18.5 mil tune in to ITV's 'Talent' final

Runner-up Susan Boyle taken to a private clinic

LONDON -- ITV earned its biggest television audience in nearly five years as 18.5 million viewers tuned in Saturday night to watch Susan Boyle suffer an upset defeat at the hands of Essex all-boy dance-troupe Diversity in the final of "Britain's Got Talent."

The gripping finale brought to an end a week in which ITV's share price rallied to its best point in six months and the network saw ratings soar on the back of the "Talent" semifinals, which were stripped across the week.

But the network's triumph has been marred by increasing controversy over the strain its performers are put under and worries over whether or not children or vulnerable adults can cope with the intense public and media scrutiny that comes with performing on the show.

The news came Monday that Boyle, who suffers from learning difficulties, had been taken to a London clinic under police escort over the weekend, and had been assessed by doctors under the Mental Health Act following increasingly erratic behavior after losing in the final of the show.

Boyle, a 47-year old spinster from Scotland, was reported to be suffering from increasing strain during the seven-week run up to the semi-final week as pressure mounted on her to repeat the performance that wowed millions of viewers around the world.

Her audition piece, in which she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables," has been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube.

Judge Piers Morgan was forced to take to the airwaves to defend the show, but was candid about the pressure Boyle was under.

"Susan is finding it very, very difficult to cope, and to stay calm. She has been in tears many times during the last few days, and even, fleetingly, felt like quitting the show altogether at one point and fleeing all the attention," Morgan said.

Earlier in the week, children's charities criticized the show producers when 10-year-old Hollie Steele broke down in tears during a semi-final performance of "Eidelweiss," saying that children should not be exposed to the brutality of the public process.

In a statement Monday, "Talent" producers Talkback Thames said Boyle had been advised by doctors to take a break from fame.

"Following Saturday night's show, Susan is exhausted and emotionally drained. She has been seen by her private GP who supports her decision to take a few days out for rest and recovery," the producer said in a statement. "We offer her our ongoing support and wish her a speedy recovery."
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