We’re two weeks into America’s Got Talent: The Champions, and so far we’ve seen some amazing performances from former AGT winners, finalists, and fan favorites, as well as some of the most impressive contestants from Got Talent shows around the world. It’s definitely entertaining, but is this format really fair? Should former winners even get another chance at a title, especially against those who lost out the first time?
When you think about it, it doesn’t even really fit with the title America’s Got Talent: The Champions to have non-champions compete. Crowning the “world champion” (as many are calling this show’s future winner) would make more sense if all the competitors were winners from around the world. In that case, the show would literally feature the best of the best.
On the other hand, snagging enough winners to fill a whole season would understandably be a challenge. Several of them have successful careers now, and they may not want to subject themselves to another stressful competition just for bragging rights. (As judge Heidi Klum confirmed to Talent Recap, there is no $1 million prize like there is during the normal seasons.) Even Lindsey Stirling, who didn’t even win the show, said she found it “funny” that AGT would invite her back, explaining, “I do really well on my own now.”
I can see both pros and cons to putting winners and losers in the same competition — for the show, for the contestants, and for the viewers. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
A more hodgepodge approach to the “champions” concept could simply bring in more viewers. As harsh as it might sound, some people may not be as interested in watching a competition that only features losers. Including previous winners encourages their fans to tune in, while those who wish their favorites had won the first time around also have a reason to watch and root for them.
It also makes the non-winners look that much more impressive when they earn the Golden Buzzer or make it into the next round over someone who previously won the grand prize. So far, only one previous winner (Cristina Ramos of Spain’s Got Talent) has made it through to the finals, while past winners such as Darci Lynne and Bianca Ryan have been eliminated. Seeing underdogs like Preacher Lawson prove themselves against such tough competition makes for good TV.
As Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle said of her decision to return for America’s Got Talent: The Champions, “I couldn’t possibly walk away from a second chance to prove myself. I’m really looking forward to singing — this time, with something to prove.”
Then you have a contestant like Bianca Ryan, who won the first season of AGT when she was just 11 years old, and is now exploring a career as an adult — not to mention dealing with a paralyzed vocal cord that threatened her ability to sing. Including her is different from including, for example, most recent winner Shin Lim. For Ryan, it was an opportunity for a comeback.
We all love a good second-chance story, but you could also argue that most of the winners don’t need a second chance, especially when it’s only been a few years or even a few months since their crowning moment. Like I mentioned before, there’s no grand prize for this season, so we won’t be seeing anyone double their earnings. But could including former champions take an opportunity away from other talented acts who deserve another shot at stardom?
It may not be the most fair situation for the former winners either, as featuring such a mixed bag of performers could possibly influence the judges’ decisions. They may hold champions to a higher standard and decide not to hit the Golden Buzzer for them, believing they already have enough of an advantage and will make it through on votes alone. It may be hard to feel bad for somebody who previously won $1 million, but if they’ve been invited back, they deserve an even playing field.
(Of course, you could also argue that the judges are already biased, since they’re the same as the traditional America’s Got Talent, and could give preference to acts they’re familiar with. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
At the end of the day, America’s Got Talent is far from the only reality competition show to feature both winners and non-winners in its all-star season. Dancing with the Stars took the same approach, as did non-performance competitions such as Survivor and Project Runway. However, it’s worth noting that America’s Next Top Model excluded winners from its all-star season in 2011, proving it can be done.
Personally, I think these seasons would be more enjoyable with a clear theme. Is it about giving second chances to talented people who missed their shot, or deciding who among the previous winners is the “best of the best”? Putting both concepts together just seems to confuse things.
What do you think? Is it fair to pit winners against non-winners, even if there’s no cash prize and some of the past champs have been out of the spotlight? Would you rather watch the underdogs get their time in the sun without the winners there to rub it in? Should a show called America’s Got Talent: The Champions only feature actual champions, or am I being too literal? Let us know in the comments.