Howard Stern didn’t ruin television as we know it last night on America’s Got Talent. But it wasn’t for lack of trying – at least on the part of the show’s producers and editors.
While shock jock/new judge Stern was largely well-behaved on the amateur talent show, several acts were aimed squarely at testing him – as if to bring out the bad side of Stern. But what are you going to do? Stern is AGT’s new gimmick, the hired gun who will bring a whole new audience to the familiar talent format.
Even in America’s Got Talent’s heavily-edited opening, he was set up as the new “bad judge” – appearing to the strains of the Stones’ ”Sympathy for the Devil” while bragging that “I know what America wants. And quite frankly, I’m the only American on the whole damn panel.”
Okay. That’s technically true I suppose…
Of course, the real Howard Stern is a lot different from his outrageous image. When the show finally got down to judging the talent, Stern was largely polite and fair. He was nowhere near as mean as former judge Piers Morgan, who once advised a teen singer to dump her lifelong friends on stage in favour of money and fame. Howard would never do that. If he has nastiness in him, it was just a talked-about rumour that never made an appearance last night.
But, again, it wasn’t for a lack of trying on the part of the show. The awkward opening act was a horrible magician/stripper that allowed Stern to offer up a penis joke which he eventually turned on himself. And there was a tiny bit of mean in Stern’s repeated jabs at fellow judge Mandel for his well-documented germ phobia (Ha! He’s got a mental illness. That’s so hilarious!).
But for the most part, Stern proved a good fit – contrasting Howie Mandel’s weirdness and Sharon Osborne’s “everyone deserves to win” approach. Once the novelty of him sitting there ended, the focus returned to the talent. When Stern did have an outburst – like when he was insulted by some horrible singer – his response was understandable. “Get off my stage!”
So it’s your stage? Well, you are the King of All Media I suppose.
Once the initial opening segment of crap acts were done, the show settled into its familiar format – contrasting the bad (a singer covered in birds/A guy who holds scorpions in his mouth/Simply Sergio), with the very good (A guy who turned the whole theater into an instrument).
If there were any changes to the show this year, it was some more segments off-stage, when the judges were allowed to “discuss” the show they just endured. And like Canada’s Got Talent, the approach seems to be that the louder, crazier the audience, the better. It was like the crowd had been locked in a dark cellar their whole life. Dial it back a little, people. It’s a TV show. And not even an original one.
Still, it is what it is. And at its worst, the show tends to be at its best. America’s Got Talent? Not so much. But that’s okay. That would be boring.