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6 Things Wrong With the Judge Cuts and Golden Buzzer Format of America’s Got Talent

1. The Episodes Take Up too Much Time

The “Judge Cuts” edition of the round held between auditions and the live shows has only been a thing since Season 10. Before that, they had “Vegas Week” to choose the acts to perform in the live rounds, hich from what I remembered only took up one or two episodes, allowing the live episodes to start much earlier in the season. Judge Cuts runs for FOUR WEEKS, leaving a lot less time for live episodes. Which leads us to the next point….

2. Only 28 Acts Are Sent Through

Looking at the number on its own, 28 acts for the live shows doesn’t actually sound that bad, especially when you add in Wildcards and Golden Buzzers to get 36. After all, that’s way more than the top 10 or 12 most commonly seen on reality competition shows. But when you realize the old format resulted in 48 acts performing live (a number that was cut down presumably because they currently air a MONTH’s worth of Judge Cuts episodes) it’s disappointing to think about the potential lost. To put things in perspective, a 48-act live show pool in AGT‘s current format would mean an extra Quarter-Final episode, and maybe an extra Semi-Final as well. Yes, we would probably lose more acts per episode, but it would also give the audience more choice in who made it far and allow for more variety in the acts that we were able to vote on. Which brings me to…

3. The “Luck of the Draw” Nature Makes it Very Imbalanced in Terms of Quality Control

The Vegas Week format of cutting the number of acts down allowed the judges to look at all of the acts at once, and craft a live show group from the best of each category of performance (singers, dancers, magicians, daredevils, etc.). Judge Cuts splits 80 acts into four groups who the judges only compare to each other. This might actually make sense if they put similar acts together to be judged against each other, but in all three seasons we’ve seen the Judge Cuts round, there have been singers, magicians, and dancers in pretty much every group. Since it’s seemingly randomized, there are usually some episodes with overall stronger acts than others. Since they choose 7/20 from each show instead of any 28/80 of those competing in the round, we often see mediocre acts from a weak episode move forward while stronger acts from a competitive episode get cut. The “heats” format is reasonable when it comes to the live shows, since they cant have an episode with 30+ acts for the audience to vote on, but there has to be a better way to select acts than putting them into what seem to be randomized groups. There is one thing that could have made this worth it, but…

4. The Editing Makes the Judge Cuts Episode Have Little to No Suspense

This is perhaps the biggest problem I have with the Judge Cuts format, and it’s especially frustrating because it could be easily fixed. Each episode has about an hour and a half of content (plus commercials). Each act is given 90 seconds to perform for the judges, which with 20 acts is a grand total of 30 minutes worth of performances. The other hour of time could be used for judge comments, behind-the-scenes footage, and results. Instead, we get to see about 9/20 performances in full, about half of which have backstory packages longer than the act itself. Meanwhile, the rest of the acts get relegated to montages, and regular viewers can quickly figure out that anyone who suffers this fate is definitely not advancing. That’s why it’s laughable at the end when they show an act who got the “full package” next to someone who barely showed up in a montage and expect us to be on the edge of our seats in suspense. This is pointless since as I said before they could easily fit all 20 performances into this episode, and the packages we see for acts in the Judge Cuts are usually very similar to what we’re shown in the live shows anyway. I know they want us to get invested in the acts, but I think the majority of viewers come for the talent and would be happy to sacrifice package time to see more of the actual performances. But maybe they want us to get caught up in the backstories and drama of it all so we don’t notice they’re sending through…

5. So. Many Singers.

Kind of a sub-topic of #3, but since the acts aren’t judged based on “best of the genre” anymore, the favoritism from the judges when it comes to the types of acts we see move forward becomes very obvious. Every Season 12 Judge Cuts episode saw multiple singers advance, but two of them had zero magic acts moving forward. I guess it’s supposed to be a “quality over quantity” thing, but even regardless of my opinion that quite a few of this year’s singers are pretty mediocre, this is still supposed to be a variety show. Presumably 18/36 acts in the live shows involving singing, a handful involving magic, and only one with comedy creates a clear imbalance. And speaking of imbalance…

6. The Golden Buzzer Has Basically Been Rendered Pointless

Man, I thought 5/9 Golden Buzzers used on singers in Season 11 was excessive, but in Season 12 a whopping 8/9 of the Golden Buzzers are singing acts, including every single one used by a judge. I can forgive the guest judges for it because it’s their first time seeing the acts and most of them probably don’t know as much about the show as the main judges, but the regulars should know better. They know perfectly well that most of the acts they chose would be very likely to make it to the live shows anyway. For instance, Simon used his this season on Mandy Harvey, who would clearly have made it to the live shows even if she’d had to endure the Judge Cuts round. Same with Mel using hers on Darci. Both those judges used their GB’s on shoo-ins and we later saw them begging other judges to change their votes to ensure acts they were passionate about advanced. I’d really like to see the Golden Buzzer be used on performances that a judge may feel passionate about that not all the others agree on. It can be their power to veto the disagreement of the others and make some bold choices about acts that might not be universally loved. I think Simon using his on Sara & Hero, who he clearly vouched for throughout the cutting process, would have been really interesting and a cause for discussion among fans. Heck, Mel could have used hers on Dancing Pumpkin Man! The audience might not have been happy about it, but it’d be a chance for the judges to show their affinity for a performer they feel has potential to improve, or even a “joke” act they just have a special place in their heart for.

