Howard Stern’s Surprising Announcement

Nearly a month ago in this space, I made a prediction about the possibility of Howard Stern becoming a judge on America’s Got Talent:

“Then, there’s the matter of American Idol and America’s Got Talent.  Howard is obsessed with these shows and talks about them endlessly on the air, maybe even too much.  When the former was looking for a new judge, Stern’s name suddenly got out there as a possible replacement.  And now that Piers Morgan, Larry King’s asskissing successor, has left America’s Got Talent, Howiemania has swept the media landscape once again.

As before, the New York comedian got a lot of material out of the coverage and while he coyly hasn’t admitted to being approached or even dealing with ongoing negotiations (a longstanding policy), the likelihood of Howard Stern being a judge on any of these shows is zilch.  Any gig that takes away from his radio show is a gig he won’t ever take.  And while he would easily be the most entertaining person on the show (as he always is on talk shows), other than winning over a completely different audience (which would be tempting for the still needy, surprisingly people-pleasing comedian), what would be the point?  He doesn’t need it.”

How wrong I was.  On his final live broadcast of the year, shortly after 8 a.m. today, the longtime New York radio legend made a surprising announcement.  He is, in fact, taking Morgan’s seat at the judges’ table next season on AGT.  Because of his SiriusXM commitment, NBC is moving the show to New York for its live episodes in order to accommodate him.  However, the usual trips to American cities during the audition phase will continue as normal.  They’ll be taped in February and Stern will be there.

My initial reaction to all of this was utter horror.  I hate America’s Got Talent.  Its whole method of locating and nurturing potential stars is ridiculous and often pointless.  Mediocre acts like that kid who flew the kite are often pushed through with no real hope of winning and establishing a career outside the show.  Even the people who win are instantly forgotten despite the promise of being booked as a headliner in Vegas for a year.  (The astounding Jackie Evancho, who actually finished second in season five, is the sole exception.)  And the results shows are dragged out for no other reason than to squeeze out as much advertising money as possible.

So, why in the hell is Stern, a longtime AGT fan, signing up for this nonsense?  Although he is always articulate, quick-witted and entertaining every time I see him on late night shows, particularly Letterman, we’re talking about compelling one-on-one situations where he’s the centre of attention.  With AGT, Stern has to curb his more narcissistic tendencies in order to allow lame host Nick Cannon and fellow judges Sharon Osbourne (who channels Paula Abdul too much) and Howie Mandel (who isn’t all that tough, either) their air time to get their thoughts out (even though I’d rather just hear from Stern, personally).

One of Stern’s biggest character flaws is his sometimes annoying habit of cutting people off in the middle of a sentence or asking a question that they never get a chance to answer because he’s already moved on to his next thought.  He’s so worried about the audience being bored even for a second that he’ll interject at any time during his radio interviews to keep things moving.  Despite being 57, he still cares what you think of him.  But sometimes, his instincts are off and his interruptions hurt more than help.

AGT is not his show, he’s a supporting player here, unfortunately.  The good news is Cannon stopped by The Wrap-Up Show (the hour-long SiriusXM program that immediately follows The Howard Stern Show) several months ago, Mandel is a Celebrity Superfan and Osbourne is a frequent guest who recently appeared with a couple of her Talk colleagues.  The bad news is he won’t be in control of the flow here.  Is that something he can adjust to?  Is he a real team player when he’s not the leader?

Stern has vowed that he won’t be goofy on the show.  (Eric The Midget won’t be sitting on his lap.)  He takes the responsibility of judging talent very seriously.  He certainly has strong opinions, a lot of them smart and insightful but sometimes his tastes are stupid and juvenile.  Porky’s?  Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo?  Diceman?  Dancing With The Stars?  Miley Cirus?  However, like myself, he was upset that the young kite flyer wasn’t eliminated right away.  And his basic guiding principle in judging – would I pay to see this act in Vegas? – is the only question one needs to ask while watching the contestants audition.  “No more nonsense” is what he promised next season.

But will he be any good at the job?  And can he single out acts that can actually sustain a multi-decade career in show business like he has?  I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’ll be watching next June to learn the answer to at least the first question.  How can I not?

Regardless, with Stern at the judges’ table, it will not be boring.  For the first time ever, AGT might actually be fun to watch.  As John Lennon once sang, “It can’t get much worse.”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 15, 2011
6:30 p.m.

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ya know.. I don’t watch any of the “talent” shows.. I feel bad for the people who are talented and get booted and feel embarrassed for the people who lack talent and makes asses out of themselves.

    As far as Howard Stern goes… I did not like him in his early years, but I have noticed as he has aged he has a pretty grounded sense of taste.

    I think he’ll probably add a little pizazz to the show. I might even tune in for an episode or two.

    Thought provoking post.

  2. […] broadcast of 2011 that he was going to be a judge on the NBC summer program in 2012.  At the time, I was surprised by this move and had immediate, mixed feelings about it.  When the new season debuted this past May, I stuck […]

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