Please keep in mind that this is solely an opinion piece. The points I try to make are meant to start a healthy discussion about the issues surrounding America’s Got Talent, and not all of my hyperbole is meant to be taken seriously.
Let me just preface this article by saying that no matter what unholy words coming spouting out of my furiously typing fingers, I’m still a fan of America’s Got Talent. Though I may rant and rave about it on social media from time to time, there is something just so frustratingly endearing about the show that keeps me coming back year after year. It’s like watching the smallest, most uncoordinated player on a baseball team stepping up to the plate and striking out every time. You know they suck, but you keep holding your breath and praying that one of these days the stars will align and they’ll hit a grand slam.
I watch AGT solely for the contestants. No amount of behind the scenes drama or fake bickering will ever make me want to tune in to see what ridiculous, attention-craving dress Mel B is wearing, or how many unbuttoned shirt notches Simon Cowell is trying to get away with. No, I’m here solely to root for an act or two and see how long they can last in the competition. Once they bow out, usually I do as well, though I am pretty good at picking out acts with some strong longevity. This year my favorites are Darci Lynne, Preacher Lawson and Merrick Hanna, so if I had to guess, I’m probably going to be in this all the way to the winner’s announcement.
That all said, I have quite a number of problems with the show itself. These issues range from being over little things like how wildcards are handled, to more deep-rooted things like the domination of singing acts. With me being my benevolent self, I’ve broken down all my issues into numbered bullet points, which I have shared for your viewing pleasure below. Check them out and let me know if you disagree with me, or think I’m maybe missing something.
1- The Format– One of my biggest gripes with the show is the format in which the competition is conducted. While I’m glad AGT has been doing more of a slow-burn in the live shows with its eliminations, I still have major issues with the middle rounds and how the show has cut the wildcard performance show. Compared to season 8 when it had one ludicrous cut from 24 to 6 contestants, lately the show has been much more fair in how it handles its eliminations, so that’s a change I really welcome. On the other hand, in the shuffle to get to the point we are at now, AGT for some reason decided to do away with the wildcard round, which used to be (at least for me personally) the most heavily anticipated episode of the season. The obvious retort to this complaint is that in order for the slow-burn elimination style cuts to be possible, more weeks of competition are needed. To that, I fire back saying this season had 6 weeks of auditions! Would it be that absurd to maybe shuffle the schedule around so that we now would have 5 weeks of auditions plus a wildcard round? Oh, and as for the original Vegas middle rounds, which have since been replaced with an absurd 20 to 8 elimination style round, why try to fix something that isn’t broken? It worked fine enough, and this new format just seems like an excuse to shoehorn in the Golden Buzzer gimmick for another round.
2- The Show Has Become Incredibly Predictable – If there is anything I’ve learned from watching AGT, it’s to disregard any contestants shown in a montage in the early rounds because they won’t be sticking around for long. Dubbed “The Montages Of Death,” nothing on this show is more telling for an act’s competing longevity than being in one. While there are a few contestants that have managed to break this curse and make it to the live shows, they’re mainly used as fodder material and don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. And the predictability doesn’t stop there; the show has become pretty formulaic with its usage of the Golden Buzzer gimmick. With the show hyping up an amazing Golden Buzzer moment before every commercial break, by the time the last contestant walks on stage without it happening yet, it’s pretty apparent how things are going to go down. This shouldn’t be a problem, except it happened every time this past season for the judges picks (Heidi’s was the one exception). Also, the fact that each of the judge’s Golden Buzzer’s went to a singing act is worth a whole bullet point of it own, which I’ll get to next. I really enjoy AGT, but when the show has become so predictable, it takes out a lot of its fun.
3- The Show Is Obviously Biased Towards Singers– Ever since Simon Cowell joined AGT, it’s become more apparent than ever that the show is favorably biased towards its singing acts. While this has always been a problem in the past, it seems much more obvious this year by the fact that every single Golden Buzzer, both in auditions and the middle rounds with only a single exception, went to a singing act. All the ringers seem to be singers (hey, that rhymed!), and the show’s pool of acts have been dominated by them. I thought this was supposed to be a variety show, so why is it that I feel like if we took out the handful of remaining non-singing act we’d basically be left with a varied version of American Idol? Also, the fact that the show even allows singers who just perform cover songs has always bothered me. I’ve always been of the opinion that solo singing acts (thus exempting novelty acts and bands) should only be allowed to compete under the condition that every song they perform is an original track, because that way at least they would then kinda fit the variety standard. It seems so unfair to me that a dance group has to spend days coming up with their choreography, along with endless hours of practicing to get their timing to AGT’s impeccably perfect standards, while a singer can simply pick a song to cover off a list. They get off so easily, and making them sing originals would at least make them work a little harder and would certainly be an opportunity for them to show off some creativity. Great singers nowadays seem to be a dime a dozen, and if they just want to perform cover songs there are other great shows out there for them like The Voice or American Idol, which is currently underway running auditions across the country. It’s why I have so much respect for contestants like Mandy Harvey and Chase Goehring. Though I’m not the biggest fan of either of them, at least they bring something different to the table with their original tunes.
