Screen Savors: America's got talent - not!

After a while, we decided that the program should be renamed America's Got a Nerve To Think They Have Any Talent.

americas got talent 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
americas got talent 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This election day, don't forget to vote for your favorite candidate. It's so easy, just text USPrez01 or USPrez02. And, why not? With all the audience-votes-for-the-winner shows clogging our TV screens, it's only a matter of time before elections for prime minister or president go the same route. Maybe that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves but a look at the local listings suggests otherwise. Star World's current schedule has not only American Idol but also its Simon Cowell-produced spin-off America's Got Talent. And, if that weren't enough, this week Cowell's other clone, American Inventor, hits our screens. On a recent weekday morning we caught America's Got Talent on Star World. Clearly, the talent on display is just… OK. Yes, we were wowed by a young girl who could yodel up a storm, but what followed was just mediocre: a clog/tap dance group; another youngish singer who barely kept on key; an amateurish juggler; a second-rate ventriloquist; and, a lounge lizard with practically no voice at all. America's Got Talent's format is very similar to that of American Idol - with three judges evaluating the talent on stage before them. In this case the no-talent David Hasselhoff, infamous for his role on Baywatch as much as for his untalented singing career, heads up the trio. He is joined by Brandy, the female singer whose career hasn't done much this century, and journalist Piers Morgan, former editor of the News of the World and the Daily Mirror, in the nasty Simon role. Hosting the rather predictable proceedings is the cadaver-esque Regis Philbin, who is highly unsuccessful in trying to inject enthusiasm to overcome the tedium. Eliminating the garishly awful contestants is done differently on this show. The "celebrity" judges hit big, red buttons in front of them, which light up big X's over the stage. This, of course, is in addition to the witless banter that the viewer would otherwise expect. The success of American Idol has as much to do with its own panel of judges as with the actual performers, and here, America's Got Talent falls flat. It seems that almost every contestant passes into the next round, even when in receipt of an X from all three judges with their eventual fate being left up to the home viewers. The main function of the show, it thus seems, is to offer the viewers at home the chance to feel important at the end of the season. We still remember catching Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour back when we were just a pup. The formula hasn't changed much over the years. After all, who doesn't want to see if Joe or Joan Average from down the block or the next town over can win big bucks on TV. In fact, America's Got Talent is based on a program called Opportunity Knocks, which debuted in the UK in 1956 and was itself a spin-off of a popular radio show of the same name. Cowell does deserve full credit for giving the public what it wants - the chance to believe that anyone can be a star. That probably accounts for all the qualification rounds on these programs, which allows thousands of wannabes a few seconds in the limelight before an excruciating and painful public elimination. He is selling cheap hope that, at least to us, has become utterly redundant. Keeping ourselves awake while waiting for yet another nominally talented singer/juggler/mime/whatever just wasn't our thing. After a while, we decided that the program should be renamed America's Got a Nerve To Think They Have Any Talent. There are signs that others are also tiring of the format. Even American Idol has been dropping off in the ratings - although it still does well in the final weeks of the program. Clearly, it seems that we all love to vote, which hopefully will translate into a good turnout the next time we have to decide on something truly serious. For now, however, the right to vote for the best dancer, singer, or what have you is one we choose not to exercise.