen, who has sung with the best in the business, including Pavarotti.

    Alongside daily singing lessons, Jayson learns Italian and works out in the gym. Joy and Stuart's ultimate goal is for Jayson to audition for award-winning operatic production La Boheme in only five months, something that can take years of training to achieve.

    As the training intensifies, Jayson's shyness threatens to overshadow his natural ability. Can he overcome his inhibitions and will his voice be up to the standard of a professional baritone?

    As Jayson has to train hard to realise his natural potential, the experts search for a much more instinctive ability - to naturally navigate through the remotest landscapes.

    Five hundred people took two cutting-edge tests overseen by neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers. The tests reveal ten candidates who had no idea they had a natural talent for navigation.

    None was more surprised than 26-year-old science teacher Adele Reah, who admits to frequently getting lost in the country lanes near her home.

    Adele's childhood dream was to be an RAF pilot but her arms were too short. She reapplied to be a navigator but again her arms were considered too short. Could finding her hidden talent for navigation prove this was a missed opportunity?

    Adele's final challenge is to navigate between two points 11 kilometres apart in North Wales, across rough terrain and in unpredictable weather with only her instincts to guide her.

  • Episode 5

    The series sets out to find two people with mental abilities they never knew they had.

    The first is someone with an exceptional talent for multi-tasking; someone whose brain can do two or more very demanding tasks simultaneously. Scientists call these 'super-taskers'.

    The candidates sit two tests involving answering maths questions while remembering words and carrying out other tasks on computer screens. Overseeing them is neuropsychologist Dr Jo Iddon. Six finalists emerge, including a barmaid, a shelf-stacker and a call-centre worker.

    They're invited to a state-of-the-art driving simulator where they're asked to answer maths questions, memorise and recall words and drive at the same time. To run the test Dr Jo Iddon enlists the help of US academic Professor David Strayer.

    Twenty-seven-year-old track cyclist Cassie Gledhill gets the highest score Professor Strayer has ever seen. The ultimate test of Cassie's new-found talent is a real-world scenario doing one of the toughest multi-tasking jobs there is.

    Cassie will work as an ambulance crew dispatcher. After a three-day intensive course that normally takes three weeks, Cassie works a shift co-ordinating ambulance crews on a busy Friday night in Birmingham. Within minutes she deals with a deluge of emergency calls.

    Will Cassie's super-tasking ability cope or will her senior supervisor have to step in and take over?

    In the next search, Hidden Talent looks for someone with a rare ability to never forget a face. The latest scientific research has discovered that two per cent of us are super-recognisers who can remember faces they've only ever seen once, sometimes many years later.

    Candidates sit two tests overseen by neuropsychologist Dr Ashok Jansari. In the first test, candidates identify celebrities from their childhood photographs and in the second they must memorise and later identify computer-generated faces that become increasingly obscure.

    Three exceptional finalists emerge: 19-year-old graphic-design student Richard, legal clerk Charlie and business student Higo, who grew up in the slums of Brazil where he claims remembering faces was key to survival.

    For the final test the three are brought to one of the country's busiest train stations - London's Liverpool Street - where 15 actors are dressed in identical hooded sweatshirts and beanie hats and asked to mingle among the hurrying crowds.

    Each candidate has just seconds to spot the actors and memorise their faces. Later they have to pick out the faces they've seen from a line-up of 20 people. Who will have the talent to be a super-recogniser?

  • Episode 6

    The series finale catches up with some of the amazing individuals who found their hidden talents to discover how the experience has changed their lives, and includes unseen footage of their extraordinary journeys.

    Nineteen-year-old James Whinnery showed he had a remarkable hidden talent for learning languages - a surprise for James, who didn't have a GCSE in French, had dropped out of his A-levels and was living in a homeless hostel after falling out with his mother.

    James's challenge was to learn Arabic in just 19 weeks. James flourished at his final challenge and was interviewed live on Jordanian television for 20 minutes, speaking fluent Arabic.

    Six months later Hidden Talent visits James in Birmingham to find out how his linguistic ability 'saved his life' and learn about his new language studies. James's mother also gives a moving interview about how her son has changed.

    Roxanne Messenger discovered she had the biological make-up to become a competition-level free-diver, despite having recently weighed 17 stone and having never considered herself sporty.

    The 28-year-old's final challenge was to compete in an international free-diving competition in Egypt after just four months' training. In just a few weeks, Roxanne could hold her breath for over four minutes and dive to 30 metres. But as the competition grew nearer, the pressure became too great.

    Six months on, the team meet up with her as she attempts to dive for the first time since her ill-fated trip to Egypt. Will she re-discover the joy of free-diving? She also speaks about her new career change and how her hidden talent has changed her physically and mentally.

    Forty-five-year-old nurse Maggie Reenan proved she had the natural ability to be a climber. Her final challenge was to scale perilous 60-metre sea-stack The Old Man of Stoer after only 18 days' training.

    This is an opportunity to see what Maggie's been doing since and follow her as she takes her children rock climbing to see if her natural talent runs in the family. Maggie's new-found passion has had such an impact on her that she plans to move to the country to pursue climbing further.

    The film also reveals how being a 'human sat-nav' has inspired science teacher Adele Reah to teach her pupils to ditch the sat nav and use their brains instead.

Hidden Talent synopsis

Richard Bacon presents a new series helping people to unlock their previously hidden talents and skills

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6 Episodes