TV | It takes talent


Superstar status is just a few auditions away – Kate Rothwell finds out whether or not America has any talent.

You’d think that the long list of star searching shows that have scoured the Irish, British and American public for the ‘next big thing’ over the past number of years would have been enough to satiate our appetite for watching the passably talented have their dreams crushed, but it seems that our hunger for watching the humiliated has only grown.

America’s Got Talent is the ultimate of all its sister shows; boasts far more more variety and showbiz pizazz than The X-Factor and a well-known presenter, sensationalist favourite Jerry Springer, to boot. The open-ended entry criteria (no age limits, and a hunt for any sort of ‘talent’ as opposed to potential ‘pop star’) ensure that the viewers never know what sort of entertainment will hit the stage next, and of course this brings even more celebrity wannabes than ever before to queue up for auditions.

The lure of one million dollars, a gig in Las Vegas and an overall life of fame is too much for those deluded and determined souls who are convinced that they have a gift the world needs to know about.

Like lambs to the slaughter, they perform their party piece in front of the curious judging panel that is made up of Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff. Morgan, ex-editor of the Daily Mirror turned part-time TV presenter, might have flitted with the UK glitterati and written an exposé on many celebrities in his time but otherwise has little or no experience that would help him to define what makes a star.

“The show strives to step away from the perception of talent shows as being beauty pagents in disguise”

He does have the advantage of being well spoken, which makes his comments easier listening than those of his zany, crass and condescending counterpart, Sharon Osbourne. The one judge who is surprisingly well suited to the job is David Hasslehoff, who can express his thoughts clearly, relate the auditionee’s experience to his own and has a kind and encouraging word for every performer.

The pressing of a buzzer when an act is unimpressive (a move which the Hoff is slow to make) might be offputting but is only as cruel as the call of “next” or the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” line that regular auditioning is famed for.

The show strives to step away from the perception of talent shows as being beauty pagents in disguise, and people of all ages, sizes and sexes have been voted through the rounds. Sometimes however, it becomes difficult to decide whether an act has been selected on the basis of their talent or purely because having, for example, an elderly or overweight participant makes the programme look like it has an open-minded ethos.

With a varying cast of impressionists, circus acts, family groups, dancers, singers and a variety of oddities including as dog trainers and karate experts, America’s Got Talent has it all. It is cringeworthily melodramatic, with emotive speeches from participants and judges alike and crocodile tears aplenty. But it is, in all its cruel and extravagant glory, painfully captivating – don’t tune in just yet if you value your study time.

America’s Got Talent is on at 9pm, Fridays on TV3