In June 2006, a competition show premiered on NBC, ostensibly to compete with the hugely popular American Idol. It was hosted by Regis Philbin with judges David Hasslehoff, Brandy, and a controversial British tabloid journalist named Piers Morgan. The show was called America’s Got Talent, and it is profoundly surprising that 7 years later, after so many changes, it’s still doing well. None of the original cast is on the show anymore, with the most noticeable change coming this season. Piers Morgan is no longer at the judges table. I have seen at least a few episodes of every season since the show started. Morgan, who started out as a blatant Simon Cowell imitator, was the one constant. As the years went on, he development his own (albeit still antagonistic) style. With him gone, I didn’t know what to expect this season. I will say unequivocally that Howard Stern, with his experience in the entertainment industry and reaching out to audiences, was a very good choice as a replacement. I do believe he will do well this season. However, as a somewhat loyal viewer from the beginning, I am going to miss his predecessor.
The show has been at its best since Nick Cannon took over as host in Season 4 because he had a far more captivating presence and higher energy level than the previous two hosts, Regis Philbin and Jerry Springer. It concerns me that his enjoyable quarreling rapport with Morgan can now longer be part of the show. Morgan had a reputation of being harsh with the buzzer, while Cannon was known to defend the acts. It made for especially good TV when Cannon would walk out onto the stage during the audition process to stick up for the entertaining untalented acts. Cannon would enthusiastically shout “Hit the track!” and continue an atrocious singing or dancing act, ensuring that even the disgraced contestant would have a good time. Last season, Cannon was relentlessly pulling for karaoke artist Udi Abgagnale, so the judges just left the studio, so they didn’t have to listen as Cannon, Abagnale, and the crowd kept singing “Hot Hot Hot.” Morgan just asked the camera incredulously, “Do you see what’s going on with Nick Cannon?” Who’s decided Udi is the hit of the show.” That was good television. The best interactions in competition shows the last few years between a host and a judge have been between Cannon and Morgan. Whether it was Cannon’s defense of acts or Morgan’s ridicule of Cannon’s fashion choices, their relationship on the show worked. I have yet to see the same type of interaction between Cannon and Stern.