x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

America's Got Talent boss Simon Cowell has a talent for staying relevant

America's Got Talent is back for a sixth season, this time with two new judges.

The former Spice Girl Mel B and the supermodel Heidi Klum will join Howie Mandel and Howard Stern when the eighth season of America’s Got Talent begins tonight.

The roots of this NBC variety competition, which has been emulated all over the world including a popular Arab version, reach back to the medium’s infancy. It was on June 20, 1948 when The Ed Sullivan Show began its 24 seasons of jugglers, opera singers, comedians, animal acts, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. But after The Gong Show in the 1970s and 1980s, and Star Search, which folded in 1995, talent competitions also seemed kaput.

Simon Cowell has played a big part in resurrecting both genres. He was, of course, the tart-tongued judge when American Idol began its epoch-changing run on Fox in 2002. With his Syco Entertainment, he now serves as a creator, producer and judge on Fox’s The X Factor which, come autumn, starts its third season. Off-camera, Cowell is the driving force of America’s Got Talent.

The 58-year-old is expectedly bullish about the season ahead.

“The new panel has jelled very well. There’s really good chemistry with the judges and the host [Nick Cannon],” he said.

Of course, AGT is hardly Cowell’s only project, even in the US. This autumn The X Factor returns on Fox after two seasons of conspicuously falling short of what the audience was led to expect.

The talent-show derby has been dominated in recent months by the hearty performance of NBC’s The Voice and the ratings erosion of American Idol, whose judging panel Cowell exited three years ago.

“Not my problem anymore,” he chuckled when asked to diagnose what is plaguing Idol.

“It’s so much in my past now,” he said. “I deliberately this year didn’t watch a single second of the show.” Instead, Cowell focuses on “relevancy”, something he achieves by listening more than talking. “I listen to people who’ve had more experience than me. And I listen to 16- and 17-year-olds. I’m not threatened by someone who knows more than me. I just want them to tell me.”


America’s Got Talent starts tonight at MBC 4 at 9pm


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