Is The ‘AGT’ Panel Straying From Actually Judging Contestants?

Julia Delbel
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Last week’s episode of America’s Got Talent had a lot going on (as usual!) but one aspect of the show that has had fans up in arms since it aired was certain behavior at the judges’ table.

There have been complaints from viewers all season – as well as in previous ones – that the show is focusing too much on the backstories of the contestants rather than their actual talents. The show is called America’s Got Talent, so the contestants’ abilities and performances should be at the forefront, right?

We often see the program’s judges connect what a contestant does onstage to the hardships they’ve overcome, such as last season when everyone was absolutely mesmerized by Mandy Harvey‘s ability to compose and perform such beautiful songs while being deaf. However, there’s discussing an act’s personal life in relation to their skills on stage….and then there’s focusing solely on their backstory and nothing else.


Unfortunately, there were multiple instances of the latter last week. The one that went viral online happened at the end of the show, when Simon Cowell was moved to tears by his Golden Buzzer, singer Michael Ketterer. But it wasn’t Michael’s captivating voice that had Simon emotional, it was the fact that he had done so many great things in his life, most notably, adopting several children in need.

In fact, none of the judges offered much feedback on Michael’s actual vocal performance, save for a brief comment from Mel B that was a critique on it (albeit a minor one) treated as a afterthought to him being an “inspirational” figure on the show. While it’s great to see such positive and uplifting people on TV, this is still a talent competition; despite the complimentary comments on his character, the lack of actual feedback on his performance was actually a disservice to Michael. He doesn’t know how the majority of the judges thought he did last week, and as a result nothing to stick with or work on for his next AGT live show.

But that wasn’t even the worst thing that happened last week at the judges’ table. After his performance, Joseph O’Brien was put on the spot to reveal the name of the person the song he sung was about. Most of the judges – along with host Tyra Banks – egged the singer-songwriter on until he revealed the name. (Props to Mel for trying to shut that down!)


While in that case the judges actually did give some strong feedback on the song, that doesn’t make up for the fact that they clearly embarrassed him by prying into his personal life that way. Yes, the personal stories on reality programs often turn into more votes (though not in Joseph’s case, since he was eliminated during the next day’s results show) but it should always be the decision of the contestant to share them.

Let’s face it, ever since the current panel of AGT judges has been at the table, there have always been antics at the table. Howie, Mel, Heidi, and Simon have a fun dynamic as a foursome, and their shenanigans can sometimes be humorous and entertaining. But more and more often lately, it’s been a nuisance and interruption to the flow of the show, especially during the live episodes. So sometimes, instead of judging the backstories of contestants and prying into their personal lives, it’d be great to see the judges chill out a little bit and stick to the show’s mission of discovering, fostering, and celebrating talent.

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