Friday, May 10, 2013

Attending a Taping of 'America's Got Talent' is Enjoyable Enough, But Leaves Me Unconvinced

I have never been a fan of so-called reality TV in any form, including popular talent competition shows such as American Idol, The Voice and America's Got Talent.

I don't need to belabor this opinion here, especially as my familiarity with the shows is admittedly rather scant, but suffice it to say I've never much liked what I've seen.

This has as much to do with the whole concept, presentation, format and judging of these shows as it has to do with the talent auditioning, but with all due respect to people like Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood, my sense is that I can see many performers who are just as talented, dedicated and polished in storefront theaters, small music & comedy clubs and college recital halls.

So you may wonder why I jumped at the chance to attend a taping of America's Got Talent Wednesday afternoon at the Rosemont Theatre.

Though this is seemingly one of those things you're not supposed to openly admit, I am unabashedly and unapologetically a fan of Howard Stern, as I have been for many years.

I will not belabor this opinion either, especially as I've written at length about why I so enjoy Stern's radio
program, currently heard on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Last year Stern became a judge on America's Got Talent, taking over for Piers Morgan. Due to how much he talked about it on his radio program, I felt compelled to watch the King of all Media's latest foray into television.

Even with Howard being the best thing about AGT and similar shows that I'd yet seen, it took all of about 15 minutes of his first episode for it to be reiterated why I hate reality TV talent competitions.

So I remain far from a convert, but with free tickets offered to the six tapings in Rosemont and the rare chance to see Howard Stern in Chicago, I grabbed tickets to the Wednesday afternoon and evening tapings.

Despite the $13 in parking, long lines of people waiting to get in and about 7 hours devoted to a Noon-4pm taping, during which only about 90 minutes featured auditioning acts, I have to admit that I enjoyed being there.

But not enough not to have decided early on that I really didn't need to stay for the second taping of the day.

And not enough to become any kind of fan of America's Got Talent.

Or to be convinced--based on the acts that auditioned, despite my having great regard for their efforts, dedication and courage--that the show's title statement is indeed true.

Not shocking given my reason for being there, my favorite part was seeing and hearing Howard Stern, both in his fair-minded but sometimes risqué critiques of the performers and a couple of occasions when he directly addressed the crowd, as below (though if you're not already a Stern fan, I doubt this will convince you).

While I'm not a major fan of any of them individually, it was also part of the fun to see AGT host Nick Cannon (who appeared onstage for all of about 3 minutes) and Stern's fellow judges Howie Mandel, Mel B (of the Spice Girls) and supermodel Heidi Klum.

No disrespect to them, but other than Howard and a couple of the auditioning acts, the most entertaining
person for me was emcee Frank Nicotero, who if not outright hilarious, affably helped the time pass by.

I don't know what the official restrictions are on audience members of a taping of a show not likely to air until sometime in July, but I think it proper to refrain from giving any details about who auditioned, how many acts were sent on to the next round and which ones.

But except for appreciating that most of those auditioning had unique talent of some kind, and applauding their guts to openly invite public ridicule, I was far from impressed.

My basic understanding is that the winner of America's Got Talent gets $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas.

So for me, the standard for "Should they continue on?" isn't "Are they talented?" or even "Is it conceivable that people would gather 'round in a park and watch the act do their thing?"

That is almost entirely different than asking, "Would you pay at least $50 to see them perform in Las Vegas (or the Rosemont Theatre, or any venue) for an hour or more?"

With that barometer, I would say that even with the low percentage of acts that Howard, Howie, Heidi and Mel B. gave at least 3 votes out of 4 and allowed to keep following their AGT dreams, the ones that did "survive" do not meet the above criteria.

Nor likely for that matter, did last season's winner--of which I'm only aware due to Stern--the Olate Dogs. Fun? Cool to watch? Sure. But worthy of a Vegas show? Perhaps, but not for me.

So while being in the audience for America's Got Talent was a more than adequate way to spend a Wednesday afternoon, it did absolutely nothing to change my mind about the show, or its brethren.

Nonetheless, I remain thoroughly convinced that America has tons of talent.

But as to whether it will filter its way through shows like AGT, I have to vote "No."

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