June 24, 2008

Taking Sides:’America’s’ Got Talent, ‘Star’ Doesn’t

By Susan Pierce and Christine Simmons, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.

Jun. 24--Still in "American Idol" withdrawal, we checked out two other TV talent shows, both on NBC, searching for the next big star. The shows: "America's Got Talent" and "Nashville Star."


Susan Pierce: I'd have to say Jerry Springer, simply because he had more interaction with his show's acts. Whereas "Nashville Star" host Billy Ray Cyrus is only onstage to introduce and usher off each act, Springer gave viewers critiques from the wings during performances, interviewed the acts as they came offstage and just seemed more involved. That's nothing against Billy Ray Cyrus, Springer just had better editing.

Christine Simmons: I just don't like Billy Ray Cyrus and don't think even the best editing in the world could help him. He's annoying and extremely fake. I hit the mute button most of the time he was speaking. I think he's riding on his daughter's success, and it's nauseating.

I would have to choose Springer. He's funny and entertaining. I thought he was going to run out onstage when the 80-year-old lady was tap dancing -- he was so scared she was going to fall off the stage. Then when the last contestant, Neal E. Boyd, was singing I thought Springer was going to cry tears of joy. It matters to me that he seems to care so much about the contestants.


Susan: Piers Morgan is still as arrogant as ever, but what makes that especially frustrating is that just like his British counterpart, Simon Cowell, he's usually right. And after watching Sharon Osbourne, I have a new appreciation for Amy Poehler's dead-on "SNL" impersonation.

"Nashville Star," however, has its best panel of judges in its six seasons: Jewel, John Rich and Jeffrey Steele. NBC scores a homer here -- all three are singer-songwriters, big names in the business, whose opinions actually mean something.

Christine: Jewel impressed me the most, she gave honest critiques, and they were insightful, not insulting. Rich and Steele also knew what they were talking about and seemed to know how to convey that to the performers.

For me, it's hard to compare judges on the two shows because I don't consider someone like David Hasselhoff a judge. He's a B-list actor at best and nothing but a warm body to fill the judge's chair. I do like Osbourne though, there's just something about her that makes me smile. At least she and Morgan know something about the entertainment industry, unlike Hasselhoff.


Susan: I was shocked at the lack of talent on "Nashville Star." It is abysmal and an insult to country fans to put that on TV and think that's what we're looking for. There is NO ONE competing this season who remotely has the talent or charisma of past contestants such as Buddy Jewell, Miranda Lambert and the Hacker siblings -- and I feel qualifed to say that because I have watched every season.

The only act I feel country fans might support from this crop of finalists is Tommy Stanley, who had the guts to stand up and sing "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" in front of judge John Rich.

"America's Got Talent" teased viewers with just enough applause-worthy acts to keep them hooked during the lame wannabes. Again, smart editing: NBC kept the best for last when shy insurance salesman Neal Boyd came out and wowed the judges and audiences into a standing ovation with his incredible operatic tenor voice on "Nessun Dorma."

UTC Mocs basketball fans know that a couple of "America's Got Talent" acts performed during halftime last season. Let's hope UTC Marketing/Andrew Horton checks out Plastic Percussionists, Nuttin' But Stringz hip-hop fiddle-playing brothers or Sick Step dance crew.

Christine: I thought talent was seriously lacking on both shows. I haven't really watched "Nashville Star" before, so I'll have to take your word that past shows were better. I just kept thinking, "How is it possible that THIS is the best of the best?"

You expect to have the lame, silly acts on "America's Got Talent." It puts me in mind of "The Gong Show" from years back, you know most of the contestants are going to be bad, but still you watch, waiting to see that diamond in the rough.

But "Nashville Star" should be held to a higher level and what shocked me most was that the judges actually thought some of these contestants were good.

The first act that performed, Laura and Sophie, were horrible, and I thought it was cruel to tell them they were "OK" or "good" when they were really bad. The only one even remotely impressive was Tommy Stanley, so it shouldn't be too difficult for viewers to pick a winner.


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