Howie Mandel improves America’s Got Talent , but Nick Cannon needs to stop

After three episodes of America’s Got Talent 5, I think it’s not too soon to declare that Howie Mandel was a great replacement for David Hasselhoff, and I think his addition to the panel makes it the best network reality TV judging panel, not that there’s much competition.

I still think the best judges are on cable series, from Michael Kors to Gail Simmons but not that guy who doesn’t like red onions on Chopped. But America’s Got Talent‘s panel just works. All three judges are fully authentic and seem like themselves; they’re not trying too hard (Kara), delivering lines instead of critiques (Ellen), filling space (Randy), being repetitive (Simon), or acting insane (Paula).

Howie Mandel’s contribution is enough to make me forgive that piece of shit Howie Do It. He takes all of the warmth that he had on Deal or No Deal and applies it here. His feedback is straighforward and honest, and he’s not trying to emulate anyone. At times, he’s a little skeevy, but you never get the impression that he’s doing that to show off. Like Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne, Howie just seems like a real person reacting to what he’s watching, and that works.

I cannot say the same for the show’s host, Nick Cannon, who’s in his second year. He is a fine MC and not a bad interviewer, but I cannot stand his backstage persona and commentary during the actual auditions because it’s so overwrought and overused. He can occasionally be funny, like when the delusional white boy rapper insisted there aren’t many white rappers, but most of the time, he’s just annoying, trying way too hard to be funny.

Must he emulate the acts, and must the editors cut to him multiple times? At least Seacrest only makes it about himself when he’s actually on stage. When a speed eater auditioned by eating five pizzas, there was Nick backstage, shoving pizza in his mouth. How does this add anything to the show? Seriously, who thinks this is a good idea? Cutting to the host backstage goes back to the Jerry Springer hosting days, but Jerry didn’t seem to be this intrusive of a presence. I’m already watching one or more assclowns on stage; I don’t need to see an assclown mimicking the other assclowns.

This season is also working well because there’s a good selection of auditioners, from the crazy to the crazy talented. I actually enjoy watching, and often find myself laughing or smiling, which is more than I can say for American Idol the past few seasons, although it is difficult to laugh when bile is coming up.

Last night has a lot of highlights, including opera singer Prince Poppycock, but the highlight for me was this fraternity’s act. Don’t worry, they’re not doing the elephant walk:

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.