Why It’s Time For ‘AGT’ To Break Out of the Vegas Box
One aspect of the America’s Got Talent grand prize the show likes to emphasize is the chance to headline a show in Las Vegas. This has ranged from a full residency to the current iteration of a one-off weekend of performances, and the fact that the Vegas element of the prize elicits a question: why is there still so much of a focus on finding a “Vegas act” if the winner is barely going to perform there?
Seriously. They could do the weekend of performances in any major American city and there would barely be a difference. And there’s no longer a need to worry if the winner could carry an hour-plus show, either, since the champion is simply the “headliner” of a performance that includes several other acts from their season.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily been a bad thing (it was probably for the best since it’s resulted in short, sold-out runs rather than long-term residencies which lost the show money) but if the acts aren’t actually competing for a steady gig anymore, than the way the judges and viewers are looking at the talent should reflect this change.
In recent seasons – particularly since Simon Cowell joined the judging panel – there has been an influx of contestants looking to break into the recording industry rather than Vegas. What’s more, a lot of the variety acts that the show recruits have a “specialty” such as Mochi‘s diabolo skills or Shin Lim‘s card magic. Some fans have pointed out while these acts are great, they probably can’t carry a Vegas show. But while that may be the case, that doesn’t mean they can’t build and maintain careers out of their talents in other ways, so I wouldn’t say that’s a fair reason to discredit them.
America’s Got Talent has evolved to the point where Las Vegas is no longer the show’s be-all, end-all. These days we’re seeing contestants with a wide variety of goals in the entertainment industry, and seeing as the Vegas element of the prize is so minor now, I don’t see why the judges need to evaluate everyone based on whether or not they’d work as a long-term fixture there.
So, what should the judges be basing their critiques and decisions on? I think they should continue the focus on highlighting acts who can make a career out of their talent and judging each one on their growth over the course of the competition, but realize different acts may be looking at a variety of avenues for their careers and focus on their potential success in the field and/or market they’re looking to break into and provide feedback based on that. Yes, these guidelines are fairly vague, but when the show has such a wide variety of acts and prides itself on this it’s not fair to put them all in the same narrow box.
The criteria for AGT winners nowadays seems to be whether or not they can stay relevant after the show, but not necessarily as a full-time Vegas act since show isn’t counting on the winner bringing them money from a residency anymore. The fact that the potential to carry a show on the Strip is still such a large part of the criteria when it comes to the quality of an act is quite baffling, and continuous pushing of of this outdated narrative seems to be hurting the chances of some performers that could otherwise do well.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.