By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 5/28/14 – The strategy for NBC is clear. Don’t give the audience time to catch their breath. Hot on the heels of last week’s The Voice finale’, we have America’s Got Talent. And the show’s got chemistry as well. The four judges (led by comic Howie Mandel) have an easy, sassy rapport. They argue, debate and squabble like a real family. And, give kudos to any show that can tame Howard Stern to be your eccentric, mensch uncle for one hour of prime time family viewing per week.
America’s Got Talent built its brand on the glitzy, celebrity judge appeal of American Idol. But its roots go deeper than that. Its antecedent is the 1970’s small scale amateur competition, The Gong Show, where contestants who were not ready for primetime could be loudly buzzed off in humiliation. However, that’s where the similarities end. America’s Got Talent is The Gong-Show on steroids with a dash of methamphetamines for flavor. It’s also worth mentioning the $1,000,000 dollar purse for the winner.
America’s Got Talent also harkens back to the primetime network variety shows of the 1950’s and 1960’s. You could tune into Ed Sullivan and see a comic, a plate spinner, a puppet show and The Beatles. It’s a testimony to human evolution that the majority of acts seen on the Tuesday night premiere eclipses pretty much any novelty act you would stumble upon during the 20th Century heyday of the Big Three networks NBC, CBS and ABC.
The acts on Tuesday ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime; from a hand balancer who worked without a net and had the judges ready to duck and cover, to a multi-media dance duo, who (with five days preparation) delivered a moving, nuanced performance that blurred the distinction between the physical and virtual world. Mixed among the fledgling super-talents, you have your assortment of oddities, misfits and a 93 year old strong man who pulled a car full of relatives with his teeth.
America does indeed have talent, and NBC has the vehicle to present that talent to the world. They also have their time slot locked down tight and are ready to face down all comers.
The Hollywood Times, TCA and other publications recently had the opportunity to speak with producer, Jason Raff, Judge Mel B., Judge Howie Mandel, Judge Heidi Klum, Host Nick Cannon, and executive producer Sam Donnelly.
Judge Heidi Klum talked about format changes for this new season, Heidi Klum: “We have a golden buzzer. Normally we all have a red buzzer, so if we don’t like an act, we can buzz. But now, every judge as the opportunity to save someone. So if someone gets three X’s, they’re automatically out. So if you believe in that person that much, you can hit the golden buzzer, but only one time throughout the whole season.”
Howie Mandel spoke about another significant change to the format of the show Howie Mandei: “We, as judges are only doing the auditions in New York and L.A. So whereas an act might have been comfortable when we used to go to Kansas or Portland or whatever……they would be in their hometown. They’re going to be onstage here at the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards are. So it’s already their first time out, it’s an epic experience, much bigger.”
Host Nick Cannon elaborated on the New York and L.A. aspect of the audition process, Nick Cannon: “Yeah, you’re great in your hometown, but are you great when you’re amongst everyone in L.A. and New York? Personally, I know we say this every season, but I’ve never seen better talent that this season right now.