Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Man, It Never Ends with AGT

Back two or three months ago, when the America's Got Talent show was getting going for its umpteenth season, I did a piece after the judges put through an embarrassingly awful performer named Courtney Hadwin, a British girl of about 14 or so who ran around the stage screaming in an imitation of Janis Joplin, who herself also ran around the stage screaming 50 years ago but at least had a story that somehow rationalized it, and was not imitating someone else.

As I mentioned, the girl was given the "golden buzzer" by one of the judges (I won't embarrass him by giving you his name, but his initials are "Howie Mandel"), which allowed her to bypass the next rounds of competition and go straight through to the live quarterfinals.  That was a few weeks ago, and she proceeded to do the same act, this time running around and screaming in imitation of someone else.

It was equally unpleasant, but the "fans" this time voted her to the semifinals and, last week, brought her again to the finals over people of immensely more talent and certainly more listenable performances.  She is getting better at what she does; it's also a problem that what she does is simply unpleasant to watch or listen to.

Last night she performed on the live finals, and tonight she will be crowned the winner.  How do I know?  Because her tale on AGT is eerily similar to Grace Vanderwaal, another barely-in-her-teens competitor who won two years back despite showing no real talent as a performer whatsoever -- she strummed a ukulele and sang songs she wrote, in a whispery voice.

That tale is creepily reminiscent now, as yet another performer, like Grace given the "golden buzzer" by a judge and put through by an alleged TV audience vote despite much better competition, is there to be given scads of money.

Now, remember that I'm still in evacuation exile from my coastal Carolina home, and have to watch TV a bit behind the time, especially when there is a competing Red Sox game.  So at this moment, I have not seen the finals, not that it matters.  And tonight is the announcement of the winners.  So I do not know who will win, but I know who will win.  Been there, done that.

Back in June when I wrote the linked piece, my best girl told me (and I immediately agreed) that Courtney, this year's Grace, was going to go all the way and win.  Not, I pointed out, because she was good, but because the gap between her performance and the judges' collective slavering over her was clear evidence that the network wanted her to win for some reason and, since we never see the actual voting, they could control it.

Three months later, the announcement is tonight.  I'll watch the last-night show to see what happened on the actual performance night, and then the announcement show to confirm my assumption.  But we told you three months ago both who would win and why.  It's right in these pages before the airing of the show.

For the record, there is a fellow on there named Daniel Emmet who is also in the finals, although he was not chosen by the judges to go to the semis until he was made a judge's wild card pick.  He is a trained operatic singer who did a simply gorgeous performance of "Somewhere" last week -- effortless singing and marvelous communication with the audience (of which, I should note, Courtney has exactly none).

In the real world, although there are some other outstanding acts, including an Asian sleight-of-hand magician who is equally remarkable, Daniel would win or be in the top two.  This is network TV, though, not the real world.  The head judge, Simon Cowell, is a talent broker of some kind, and owns the show franchise, which creeps out the rest of us who believe in an honest balloting.

I sincerely hope Daniel will have a marvelous career and, more, that the world gets to hear him over and over again, but they won't let him win.  The beauty of his singing brings tears to the eyes, as it did to me watching the replay of last week's performance yesterday.  The world needs to know what beauty in music is.

But that's not what AGT is about, and tonight it will try to tell us that America, devoid of ability to recognize talent, voted for a screaming 14-year-old as the winner.  The network will tell us the voting was fair (or not even bother to) but we will know better.

You heard it here first, almost by definition.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton


  1. Shows what I know. Screaming girl didn't even get into the top five. Apologies to NBC and AGT.

    1. Of course, when AGT decided to do an "All-Star" version with competitors from around the world who had won or been finalists, guess whom they brought back as one of the contestants -- Screaming Girl herself. Fortunately there was just too much actual talent around and she didn't get very far.

  2. I have watched many of the same episodes, due to my wife's being a big fan of the show. I really don't watch the early episodes because there is only so much abuse my system can take...I minored in classical piano performance in college and I have no pain threshold at all for bad music.

    That being said, I know that these shows entertain a lot of people, but the real genius is in the actual side benefits. You see, it costs a lot of money to find people and bands that can manufacture hits. Starting with Ed McMann a long time ago, a formula was found that turned the cost side of being a record company, or a production company, into a profit center. The show 'American Idol' really perfected that idea, and there are shows like that across the world (I think the originators may have turned this into a billion dollar industry).

    Simon doesn't give a hoot who wins. He's going to make money on several of the acts, not just the winner. Not only can they make money off of finding talent, but these shows are giant focus group operating for Simon et. al. They don't have to guess who might be worth backing for a career. The public is giving them billions of dollars worth of good data.

    I wish I were that smart...