There is a new show on NBC called America’s Got Talent. I am very happy to have variety arts on TV, but there are some real problems with America’s Got Talent.

I’ll warn you now… this is a pretty massive rant.

First: They made the decision to not hire qualified judges.

The judges are:
– Brandy: an R&B/Pop singer. She’s great for the singers, but she doesn’t seem to have her own opinion on anything else, and is easily swayed by the other two judges.

– David Hasslehoff: an American Pop singer who is not popular in his own country, so he has no handle on the cultural tastes here where the show is being done. He is not famous for being a great actor, he is famous for being a campy actor who takes himself very seriously. So I don’t think his acting career gives him any credibility as a judge, in fact, I think it takes credibility away. As for the music… you’re just going to have to ask the Germans. It makes no sense to me.

– Piers Morgan: a journalist. That’s it. As far as I can tell, his only qualification is that he knows Simon Cowell, the producer, and he is willing to voice his opinion. I don’t care how many famous people he knows, according to his bio on the NBC website, he has no experience in the entertainment industry other than creating some unrelated television shows.

At least from the first show, the judges have massive biases that are in some cases contradictory to evaluating variety entertainers.

– David Hasslehoff hates jugglers. This first one irks me especially since I am a juggler. Although he did like Vladik, he HATED Ivan Pecel even after Ivan got a standing ovation from the studio audience. Once again, not in touch with American culture.

– Piers Morgan seems to hate anything that is intentionally ridiculous. He consistently hit his buzzer anytime anyone did something to the effect of putting underwear on their head. It’s as if he’s afraid that liking something ridiculous will make him seem like a child and no one will respect him anymore.

This next point is pretty nebulous, but I got the feeling that unlike the judges on American Idol, who for the most part were correct and fair, with the judges on America’s Got Talent it was all about them. I can’t give any solid evidence to this, but their comments rarely seemed selfless, and it felt like they thought we should all be really thankful that we have them as judges to keep out all the wretched hacks.

Second: America’s Got Talent’s casting call was malicious. They asked for anyone and everyone to audition, and even gave the impression to a lot of people that they weren’t looking for professional acts to apply. I only found out that they were looking for pro acts by calling and asking them. Apparently at some point they realized this error though because they spent a lot of time calling entertainers as audition time got closer.

After seeing the first show we can see why the casting call was malicious. The only reason they wanted amateurs to audition is so that they could have someone to mock on national television. I understand that’s what makes good TV, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s clear after seeing the first show that what they really wanted all along was a professional, polished, big exciting act that is ready to go.

Finally: My last point it the thing that makes me more angry than anything else. They don’t even watch the acts. They’ve gone to all this trouble of auditioning, bringing people out to the theater they rented, paying techs, advertising, and on and on, and then they buzz someone after 10 seconds. On several occasions it wasn’t even clear what the person was going to do yet. I realize that some of this may just be in the editing, but there is no way for us to know that for sure. To me it just looks like they are intentionally being callous and condescending to make the show seem edgy.

All of this adds up to me being extremely glad I didn’t audition to go on the show. It was a hard decision. I wasn’t sure if I was just being a baby at first, until I looked at the possible outcomes.

Even in the best-case scenario I know from watching American Idol and 30 Seconds to Fame that my act couldn’t possibly win, it’s too low-key. So best-case is that I get some good press and a great line on my resume. But even if I could win, of course I would love to have a million dollars, but for many reasons I’m not going to get into, this is the wrong time in my life to have a show in Vegas.

I do the audition, and make a mistake (as we all do on occasion). I don’t get on the show, but they use the footage of my screw-up on every commercial, and every promo, and in the opener of every show (just like they are now doing with a juggler and a giant balloon guy). Lots of people see it, and for a while I am known as the guy who can’t do his own show, AND I don’t get paid for my time, AND I have to turn down work to make time for the audition.

To me the worst-case is not only far more likely, but also a lot more bad than the best-case is good. After watching the show once I knew that I had made the right decision.

All in all, I’m glad that there are variety artists on TV, I’m glad that some of my friends made it on to the second round, and I suspect that the show will be good for all entertainers because it will get the general public thinking about us; and that will probably help business for everyone. And when it comes right down to it, I’m still going to watch the show.