Do you agree on the issues I mentioned or have any others to share?

August 15, 2017 I Written By

I'm obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

Pure America’s Got Talent Judge Cuts Rounds 1 and 2: Power Rankings

We’re onto the Judge Cuts episodes of Season 12, which means a bit of a format change on this blog! For this round (and probably the rest of the season) I’ll be listing which acts I think are most to least likely to continue on past the next round in the weekly “Power Rankings”. Since this is Judge Cuts and there aren’t any Results Shows yet, I’m only going to include the acts that were sent through to the live shows, though in the near future I’ll be doing a post noting any acts I think could potentially end up being one of the Wildcards.

Another change I’m going to try to implement on this blog is to make a strong effort to focus on the talent and performances of the contestants instead of their backstories, since a lot of other articles I’ve seen lately have been doing the opposite. So right now, my plan is to only discuss backstories if they are relevant to the actual acts the competitors are performing.

And, of course, like last year, please keep in mind that the order the acts appear on this list reflects what I think the majority of the audience will think, not necessarily my own personal opinions.

With all that said…

1. Angelica Hale: Charming child? Check. Tragic backstory? Check. Powerful voice? Check. If you have any of these things going for you, you are likely going to get a lot of the focus this season, and since Angelica has all three down pat, I think it’s safe to say she’ll be sticking around for awhile. The fact that she got a Golden Buzzer also helps her case, as I’m sure we’ll be reminded of that moment whenever she performs in the live shows. Right now I’m predicting her to make it to the Finale, and she’s probably one of the top 5 most likely to take it home at this point.

2. Puddles Pity Party: Okay, so he’s not a cute kid, and his “tragic backstory” was more for comedic effect than to rise any real sympathy from people, but he has a great voice, and also already has a supportive following on YouTube. But I think the main thing Puddles has going for himself right now is that he seems to be the only real “oddball” we’ve seen so far this season. I’ve noticed a lot of the people that tend to go for the off-the-wall acts rallying their support behind him (and this crowd mostly consists of people who are generally opposed to singers competing on AGT) and he even seems to appeal to people who enjoy the more “standard” acts as well. I don’t think he’ll win, but I think he has a good shot at making it to the Finale. Puddles may be another drop in the sea of singers, but in a season that looks to be dominated by underage contestants with tragic backstories, I’ll take any variety I can get.

3. Colin Cloud: In my personal opinion (and I’ve seen many others echo this sentiment) the first two Judge Cuts episodes were relatively boring for AGT. However, this guy (along with Puddles and the very brief montage with clips of the other magicians) was the saving grace of the second night. I’ve seen people comment they know how some of the mentalist tricks are done, but as we saw last week, with magic, presentation is half the battle, and I think Colin has mastered that aspect more than any of the other magicians this season. For that reason, I see him going pretty far. I’m guessing he at least makes it past the first round of live shows, and he might even have a shot at the Finale if he can keep changing things up enough to keep the audience interested.

4. Yoli Mayor: Here’s where I start to get a little fuzzy in my predictions, because starting with Yoli most of the acts for the rest of this list kind of fall into the “meh” category for me, but I’m not entirely sure how others are going to feel about them. Yoli has an amazing voice going for her-though I think she was over-singing quite a bit in her latest performance-as well as a backstory a lot of people can relate to. I’m just not sure if either of those things will be enough to sustain her longevity in the competition all the way to the Finals, because her beautiful voice is one in a sea of many this season, and her story, while relateable, might get lost among some of the more gut-wrenching ones (ie. the ones involving some kind of illness). I think she’ll probably make it past the Quarterfinals but I’m feeling like she might be a Semifinals elimination unless she manages to really stand out from the crowd.

5. Evie Clair: Evie is similar to several other acts this season, Yoli included, but as a singer alone, she’s one of the less memorable ones in my opinion. On voice alone I don’t think she holds a candle to the likes of people like Angelica, Yoli, and Christian. Also, unlike two out of three of that group, she didn’t get a Golden Buzzer, which gives all the singers who did a leg up on her. What will probably make her stand out in others’ minds is her father’s illness, which is currently looking to be terminal. I hate to say it, but I think her standing in the competition might hinge on how her dad fares, and just how much focus in Evie’s segments is on her family’s journey in facing it.

6. Demian Aditya: So far, this has been the only “danger act” to advance to the live shows, and I think Demian might benefit in votes from the lack of competition. However, if he wants to make it to the end, he needs to start changing up his act, because I’ve seen a lot of comments on how similar his “role switcheroo” act in the Judge Cuts was to the trick he did back in his audition. Basically, I think his chances of sticking around will hinge on how many other danger acts end up in the live shows (which, judging by the mass exodus of most of the ones we’ve seen so far, isn’t looking to be a lot right now).

