America's Got Talent - Season Seven
As the old saying goes, "One’s loss can serve as another’s gain.” Such was the case in 1985 when the old 66WNBC radio tried to pull the plug on Howard Stern’s career, only to be continued at K-Rock. From then on, The Howard Stern Show, along with K-Rock radio, reached new heights of popularity while WNBC radio was brought to end. But nearly three decades later, old wounds seemed to heal as NBC decided to make the move for the legendary shock jock to become part of the judge’s panel for the hit show, America’s Got Talent.
For months, Stern’s hiring raised discussions among people as to whether this was a great business decision or a desperate attempt for ratings by the struggling NBC. Other questions brought up included how Stern was going to be for the duration of the show, whether people expected him to be ruthless, obnoxious and deceiving, or generous and positive by showing a more caring side of him. Fans of both AGT and Stern wondered if the two extremes, one being family friendly and the other being edgy, could ever co-exist. On Monday night, all those questions were answered as America’s Got Talent had a solid start to its seventh season.
It was pretty clear that the main focus this season is how Stern is going to contribute to judge’s panel after Piers Morgan made his decision not to return for the seventh season. Judges Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne both expressed excitement for what Howard Stern could bring to the table. The introduction to Monday night’s season premiere (which fittingly played Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” in the background) explained it all as it consisted of highlights from other shows talking about the hiring, the official announcement made by Stern himself on his SiriusXM radio show, and even his most recent appearance on David Letterman.
To no one’s surprise, (or at least anyone who has been following Stern for many years) Howard could only be what he does best — being honest with all the contestants. If he found the contestant(s) to be very talented and original, Stern would award them nothing but praise. However, if any contestant put on a bad performance or act, he or she hopefully had a thick skin as Howard Stern would be critical as well as a bit humorous to go along. Taking place in locations such as Los Angeles and St. Louis, all of these served as elements to two hours worth of entertainment for all viewers.
The season premiere consisted of several amazing acts that could make you wonder, How have some of these people not been discovered yet? William Close, an instrument creator, did the first true original performance of the night. Initially thought to be a hippie by Stern, Close amazed everybody in the building by playing his created “earth harp.” The performance left everybody in awe due to it’s intense and emotional theme. One could compare his music to resemble an introduction theme to a suspenseful movie scene. Another audition that highlighted the first night was a dance performance done by the Loyalty Dance Crew. This dancing group, hailing from Tennessee put on a performance that was well choreographed, and in rhythm with the selected songs. As the crowd and the judges seemed to love it, the highlight of this act occurs after when one member breaks down in tears, stating how he felt as if it was God’s gift to be with his group members.
The most surprising highlight of the night came during the audition of a man named “Simply Sergio.” In the beginning, his performance to a Spanish tune looked rather weak and comical, as Howard and Sharon immediately voted no. However, once Howie Mandel decided to not give up on him, Sergio became rejuvenated with a second performance which was much more improved. Howard and Sharon decide to reverse their decisions in voting him to go to Las Vegas with the other contestants. The first night’s final highlight concluded with a beautiful Father-Daughter duet of the James Taylor hit, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Both have excellent voices that received a well deserved standing ovation, and arguably the best performance of the night. It’s amazing to see the talent level being displayed on this show.
Just like all talent shows, nothing is ever perfect as the season premiere included lowlights that can leave viewers confused and wondering if some of these contestants are actually serious. The first lowlight occurred at the very beginning when a thirty four year old magician named Aoni Jackson, who puts on a rather embarrassing performance of making Howie Mandel’s ring disappear, only to be found hanging in his nipple during a strip tease. Of course, Stern puts on a heroic, yet hilarious effort (although, not exactly “Fartman-esque”) to save the audience from this disaster by being honest and blunt. “In order to be a stripper, you can’t have man boobs” as stated by Stern to Jackson. “I have man boobs, which is why I’m not a stripper.”
Another lowlight that would later be on the receiving end of Stern’s honesty occurs after a Michael Jackson impersonator puts on a performance that would have the King of Pop rolling over in his grave. After the contestant told Howard that both his parents were dead, Stern proceeded to ask if his parents “died with embarrassment?” It may be safe to say that most of Howard Stern’s loyal followers would prefer to watch lowlights if they wish to see shades of the shock jock they know and love.
While some contestants are going to be living their dream in Las Vegas, others are being forced to deal with reality. Even though viewers watched a more gentle side of Howard, there’s always going to be a hint of that radio rebel that caused a split between him and his current network for the summer.
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