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The breadth of talent competition shows on television makes it difficult to follow more than a few on a regular basis. Though I am a devoted viewer of So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew, I find that America’s Got Talent doesn’t inspire that same kind of commitment in me. That being said, I have seen enough of the show to know the two main reasons why it turns me off. Read on to learn more.

Structure

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, AGT’s three judges – this season’s judges are Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel – sit at a table, each judge with his or her own “X” button.  When a judge decides that an act is unworthy of advancing in the competition, he or she hits the button, illuminating a large “X” that hangs above the stage and sounding a loud buzzer.

But it is not just the judges that an AGT contestant must contend with; dissatisfied AGT audience members make their opinions known by booing aggressively until the judges illuminate all three “X”s. When all three “X”s have been illuminated, the performer(s) must stop performing to listen to what is often insulting feedback by the judges. Herein lies my first gripe with AGT.

I find that the aforementioned elements of AGT encourage snarky criticism and bullying in general, which cheapens the feedback process. Obviously not every performer is fit to have a show in Las Vegas, but is it too idealistic to hope that each performer could leave his or her AGT audition with one thing to focus on, instead of being disheartened? I thought the main focus of America’s Got Talent was to celebrate talent and creativity, not to discourage it.

Hierarchy of acts

AGT sees a wide variety of performing acts – musicians, singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, danger acts and everything in between. Performers are often rejected if something goes wrong in the act, or if the act is not of a high enough caliber to perform on a Las Vegas stage – each of which is a fair criterion. But for whatever reason, the dance acts that perform on AGT seem to start at a disadvantage purely because they are dance acts…and frankly, I think that sucks.

In AGT Season 7’s “Week 1, Night 1” episode, the audience saw a performance by Elements Dance Crew, a group of young women who clogged with a hip-hop edge. After receiving a standing ovation from the audience and positive feedback from Sharon Osbourne, Howard Stern commented that  “Sometimes when the dance acts come on, I kind of hit the fast-forward [button] because I am waiting and waiting, and I just don’t get it.” He then said, “I truly admire your dedication. You guys were spot-on.” If Stern’s ultimate feedback was going to be positive, why did he need to take a jab at dancers everywhere before he said it?

In the Season 7 “Week 1, Night 2” episode, the Lisa Clark Dancers, who also received a standing O, got a similar response from the judges. Stern stated again in this episode that he is “not a huge fan of dance” because he “starts to zone out.” Howie Mandel said that he was confused because he didn’t know “what kind of show it [was]”. Mandel asked the performers, “Do you have a move? Even one move where you go, ‘You’ve got to see this show?'”. He then voted “No” because, despite the fact that the group was made up of “phenomenal dancers” and had a well-choreographed routine, he just “didn’t see that move.”

None of AGT’s other performers are told that the type of performing they do is somehow less entertaining than those of their competitors, and they generally don’t have their acts reduced to a “cool move.” In fact, in Season 7’s “Week 1, Night 2” episode, just a few acts after the Lisa Clark Dancers performed, Balancer Cristin Sandu performed a single trick and was immediately asked by Osbourne what else he does in his act. The icing on the cake in this particular clip (click the Cristin Sandu link) is that Mandel says no to Cristin because “One amazing trick does not make a headlining act.” In this case, I agree with Mandel, but I don’t know that I will ever agree with his clear double standard.

Am I the only one who is offended by the AGT judges’ dismissive nature toward dance? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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