7. Just Jerk Dance Crew: This was my favorite act of the first Judge Cuts show and, like Demian, I think being one of the few acts of their kind this season is probably going to be a bit of an asset. The thing is, a lot of the dance crews tend to get cut early during the live shows, and we already have another one that got much more buzz and fanfare being Tyra’s Golden Buzzer, plus I’m pretty sure Diavolo is going to make it through next week and they’re a very innovative act. I don’t see JJ beating either of those two groups unless they pull out something AMAZING in the near future (or they play up their story a lot more, since right now they seem to be much more matter-of-fact when discussing their situation than most of the other contestants). Right now, they’re a solid act, but you need to be more than “solid” to win the AGT million.

8. Eric Jones: I found Eric’s performance last week good, but kind of forgettable. However, he’s one of only a few magicians in the live shows so far, and has a sad backstory that does somewhat tie into his craft so I think he could last another round. Not much else to say right now.

9. Chase Goehring: Okay, I’ll be honest, I found Chase completely forgettable both times we saw him (did they even air his full audition?) and the only reason he’s not lower on this list is because he got a Golden Buzzer. He wasn’t really bad or anything, but what worries me is that despite getting the GB, I barely heard any talk of him from fans once the show was over. All that fanfare leading to such a relatively small response is not a good sign, and at this point I’m questioning if he’ll even get through the first round of live shows.

10. Sara and Hero: I was thinking these two were going to get eliminated in JC after their first audition, since the judges clearly had mixed opinions on it, but I’m glad they turned it around and managed to make the cut because I don’t have much hope in most of the other animal acts this season except the family with the poodles. Speaking of the poodles, I think they could be Sara and Hero’s downfall going forward because while Sara changed up the act enough to keep it fresh for this round, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here, and I fear we may have already seen the best tricks Hero can do. With the poodles I just feel like there’s so much more they’re going to be able to do to impress voters, especially with their flashier set-up and all. Even if the poodles don’t make the live shows, I doubt Sara and Hero are getting anywhere near the Finale, but I think they maaaaaaay have a shot at the Semi-Finals depending on who else is in their first live show.

11. The Masqueraders: I was happy to see these guys get through, and was pleasantly surprised to see that quite a few others were rooting pretty hard for them! They definitely fill the country niche this season, but I worry they might get lost among acts with more fanfare surrounding them, especially since their style of singing is more “chilled out” while others have really been focusing on belting as many notes as possible. I think their story of getting another chance to live their dream could help them a bit, but again, there are quite a few more memorable backstories this season so the impact of their’s might not take them as far.

12. Singing Trump: I actually thought he stepped up his game quite a bit in the Judge Cuts, and I think I would have also sent him through. However, there is a big problem with getting political on this show. As we saw last season with teenage comedian Lori Mae, taking a clear political stance alienates half your audience right off the bat, but I think Singing Trump’s approach of not taking a stance may be even more harmful in the voting department; Trump supporters will see his act as a disrespectful way of making fun of him, while Trump opposers are just sick of seeing him everywhere, an probably watch AGT as an escape from his media dominance. I’m just not sure where his voters are going to come from, and for that reason I think he might be out pretty quickly. Right now, I think he at best has a chance of being one of the acts vying for a “save” in his Quarter-Finals results show and we’ll see how it goes from there.

13: Mirror Image: And now we’re getting into the acts I’m actually shocked made the cut…unlike most people, I actually enjoy the antics of these two (though I wish both them AND the Quiddlers had advanced) but even I’m well aware that if they were put into a stronger group for Judge Cuts they wouldn’t have made it through (but the general unevenness of the Judge Cuts round is a post for another day). I’m pretty sure they’re going to get buzzed by Simon again in the live shows, and I don’t think that will bode well for their votes. I did see a small amount of passionate support for them, so I guess depending on who else ends up in their Quarter-Finals show they might have a shot at being one of the acts up for Dunkin’ Save, but even if they are I honestly don’t see them advancing past the first round of live shows.

14: Junior and Emily: This is the one act so far I don’t think even has a decent shot at making it to the Dunkin’ Save zone. They’re great at what they do…they just don’t do much. I can appreciate the difficulty of their craft, but after the initial amazement there’s not much else to their performances. They have an inspirational backstory, but again, it’s one of the more forgettable ones, so I don’t think it’s going to do much for them. Unless these two really step up their game and add some variety to their performance, I don’t see them moving forward.

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back soon with some more thoughts on how the show is being produced this season and how I think it could be improved. Plus I’ll be doing some more Power Rankings next week (which looks infinitely better than either of the first two Judge Cuts episodes) and when Judge Cuts are over I might do a special edition for all of the Golden Buzzers!

July 27, 2017 I Written By

I'm obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!