4- The Judges Are Annoying– Every year it’s the same old shtick from the judges, and personally its gone past the point of being endearing and become simply annoying. For example, Mel B tries in vain to come up with another “that was off the chain!” catchphrase, Heidi hates comedy acts and complains that they’re not “family material” even though she’s on an open-ended variety show, and Howie is the guy who needs to continually update the audience about how many acts are going through (WE GET IT, HOWIE! ONLY 5 ACTS ARE GOING THROUGH! GAH!). As anyone who follows my social media can attest, no judge on any reality television show bothers me more so than Howie Mandel, and I almost find myself seething every time I have to watch him play up his TV persona. The saving grace of the judge’s panel used to be Howard Stern, but with him out and Simon in, I personally find little redeeming qualities in it and am shocked to say that Mel B is my favorite of the bunch.
5- The Show Has Devolved Into Sob-Story Overkill Hell– Just about every freaking contestant this season has a sob story! I’m not joking here; it seems like a qualification to be on this show is that you need to have a tear-jerking backstory, or had your legs run over by an in-flight airplane. It just baffles me that, with a few exceptions of course, every contestant has a story that could make it as a Lifetime movie. In a way, the competition sometimes feels like the contestants are really trying to compete with whatever traumatic experience they can pull from their past to exploit for sympathy and votes. I just hate that this is what the show has come to. What ever happened to the days when we were voting for contestants on the merits of their talent and not their story? I don’t blame the contestants for the things they’ve been through of course, but rather the producers for crafting their show around the narrative that everyone needs a highlighted sob story. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post about American Idol, a sob story or two a season isn’t a bad thing, “they’re a great way for people to form an emotional connection with the hopeful, and usually result in the exposure helping them out with whatever problem they are dealing with. However, when they are done to such an excessive degree it turns off the audience and makes them cynical to all of the sob story contestants as a whole.” I think the way the AGT fanbase is reacting to them this season is a prime example of this happening, and I just feel like no contestant deserves that hate or treatment because it isn’t their fault. If the fans want to blame anyone for this, point their fingers at the producers and don’t take it out on the contestants.
6- Wildcards On The Show Are Always Used As Fodder– Though this issue does have some exceptions (Steven Brundage is one that comes to mind), I’ve still always taken issue with how the producers handle their wildcard selections. The way they choose to go about doing them is all wrong, and they never seem to bring back acts that we actually want to see. For example, this year the wildcards were Final Draft (who?), Oskar and Gaspar (what? I mean, they were a pleasant surprise, but why them?), and Bello Nock, who was the only one of the three deserving of a second chance. Would it kill you guys to bring back some deserving acts like Jeki Yoo, Jokgu The Piano-Playing Chicken (ALL HAIL KING JOKGU), or Henry Richardson? Deep down I know this is because they want less competition for their chosen ones and are looking for acts simply to be one of the numbers to go home, but still it’s something that’s always bugged me. I say, let your favorites fight against the best for the title and earn their win!
7- The Show Has Become Overproduced And Wastes To Much Time On Nonsense– A performance episode of AGT doesn’t need to be 2 hours long, but for some reason producers love overproducing their product and filling it with nonsense that no one wants to see. What they fail to recognize is that spending so much time on intro packages, and cringe-inducing skits involving Howie Mandel, takes away precious time that could have gone to the acts actually performing. 90 seconds is nowhere near enough time, and having such limitations really hinders an act, such as with the comedians. I say, cut the filler and thus the runtime by a half an hour, give each of the acts three minutes or more to perform, and let’s call it a day. Of all my points though, this is the one thing I feel producers would never change.
8- Producers Clearly Have Favorites That They Push– Last season Grace VanderWaal was the clear producer’s favorite to win, and this year Darci Lynne has taken up that role. Why do I say this? Well, because it’s obvious, what with how the show has been promoting them and the fact that each time they have appeared on an episode it’s always been in the pimp spot or the one before that. Nothing against either of them, as they are both spectacularly talented, but when they are seen as such clear favorites it makes the rest of the season seem like a forgone conclusion and a fight for second place for everyone else. The show has promoted the hell out of these two acts, and I just wish the producers were more ambiguous with their favorites so that a season doesn’t have to feel like simply a victory march for them.
So those are all of my thoughts, what do you think? Who are you rooting for this season? How many times in the next performance show do you think Howie Mandel will remind us how many contestants will go through? Let me know in the comments below!
Until we meet again in another post, later! 🙂