Did you watch AGT Champions [Monday]? They’re foregoing public voting for a panel of 50 superfans that represent the 50 states. Need you to figure out who these people are, how they were chosen, and why not do a public vote like the regular season? —Tyler, via Twitter
I did watch America’s Got Talent: The Champions—though with a heavy fast-forward finger. And I, too, was curious about the new voting system it introduced.
This special winter edition of America’s Got Talent is filling in the gap between seasons of The Voice with episodes of the most-popular reality show in the United States. It’s a smart move on NBC’s part, and kind of follows the lead that CBS set last year, when CBS filled the time between Survivor seasons with Celebrity Big Brother.
A total of 50 acts—33 of which have previously appeared on AGT, according to USA TODAY—will perform over the first five episodes, with 10 in each episode.
Two winners from each episode go on to the finals, where they’ll perform one more time, with the overall winner announced in the seventh and final episode.
Those 10 winning acts are chosen in two different ways:
- One is picked by a judge. Each episode, one judge (and presumably, host Terry Crews?) gets to choose one act to go on to the finals, using the golden buzzer. In episode one, Mel B had the buzzer, and chose Susan Boyle—which, fine, okay, I guess you have to do that.
- One is picked by a mysterious panel of 50 “super fans.”
Why is there not live audience voting, as their usually is with America’s Got Talent in the summer?
Because America’s Got Talent: The Champions was pre-taped, filmed last fall between Sept. 27 and Oct. 17, over seven days of filming.
The final panel also choose the winner after the performances in episode six, so the winner has been determined (that’s why you might find some spoilers online). That finale episode airs Feb. 18.
How the America’s Got Talent chose its superfan panel
During production in the fall, there was a live studio audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium—the same venue that hosts the auditions for regular AGT seasons—and free tickets were available via On Camera Audiences.
But those audience members weren’t the ones voting.
A spokesperson for Fremantle Media, which produces America’s Got Talent, told me that the panel of 50 people were not in the studio audience.
Instead, the panel “watched the show live off camera,” the spokesperson said, and “once all acts have performed, the Superfans cast their votes via keypads, and the Superfans’ winner is announced at the end of the show.”
Who are these 50 panelists? I don’t know exactly. (Were you one of them? Let me know!) But here is a little about how they were selected: “We used our research team to determine superfans of the show who were longtime and dedicated viewers,” the spokesperson told me.
She said that the panelists do “represent the entire country with delegates from all 50 states.”
In the first episode, the most votes went to singer Bianca Ryan, contortonist Sofie Dossi, and comedian Preacher Lawson. Lawson won the majority of votes, and moved on to the finals.
Because it was taped across three weeks, the superfan panelists did change.
The spokesperson told me “it wasn’t necessarily the exact same 50 people voting for each episode, but there was some cross-over from week-to-week, similar to what you would find with any voting show.”
The pre-taped format with no viewer participation may frustrate some fans, but this is pretty much the same as the first half of a regular America’s Got Talent season works, when we watch pre-taped auditions. Eventually, it gets live, and viewer votes come into play.
That competition, though, is for $1 million (though AGT’s prize has a really big catch), while there doesn’t seem to be any kind of prize for America’s Got Talent: The Champions.
It’s just a fun, between-season best-of, with some acts from other countries’ Got Talent shows that we’ve never seen before in the U.S.
And it was enough to easily beat The Bachelor in the ratings—the NBC show had a higher 18-49 rating, and almost twice as many viewers watched AGT on Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. as watched ABC’s three-hour, filler-filled season premiere of The Bachelor.