Article first published as Did Howard Stern Influence the Results of America's Got Talent Unfairly? on Blogcritics.
As a regular viewer of reality television, I am concerned when it
appears that people in charge of the competition make decisions giving
certain contestants unfair advantage over their competitors. I saw such
a situation this week on America's Got Talent.
Howard Stern, a popular radio host known for his outspoken behavior, recently joined the staff of America's Got Talent
as the third judge. In this role, he has evaluated hundreds of acts
that auditioned in the early rounds, and he was instrumental in choosing
the 48 quarter-finalists. Once the show enters these final stages,
however, the power is expected to shift from the judges to the viewing
public. The judges maintain a certain level of control - they still give
critiques, and each of them still has the power to buzz a contestant
who is performing poorly - but the ultimate fate of the performers now
belongs to the audience, voting for their favorites to advance to later
Somebody forgot to explain this to Stern. During his final critique
during the show on Monday, June 25, he predicted that speed painter
David Garibaldi, the dancing Scott Brothers, singers Shanice and
Maurice, and a teen musician named Edon would advance to the next round
before the voting actually began. By making this pronouncement, he
appeared to be giving instructions to the audience. This marks the first
time in my memory that a judge on America's Got Talent has made such a specific statement about the results before the fact.
The following night, all of Stern's picks advanced exactly as
predicted. Shanice and Maurice, the Scott Brothers, and Garibaldi were
declared to be among the top three vote-getters. Stern's fourth pick,
Edon, was placed into a "judges choice" run-off with ventriloquist Todd
Oliver. Stern had already predicted that Edon was moving on. And yet,
there were still nearly 20 minutes left to the results show. The tension
for the remainder of the evening centered around which of these two men
would take the final slot. The result was anticlimactic.
I have no issue with Stern offering his opinion regarding these
particular acts. I think he chose well. However, the act of making that
prediction to sum up the evening is likely to have swayed the voting,
especially for Edon, and it helped render a large section of the results
Howard Stern is a "shock jock." He's built a career out of telling
people what he thinks, and then strongly encouraging them to agree with
him. Here, for once, I think he may have overstepped his bounds in way
that rendered the show tedious rather than exciting. I hope that in the quarterfinal round airing tomorrow Stern will be able to rein in his natural tendency to rile
up the audience and, instead, attempt a little more objectivity in the
way he critiques the performers, to make for a show that is more fair
and more interesting to watch.